Leaving Tijuana was a joy for Juan and Virginia, but Juan did not want to leave any loose ends. He explained to Virginia that it would be foolish to pay rent during their trip to Mexico City, and that he could return any time they needed. After all their arrangement was month to month. He loaded the car with the few possessions they owned and drove to the first house in the low-income housing project. From this home, one could see every car that entered or exited the community, and owning the home was essential if one wished to control the neighborhood. The most powerful man in this project, “El Buitre,” Juan’s landlord, lived there. The vulture was like the bird in his physical attributes, because he was a heavy and big man. Yet the nickname came from his profession and not his looks; he was considered a vulture who preyed on the defenseless and the weak. He was a jolly, happy, and funny man, but ruthless, nonetheless. If you did not pay your rent, all his amiable attitude disappeared and the face of a quasi-sociopathic ruffian appeared in its place. Crossing a person like Buitre was not recommended, and Juan needed to end the relationship on good terms.
“Perame aquí” (Wait here), Juan told Virginia as she sat in the car.
Juan entered the house and found Buitre at his usual desk.
“Hola, Buitre,” Juan said.
“Hola, Juan. ¿Ya está?” (Hi, Juan. Is it all done?) Buitre asked.
“Sí, te la deje mejor que cómo me la diste. Ya sabes a mi ma le gustaba limpia y bonita.” (Yes, I left it better than how you gave it to me. You know my mom kept it spic-and-span.)
“Bien. ¿I mi lana?” (Good. And my cash?)
“Aquí está.” (Here.)
“¿Y los pinches pichónes?” (And the damned doves?)
“Ya no se fueron.” (They left.)
Juan handed six hundred-dollar bills to Buitre. The landlord counted the bills, was satisfied, and looked up.
“¿A dónde vas?” (Where are you going?) Buitre asked.
“No sé. A dónde me de el viento” (Don’t know, wherever the wind takes me), Juan answered.
Buitre looked at him strangely but kept quiet. Juan had given his answer with such seriousness that it left no room for more questions. A huge man came in through the kitchen door. It was Buitre’s righthand man, Pingüino, and he had heard the conversation.
“¿Juanito, te nos vas?” (Juanito, you are leaving us?) Pingüino asked.
“Hola, Pingüino, no te mire. Sí, voy pal sur unos meses. Cuando vuelva paso a verlos.” (Hi, Penguin, I didn’t see you. Yes, I’m going south for a few months. When I’m back, I’ll look for you guys.)
“Andale pues!” (OK!) Penguin said.
“Me voy porque mi ma me espera en el carro.” (I’m out of here; my mom is waiting in the car.)
Buitre just sat there emotionless and immediately turned to Penguin.
“Vete a la casa de Juan y revisala bien. Avisame si esta lista.” (Go to Juan’s house and check it out. Let me know if it is ready to rent.)
Juan drove off in the direction of Mexicali.
“¿Lista?” (Ready?) Juan asked his mom.
“Lista.” (Ready.) Virginia smiled.
There were two more hours of light, and getting to Mexicali would take them about an hour and a half. Juan had scouted a motel near the highway that led to Sonora; tomorrow they would drive to Guadalajara and then Mexico City. He had always wanted to see the murals at the famous building by Orozco in Guadalajara, and this would be his chance.
He would not travel south in the Camry. It had US plates, and he needed the two thousand dollars that he could get for it. Also, if anybody were looking for him, tracking the car would be the easiest way to find him. Mexicali was the last city where selling a US car in Mexican soil was possible—you needed a permit to drive a US car past there and into southern Mexico.
“Pasado mañana vamos al Hospicio Cabañas, Ma.” (The day after tomorrow we will go to the Hospicio Cabañas, Mom.)
“Qué padre, mi hijo.” (Great, my son.)
She was not sad to leave Tijuana. Juan was acting like a grown man and very sure of their trip to Mexico City, which gave her a sense of security. Something good had happened to her son, and she attributed it to his reading the details of the lawsuit. Maybe he had matured fast, now that he knew what had really happened to his dad. They would spend the next two days arranging the freight of their belongings to Virginia’s sister Esmeralda’s home in Mexico City, good sleeping conditions in Guadalajara and finding good tickets for bus transportation.
“Lo único que sé, es que los Dalís y mis cosas personales se quedan con nosotros todo el tiempo. ¿Entiendes?” (The only thing that I know is that the Dalís and my personal belongings stay with us all the time. Understood?) Virginia was adamant.
“Claro que sí, Mamá.” (Of course, Mom.)