It's 2:22 am. I was unable to sleep tonight for some nagging reason, and now I know why.
I tossed and turned for a while and then went out on the balcony to feel the cool fresh air. As I stood there, my ears tuned in to a beautiful sound, wafting up from the streets below like a sweet sharp perfume...Mariachi music. GOOD mariachi music.
Although my slightly maturing brain told me it was 1:30 am and I should dutifully return to battle post at the sleep front, a small impulsive part of my soul that loves to feel ALIVE immediately won out. I found myself marching down the dark stairs, down the hill, into the slightly unkempt and thoroughly Mexican neighborhood below to search out the source of this wonderful sound.
I could hear the signs of a party as I approached, and soon saw a raucous crowd gathered around the gateway of a yard. They were very loud and very drunk (especially the women!), singing along with the full band which included violin players and a big bass with a generous horn section.
Not wanting to disturb the party and remembering my 12 year old dream of being an international spy, I decided to skirt around the block and approach from the other direction so I could watch the party from close range without being seen. I ducked past some late night taco stands, going just slow enough to be casual yet fast enough to avoid any drunken advances from the late night rooster crowd.
Once in position, safely swathed in the shadows of an SUV parked beside a small tree, I settled in to enjoy the show. Apparently my luck for picking a sentry post was a tad off, because between songs I noticed some yelling coming from the small dark house beside me and assumed it was a domestic dispute until I heard a woman shout huskily, "SI, AHORA TU SABES LO QUE HACES!!" (Yeah, now you know what you're doing!!)...I politely shifted my position back a couple houses.
The band continued to play, and I found myself moved nearly to tears between their sound and that of the group of people gathered there. I'm sorry homies, but no group of drunk rednecks could compete with the soul and spirit they carried in their lungs and laughter, which left a beautiful electricity in the air. All the suffering, the rivalry of the sexes, the years of sweat for pesitos a day melted away and dissipated; leaving behind a very natural, vibrant and simple joy. Their love and togetherness was palpable, and even off in the shadows I felt their comraderie; ached to have known them for years the way they knew each other.
After a while the music seemed to be over (despite the cheerful yet nearly aggressive demands for its return) and I quietly made my way up the block towards home. I passed the dark little house and now the woman inside was singing along, very loud and very drunk, to an old song on the television. Her passionate voice almost suited its completely hammered tone, and I imagine she was probably quite a good singer when sober.
I was on the next block up when the Mariachis suddenly started playing again, a very lively tune. Someone had either found a few extra pesos, or...I burst out giggling as I imagined a wild haired old birthday girl waving a cast iron pan dangerously between the Mariachis and the exit. I sat down on the brick border around another tree and thoroughly enjoyed the tune until the music finally stopped. I sat there a few extra minutes to make sure there wouldn't be another encore.
Just when I thought my little outing couldn't get any better, I heard the sound of a lone violin and noticed one of the Mariachis slowly walking down the street towards me, playing a beautiful mournful melody. Two others caught up to him and I sat frozen with a big grin on my face as they strode closer. They noticed me, and with my cover blown I stood up. I told them in Spanish that the show had been super great, and that I had heard them from up on the hill and came to listen to them play. Huge smiles spread across their faces, and one of them said that for them, to have someone come and stand outside to listen is the biggest compliment of all.
After many thank you's on both ends and they had climbed into their battered little car, I floated back up the hill feeling very alive, and very in touch with the universal love that exists in this world. Yesterday is made of invisible stone and tomorrow may come crashing down, but in this moment we will dance. <3