I know these dreams seem make believe
But I don’t think we should let em go
Can’t promise you Rome or St. Tropez
But one day we might make it to Mexico
The frozen lake shone. The ice glistened in the light of the fading sun, partially blocked by the naked trees. The park was empty except for the occasional ultra-committed athlete out for their evening jog. His steely eyes were focused ahead, but his thoughts were elsewhere. His ears were bright red and chapped at the bottom. A strong chin was speckled with short hairs. The dry air stung his lips and chilled his lungs with each breath. Yet every breath was a blessing.
Her eyes were sad. She wore an old wool hat and a white scarf turned cream by age; her long black hair dangled carelessly behind her. She covered her face with her scarf and crossed her arms to warm her gloved hands. She walked beside him in silence.
His clenched hands rested in the pockets of his brown jacket. From inside he pulled out a pack of generic cigarettes. There was one left. The lucky. Hesitating for a split second, he grabbed it and tossed the empty pack.
"Last one" he said to her. "The lucky"
She walked on. He turned to look at her, but her eyes avoided his. Despite being with her since high school, her beauty still took him by surprise at times. Everything about her was beautiful. Her wavy black hair, her pale skin, reddened slightly by the cold, her black eyes that shone even in the dim light, even that tiny mole beside her right eye that she went through so much effort to hide. A slight smile trickled across his face as he lit his cigarette.
Noticing his smile, she couldn't help but look over at him. He was glowing. Something about the creases in his face as he smiled soothed her uneasiness. A single flake of snow rested on his long eyelashes. It was just like him to not realize. His brown hair had grown over his ears, and stood up slightly in front. Her mother had hated that about him. She loved it.
His thoughts took him back to an old house, covered in yellow siding, standing tall on Desolation Row. The smell of mold and old age. The sound of the antiquated radiators knocking into life. The wonders of that place. A memory of walking down the street to this same park. A blue morning. The feeling of warmth and safety as his mother smiled at him, two strangers in a world of morning dew and gloom. The only souls awake in the universe.
Her stare pierced his thoughts. He looked over and met her gaze. Her skin was clear and young, lacking the scars and wrinkles of old age he had expected to see. Her eyes were bright and filled with energy, not the black, endless pits of wisdom and experience he remembered so clearly. Yet she slouched slightly as she walked. Lazy, indifferent. Infected with the same contagious pathology that everyone who lived here dealt with from time to time. Like a mutated super-virus resistant to all forms of immunity. His mother had fought this same disease, and had emerged victorious. Her commitment to herself and to her family had pulled them away from this dreadful place, to a quiet suburb home where schools were good and neighbors were friendly, a place where top locks didn't exist. Yet here he was.
His smile vanished and his gaze faltered. She felt his failure.
Gently, she wrapped her arm around his, and rested her head on his shoulder. He took a long drag on his cigarette. Her free hand moved to his face and took it from his lips. She closed her eyes and inhaled.
"Tell me about our place down south." The thick smoke lingered for a moment. He wrapped his arm around her and held her close, but said nothing. She stopped walking and looked up at him, urging him to join her in this brief moment of belief. With a deep sigh, he began.
"It's on the beach, of course." They continued walking. "In the Yucatan Peninsula, overlooking the Gulf. The water is clear and the sand is white. Even in December the temperature won't fall below 70. Palm trees line the backyard, and there's a hammock hanging between two particularly large ones. The days are long and hot, but the water is cool and the sand is clean. There's a small patio behind the house where we can sit and watch the waves come in. You can see the water from the kitchen. It's a nice kitchen with a little island counter top in the middle. There's a small dining room, and a living room and a bedroom. The building is made from white stone, and it shines after a rain. We'll fall asleep to the song of the ocean every night, and we'll be the only people around for miles and miles."
"What will we do with all this free time and space?"
"We definitely won't work. We won't have to. The house will be ours and life is cheap in Mexico. We'll spend all day on the beach, playing in the sand and maybe I'll buy a small boat so we can go out on the water every now and then. We'll start a fire every night and eat dinner outside beside it. No one will bother us. On the weekends we'll go in to town and see the marketplace and watch the street performers and we'll eat the finest Mexican cuisine at the best restaurants until we get sick of it. We'll drink real Tequila and the finest South American wines. And when we come back late at night, we'll smoke Cuban cigars on the sand and fall asleep under the stars."
She closed her eyes and imagined this wondrous place, far away from the cold and the noise. Even now, in their worst moment of desperation, in this frozen park hidden away in the urban sprawl of Jersey City, she believed in him. She believed in them.
-Lyrics from "Mexico" by Cunninlynguists