I remember holding Mike’s hand, also his arm before stepping off the curb in Salta because cars came fast & never stopped for pedestrians.
I remember a man flinging his arm out to stop me from walking off the curb into the path of a speeding BMW in Geneva, Switzerland. That would have been in 1971.
I remember being afraid of cars in Salta because the drivers seemed so obsessed with their own intent, so indifferent to, so uncaring of others. I wondered how children survived.
I remember seeing the word quesillo painted on small boards outside houses & wondering what a quesillo might be — little cheese, stretchy band of mild white cheese, eaten as an appetizer or dessert, smeared with jam, sprinkled with walnuts. Once I stepped past a small sign & through a door, into a dim room, on a table a cloth, hard cheese, jam in jars. Quesillo? I said. How many? a slouching teenage boy asked. One. He took the quesillo from a plastic food storage container, slid it into a brown bag. We ate it in the car. It hadn’t much taste. It was like eating an irregularly shaped slice of white American cheese.
I remember seeing a giant South American snail crossing the road. I remember seeing another after a car had run over it. After that I regularly stopped to move snails to the side of the road. I always moved them to the side they were traveling toward. In the woods Beth & Sarah & I found hundreds of empty snail shells. I thought about the snails emerging as butterflies, giant butterflies, drying out slowly, floating upward, tipping stiffly from side to side.
I remember my blue bicycle, one or the other tire flat every time I went to ride until Mike installed Slime-d tubes & Mr. Tuffys.
I remember digging out Tribulus, aka puncture vine, the prostrate, 3-thorn plant that carpeted any empty space, grew a meter or more in all directions.
I remember common purslane, aka Portulaca oleracea — purslane & puncture vine wanted to be our garden, along with Opuntia, common name tuna, aka prickly pear. We welcomed locals who asked to pick the crop, the fruit too dangerous, not sweet enough for our stone-fruit-spoiled taste.
I remember backing into tuna spines, pulling them out of my wide-brimmed hat.
I remember Miss Vee climbing a tuna, peering down at me.
I remember Miss Vee working Tribulus thorns from her paws.
I remember Clematis campestris overgrowing the tuna, that aggressive twining vine, ever-sprouting root web, blossoms of tangled white hair. They called it barba de viejo, old man’s beard.
Though I didn’t know all the names, I remember knowing the weeds better than some of my paid-for plants.
I remember Miss Vee sprinting down the empty acequia while I walked along the sandy path.
I remember her as a kitten, crouching in brush, hoping to catch a bird.