The couple sat down at the next table as I dipped my second churro into a piping hot Chocolate Mexicano.
“I’ll sit right next to my darling sweetheart,” said the man brightly. And a little loudly.
“Who talks like that?” I wondered.
I was especially curious because I happened to be reading a NOVA report on the theory that the Big Bang created a mirrored universe that runs in reverse of ours. Mind you, not for one moment did I think that I’d slipped through the portal and landed in 1947.
It was just, you know, quaint. And a tad patriarchial. But then, she looked like the sort who thought a line like that might be charming, under some circumstances.
I went back to reading about the parallel universes with their contrary timelines, where our distant future is some other lifeform’s long-ago past.
“The simple Big Bang they modeled produced two universes, one a mirror of the other. In one universe, time appears to run forwards. In the other, time runs backwards, at least from our perspective.”
Which got me to thinking, if time is a sine wave and our mirrored universe is a sine wave running in the opposite direction, could occasional blips in the wave send us briefly into each other’s universe? Would we know it if it happened? Would we be dressed appropriately? Would they even look like us?
I felt like I was ripping off “Back to the Future” sequels written — you know — over there.
I refocused on the spinach, feta, and tomato omelet before me — while intent on making the remaining churro become very much a part of my past, before my Chocolate Mexicano cooled.
Murmurs from the next table grew strident, assertive.
“Are you kidding me? Look at Detroit. And Baltimore. And some of those other places. We’ve given them decades to improve — and nothing. They’re no better than African villages. … Look at the Irish and the Italians and the others. They all came here and made something of themselves.”
It was the guy at the next table, with the calcified perspectives out of the 1950s. He was bludgeoning his companion with some of the most odious, racially charged garbage that I haven’t heard since, well, since I last listened to a presidential news conference.
He was serving up this garbage with the cool, facile confidence of a college history professor which, god forbid, he may have been. There was no malice in his voice, no bitterness or exasperation — as you might hear in the voice of your run-of-the-mill blue-collar racist.
I looked right at him. Well-groomed, probably in his 70’s, snow-white hair and beard. Nicely dressed. His accent was soft Southern. Probably third or fourth generation Auburn or Ole Miss. Certainly not a state university. The harsh accents had been honed away by generations of white privilege. Just as generations of white supremacy had been distilled into his brain.
Two words came to mind. “Lost cause.”
I turned back to the omelet and moved on to reading something a bit lighter than parallel universe theory. Although the fellow at the next table was beginning to make a good case for a mirror universe receding rapidly in time.
“The border is just a disaster,” he was now saying. “Crime is up 500 percent. And rape! Unbelievable. Certainly, you’ve heard about the caravans right. They’re filthy and ignorant and streaming across our borders. It is out of control. There are laws and they’re breaking the laws. They’re trying to jump ahead of the line …”
Jesus Christ. Did she find this guy on Tinder, under “insane person looking for willing date with pliable mind”?
Every time the woman tried to enter the conversation, the Southern gent overrode her with more emphatic talking points from FOX NEWS. Verbatim. She never got more than a “Well …” or “But …” into his soft spew.
I’m not joking. He was slick and relentless and he sounded like the head speechwriter for Trump’s re-election campaign.
I let out a chuckle.
OK, it was louder than a chuckle.
They both looked up.
She looked startled, like they’d been caught nuzzling on the back of a White Power homecoming float. He looked a bit annoyed.
“Is there something the matter?” he asked.
“I’ll say,” I said, mustering up the sweetest smile I could. “Where on earth do you get your information?”
“From logic, sir. Pure logic! Not that it is any of your business,” he replied, growing a touch more agitated.
I wasn’t expecting that answer.
I could see where this was headed and that there is no way it would end well.
“No, sir. You are right. It is not my business at all.”
“Do you agree with him?” the woman asked me
“Dear god. Absolutely not, “ I said, maybe too quickly.
The racist jumped back in, clearly afraid of losing his control. “I know your type and I will not give you my opinion because you won’t listen to the facts. Your kind never does.”
“You don’t need to give me your opinion,” I offered, as nicely as possible. “It is pretty clear.”
“Please don’t get upset,” the woman said to her companion.
“I’m not upset. He started it!”
I looked at them both for a moment, not offering another word.
Then I finished my omelet, paid my bill, and walked out the door.
I did have one more question for him. It occurred to me as I walked home through the narrow cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende. And I would have listened to the answer, because the answer may have been enlightening.
And no, the question was not “How do you keep your sheets so white, with all the smokey torches and bonfires and all?”
I wanted to ask him only this: “Why are you here?”