Across Continents

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Angie’s cafe

Angie’s cafe. Early morning in Fort Hancock, forty or so miles east of El Paso, Texas. Faded cutting on the wall suggested it had gotten a brief mention in National Geographic a couple of decades earlier. And it was a decent breakfast. Strong coffee. Initially the only customer, I found myself reflecting on the previous day. Doodling in my small pocket book.

Could I lend him two bucks? I’d smiled. Alas, I said, I had just the same problem. Never seemed to have any money on me. An obvious lie. Tornillo, little more than a gas station and convenience store. I’d been approached by a man in his early fifties, of Mexican descent, whilst stowing the few provisions I’d bought in the shop. Friendly enough on the face of it, but he was getting a little too close. And I disliked his mirror sunglasses.

A curious encounter. He reminded me a little of a chap I’d met back in Central Asia who’d made a living – of sorts – pilfering from passing travellers. Obliged to curtail his operations for a while. It was the offer to come and take a nap at his supposedly nearby home that had struck a chord of similarity. I’d politely declined, explaining I’d already arranged to stay with someone else. Fumbling in the panniers as I spoke, making quite sure he saw the canister of bear spray. Adding it was something I still carried. Just in case I ran into the odd miscreant. Grinning as I said it. Said he knew Tiquando. Doubted he could even spell it.

I’d left El Paso earlier that day. Pleasant northern suburbs soon replaced by industrial sprawl and tatty shops and cafes catering for the steady influx of Mexican day-trippers. The border crossing point resembling a maximum security prison. Tucked amongst the concrete fly-overs Border Patrol vehicles. Overhead the odd helicopter. I’d pressed on, eager to leave.

I’d eventually found a small cafe for lunch with a vacant window seat. Clientele all looked Mexican to me, a presumption reinforced by the Spanish news channel on the large TV screen. The Andre or Diego burger didn’t sound appealing, so I chose the chicken sandwich. The forlorn presumption that white meat would be the healthier option. Served in a bun rather more generous than the filling. Fortunately it was mostly downhill to Fort Hancock.

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