I wake up every morning, drag myself out of bed, pull back my velvet curtain, part the venetian blinds and smash my face up against the glass so my blind eyes can see the outline of my green Honda Civic in the street in front of my Tijuana apartment.
My heart is always a little high up in my chest until I see the car. I’ve had my car broken into (San Francisco) and stolen twice (once in San Diego and once in Tijuana), so I pretty much never know what to expect and I’m always sorta shocked and relieved when I see my car still parked right where I left it. My Club, I’ve been told, offers about as much protection as a security blanket.
With my heart sunken back down to its normal place in my chest, I continue my day like anyone else in any other city in any other country. I eat breakfast. Orally inject coffee. Say ‘buenos dias‘ to my neighbors if we happen to see each other in the entryway.
It starts getting a little different once I get into my car. I drive through the chaos and the mazes that are Tijuana’s streets and crazy roundabouts. I try to keep myself from laying on the horn for too long, ’cause as my neighbor has pointed out, “people are killing people in Tijuana.” If I don’t want to be killed, I should probably keep myself from crossing as many paths as possible. I should remain a faceless piece of the city. Who’s to say that asshole in the red Jetta who just cut me off isn’t a hit man for the Sinoloan drug cartel anyway?
Then I get in line, and again, I try to keep myself from honking or yelling at the assholes who cut in line, but sometimes I can’t help myself. I try to keep myself entertained by watching the myriad of Mexican women applying 17 coats of mascara, magically, while steering with their knees and keeping one eye in the mirror and one eye on the road.
The border agents are usually pretty nice. Sometimes they forget whether they should be speaking English or Spanish. I like it best when they speak Spanish.
At night, the roads are always cleared by the time I’m heading back home from my job in San Diego. There’s hardly ever a wait at the border getting back in. Lately, there’s the Federalis to the left and the typical Tijuana police to the right. The soldiers look so young and the guns look so big. They search cars on both sides, but I almost always get waved through. It pays to be a mujer in a machismo culture. I’ve said that before and I’ll say it again.
The potholes in Tijuana are probably bigger than the potholes in San Diego. There’s about 100 taco shops for every one in San Diego. There’s also about 200 farmacies for every one in San Diego. But other than that, and a few other things that I clump into the “more city life and culture” category (Tijuana’s smells, both good and bad, Tijuana’s vendors selling everything from flowers to nopales, and Tijuana’s colors, which are bolder and brighter than anything allowed in the U.S.) the city is just like any other city in the U.S. Nobody tries to kill me on my drive home.
My fiance and I cook dinner. We eat dinner. Sometimes we listen to podcasts, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we read, listen to music, watch movies, and sometimes we don’t. Maybe we’d go out more if we lived in a safer city, but something inside tells me that’s a lie. I don’t think we’re informed enough to be that scared. We’re stil convinced we’re invinsible as long as we stay out of the drug war’s way.
I go to bed then wake up again, reaching for the velvet curtain.