So much of life is about timing. You leave work a little early (in ordinary days), and get home half an hour before normal. You head for the airport ten minutes late, and you nearly miss your flight by getting caught behind an accident. In a village like Amatlan, some of the rhythms and synchronies of such matters become clearer because of the small scale of things.
Last evening, I went walking in the village. I was approaching the church on my way home, when I saw my next-door neighbour’s daughter approaching with a guy who looked like a new boyfriend. We waved, but she was obviously in a significant conversation, a trip to the store apparently offering a pretext for them to get away for a few minutes’ privacy.
Coming closer to the church, I saw a small car dash up past me, and brake suddenly. The driver and a woman got out, and the driver began shouting at another man, then pummeling him. It was one of the most vicious fist-fights I’ve seen: and social distancing was wholly abandoned. Naturally – though strictly in the spirit of sociological investigation, of course – I stopped to watch.
After a couple of minutes, the pummel-ee retreated through his gate, and the hubbub halted. The neighbour’s daughter and her beau now came back from the store, and passed me as I stood beside the church. I almost said there’d been a fist-fight, but there was now nothing to see, so I just smiled. And since I suspected they didn’t want me trailing right behind them, I stayed where I was in the street to let them get 40 metres or so ahead of me.
I was about to start home again when the fight broke out in a second round. I decided there was not much to learn at this point; there was also a slight risk of getting myself entangled as more neighbours came out, and the vortex of the violence potentially intensified. I don’t know how it ended, but I heard no police sirens, so I assume it subsided a short while after.
Up ahead, the neighbour’s daughter and her guy remained oblivious of what had happened, enjoying their saunter through the warm evening sunshine.
One minute earlier or later, and their walk would have been memorable for reasons wholly opposite to what they’d wanted.