The Ten Tenors Of Upper Ajijic

By Micki Wendt


serenataIt all started one October Friday around dusk. A bunch of young guys arrived next door, probably after work, and started sitting around drinking, talking, and laughing. As the tequila warmed things up the laughter got more and more hysterical and I went out to my patio to listen, charmed by the way a group of guys could keep themselves in stitches for a solid hour without viewing any electronic media. Then, suddenly they left, and all was quiet.

The next Friday, around dusk, I heard the unmistakable sound of a pool cue stick hitting a ball, and pool balls hitting each other, coming from next door. That property was a large undeveloped lot with a small house towards the back where lived a quiet, young Mexican family, whom I had briefly met when I went over there one day to return a kids’ stray ball. I saw that there was also a half-built house in front of the other, more or less next to my rear casita. Apparently, they had just moved a pool table into the unfinished house.

Later, the guys arrived again with the requisite refreshments, and an exuberant pool game commenced, with much laughter, hooting and hollering, or groaning as the case may be. There was a lot of that famous high-pitched grito Mexicano, which seems to come naturally as the tequila being passed around warms up the throat. Discreetly on the other side of the wall, I enjoyed listening in to their cheerful little party, getting sort of a contact high.

The next week, they added a loud CD player to provide a musical soundtrack to yet another nice little party. Soon, they began singing along with the stereo, belting unabashedly as the game progressed and the tequila kicked in. This was getting to be a regular routine, only better each week, and I was starting to look forward to Friday nights at home.

As the weeks progressed, the parties continued. The music was always good, and they would get right down to singing early on, certainly making up in passion what they lacked in technique. As the libations took effect, the music would become decidedly more romantic and traditional, as they lustily belted along, sometimes in harmony. Enchanted, I’d lie down on my patio bench, look up at the stars, and listen in, like a fly on the other side of the wall.   What a revelation…here was what drunk young men do when they think there are no women around…

I related these events to my maid, admitting that in a flight of fancy, I liked to imagine that they were handsome and serenading me. She replied, “Well, maybe they are.” I stopped and thought…music is a sixth sense in Mexico, and perhaps someone had heard me sing, and decided to return the favor. Who knows? Loud music can be a way of entertaining your neighbors, possibly, inadvertently or not, sending a subtle message through the air, sight unseen.

One night, a little drama ensued. The guys were really going full force when several señoritas crashed the party! As if a trifle embarrassed, the guys scrambled to squelch the intensely romantic, almost operatic music, and switched to some current pop. They stopped singing, and welcomed the girls who hung around and shot some pool with them. They had a nice little party, but I noticed that the dynamic level had definitely dropped.

Months went by, and the Ten Tenors became a regular, eagerly anticipated date. Then, as suddenly as the parties had begun, they suddenly stopped. One Friday night, no one showed up. There were funeral bells at the church that night, and I wondered if there was a death in their family – or maybe it was one of them. For another year or so, they never returned, and I eventually moved.

I don’t know who these guys were, but I had really grown fond of them. I never heard one rude or angry word from them - nothing but laughter, good cheer, and heartfelt singing, which warmed my corazon and made me really glad to be living here.

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