There are times when no one cares to help you.

One of these times is when you are old, when your days of promise appear to be in the past. Everyone knows that when people muse about such things, they are probably not happy. I’m not happy. I am sad. There is so much I want to accomplish, but I need something, I’m not sure what. I’ve alienated my friends, but I haven’t had the sort of energy required to maintain friendships. And I don’t know how, anyway. So. here I am, feeling all alone and unhappy, and not expecting things to get better.

This is not a good way to feel. It’s a bad way to feel. I don’t want to feel this way. I don’t know how not to feel this way. I don’t know what to do.

I want to tell you about Mexico. I want to talk about my work, and how difficult it is. The experiences I’ve had while living this story are beautiful and horrible and profoundly sad. Maybe I’ve allowed the project to kill me. Somehow, I know it is my job to become my subject, to feel the same fears and joys, to know them so intimately that my translations are fluent and true. This can be a dangerous job for a human being. The collision of personal tragedies with the horror and despair suffered by one’s “subjects” is bound to produce injuries. I don’t know what sort of person, or artist, I’d have to be to sustain fewer wounds. Now, the pain is dull and constant, it wears me down, I’ve stuck with Mexico long enough to absorb the inertia of powerlessness I’ve seen in so many. There are fleeting hopes which too quickly fade and extinguish the will to progress, or even to continue existing.

I want to talk to you about Mexico and make you feel what I feel, make you reel in the complexity and confusion of the corners I’ve been, those I’ve only imagined, and those I can’t get out of. This is what I try to do as an artist, and I only tell you these things directly now because I am afraid that I’ve been nearly consumed by my own work, I need to find a path to sanity, a patent hole to the surface.

I look at pictures of benevolent groups of young American adults and teen-agers, building houses in the desert for little families with few possessions. There are photographs of new cinderblock homes, barely 7 feet high on a base measuring perhaps 12 by 18 feet. Young brown mothers pose smiling with teary gratitude and fathers clutch their toddlers with expressions of relief.

Other photographs are posted by pastors of far-away parishes, documenting trips to dusty colonias. Men and women in their 50s and 60s, wrinkling and plump but deliriously happy, reveling in the freedom of selflessness, as they, too, build houses. The houses are built simply-with neat geometry they are pulled up from the sand, ready for a family of eight to curl up in like a nest of warm kittens and cats.

Who are these

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