To the vampire: Germán Robles
Thanks to my agent, Eddie Schneider, and my editor, Quressa Robinson, for helping bring this book to life.
Thanks to David Bowles for correcting the Nahuatl employed in the novel.
Thanks also to my mother for letting me watch horror movies late at night, thanks to my great-grandmother for narrating horror movies to me, thanks to my children for bearing with me when I write and drift far away.
Thanks finally to my husband, who is my first reader and for whom I write. He is the salt in every dish I taste.
Collecting garbage sharpens the senses. It allows us to notice what others do not see. Where most people would spy a pile of junk, the rag-and-bone man sees treasure: empty bottles that might be dragged to the recycling center, computer innards that can be reused, furniture in decent shape. The garbage collector is alert. After all, this is a profession.
Domingo was always looking for garbage and he was always looking at people. It was his hobby. The people were, not the garbage. He would walk around Mexico City in his long, yellow plastic jacket with its dozen pockets, head bobbed down, peeking up to stare at a random passerby.
Domingo tossed a bottle into a plastic bag, then paused to observe the patrons eating at a restaurant. He gazed at the maids as they rose with the dawn and purchased bread at the bakery. He saw the people with shiny cars zoom by and the people without any cash jump onto the back of the bus, hanging with their nails and their grit to the metallic shell of the moving vehicle.
That day, Domingo spent hours outside, pushing a shopping cart with his findings, listening to his portable music player. It got dark and he bought himself dinner at a taco stand. Then it started to rain, so he headed into the subway station.
He was a big fan of the subway system. He used to sleep in the subway cars when he first left home. Those days were behind. He had a proper place to sleep now, and lately he collected junk for an important rag-and-bone man, focusing on gathering used thermoplastic clothing. It was a bit harder to work the streets than it was to work a big landfill or ride the rumbling garbage trucks, sorting garbage as people stepped outside their houses and handed the collectors their plastic bags. A bit harder but not impossible, because there were small public trash bins downtown, because the restaurants left their garbage in the alleys behind them, and because people also littered the streets, not caring to chase the garbage trucks that made the rounds every other morning. A person with enough brains could make a living downtown, scavenging.
Domingo didn’t think himself very smart, but he got by. He was well fed and he had enough money to buy tokens for the public baths once a week. He felt like he was really going places, but entertainment was still out of his reach. He had his comic books and graphic novels to keep him company, but most of the time, when he was bored, he would watch people as they walked around the subway lines.
It was easy because few of them paid attention to the teenager leaning against the wall, backpack dangling from his left shoulder. Domingo, on the other hand, paid attention to everything. He constructed lives for the passengers who shuffled in front of him as he listened to his music. This one looked like a man who worked selling life insurance, the kind of man who opened and closed his briefcase dozens of times during the day, handing out pamphlets and explanations. That one was a secretary, but she was not with a good firm because her shoes were worn and cheap. Here came a con artist and there went a lovelorn housewife.
Sometimes Domingo saw people and things that were a bit scarier. There were gangs roaming the subway lines, gangs of kids about his age, with their tight jeans and baseball caps, rowdy and loud and for the most part dedicated to petty crimes. He looked down when those boys went by, his hair falling over his face, and they didn’t see him, because nobody saw him. It was just like with the regular passengers; Domingo melted into the tiles, the grime, the shadows.
After an hour of people watching, Domingo went to look at the large TV screens in the concourse. There were six of them, displaying different shows. He spent fifteen minutes staring at Japanese music videos before it switched to the news.
SIX DISMEMBERED BODIES FOUND IN CIUDAD JUáREZ. VAMPIRE DRUG WARS RAGE ON.