remembering san antonio

by lizzie & isaiah on June 2, 2011 · 11 comments

The river made everything a little musty. The air was thick. We walked The Riverwalk in San Antonio without a guard rail, on a walkway big enough for two people to pass each other with thousands of tourists and locals. I wore a new dress with no sleeves – a brave choice for me. Traveling always brings out my spontaneity.

Salesmen yelled abrasively, trying to be heard above the other vendors shouting the deals of the day, “20% off TODAY only!” Others touched our shoulders with feigned concern, “You know what you need? A $2.00 margarita.”

Up the stairs to the street things were quieter. People kept their sense of good behavior. It wasn’t a carnival. We searched for a quiet place to buy a drink, just the two of us. It was the first time we were alone in three days. We found a dive called “Sneak” and made our way through the door with bars that indicated exactly what kind of neighborhood we wandered to. Everything about Sneak indicated we made several wrong turns from the classy main streets of downtown San Antonio.

The bar was sprinkled with miscellaneous working men, maybe five altogether, and one woman with a strapless, skin-tight dress, penciled-in eyebrows and leather knee high boots. It had to have been 90 degrees outside. Droplets of sweat were constantly forming on my forehead and shoulders even in my sleeveless dress and sandals. She couldn’t have been comfortable in boots, but my best guess was she had business to attend to. The men who had been ogling her from across the bar from their bases turned their attention to me.

Isaiah was acting different that night. I had worn the dress for dinner and he said I looked nice. But when I took off my sweater to relax for a moment before getting into my pajamas, he eagerly suggested we go back out. Nice changed to stunning, he called me, all with a sweater.

My attention was only on him and he didn’t remove his hand from the small of my back once before we had to sit down with our beers. I sipped my dark brew as ladylike as one can drink a pint of beer. He stared at me with a repressed, cheeky smile. The glow from my insides must have been visible to my out.

We spent the three days before together and he always said I looked nice.

Through downtown’s La Villita, a collection of souvenir shops and art galleries, he held my hand and walked me into shops and galleries, both of us complained when the owners didn’t welcome us with typical Texas cheer. They couldn’t be bothered. It was probably best as we didn’t buy anything. We read the store signs out loud together. “Found,” we read the ornate red and blue sign in front of a hoarder’s paradise.

A woman with very short hair and glasses settled on her nose fiddled with her hands while a long-haired cat lay across her laptop, sleeping. She obviously needed to use it. The cat couldn’t be bothered.

Shelves held jars and tins and trinket antiques, some filled with vintage die and small figurines, others empty and filled only in their previous lives.

Smalls were stacked on top of one another in a puzzle. We observed with our hands behind our backs. A rusty First Aid kit peeked from behind other smaller tins and Isaiah reached for it and knocked over a small, heavy figuring with a thud.

She rushed to the soldier figurine to make sure he didn’t require a medic and assured us it was okay, but I could see that it wasn’t. She carefully examined him and held him in her hand. She sighed when she saw it was still intact.

As a girl born to a family of eccentric antique collectors, I know their finds are their treasures. After all, the only thing separating antique collectors from hoarders is a stack of newspapers.

In the Spanish market the next day, we watched women in white summer dresses with green accents flood into the streets while a drummer played a strong, bare beat in the center of the circle they made.

Everything saturated our senses, things to do, things to smell, things to hear, things to feel, things to see, things to taste. And it’s all for sale!

It wasn’t my first time in San Antonio, but it was the first time we saw tourist-San-Antonio – which, apparently, is a place where you can put a price tag on cheap versions of Mexican souvenirs and heirlooms and still call it Texan. We made out with a few purchases we probably could have bought anywhere. On our final night in the city, sitting across from the man I want to marry just off the river while his eyes are stapled on mine with a smile I’m trying to fight, that’s what I’ll remember about San Antonio.