22: Antonio Arbuzide

Antonio is a man whose face is in retirement. Skin that once contorted in pain, that grew dark as real chocolate and thickened under the relentless Mexican sun, now spends summers beneath the brim of fedora. He has lines etched so deep into his face you could climb them, but he keeps his cheeks smooth with a straightrazor he’s had since he was thirteen. He doesn’t shave for the ladies, and he never really did. Antonio’s whole body is a callus, but with the stubble gone, he can feel just a little bit more of the breeze that blows through the train station where he spends his days.

Antonio wears old clothes with no holes in them. His eldest son, the professor, bought him a new wardrobe ten years ago because he used to wear nothing but his old farmhand clothes. They hung in tatters around him, and he didn’t much care, because in the company of the men he spends his days with, tattered clothes are a kind of badge of honor. But he was embarrassing his son at social functions, and so he got new clothes. Flannel shirts and jeans, just like he’s used to, but without the telltale signs of real wear.

The other old men at the train station still laugh at him about the new clothes sometimes, but they laugh at everything. That’s why they all get together, is to laugh. Three old men, two with white mustaches and Antonio with his cleanshaven face, their backs broken by a lifetime of labor and their faces lined with laughter. Every day they meet in the train station at 3:15 PM, when the tourists get off the train from Mexicali to stretch their legs. The sightseers and the punks and the hippies file off the train to get tamales and paletas and souvenirs, and as soon as they’re all off, right on cue, the train starts to move. All the gringos on the platform turn in unison. Some try to chase down the train, some start to cry. The train pulls ahead just enough to back onto another track leading to the next platform over. And the old men laugh and laugh.

They take bets on who’s going to melt down. They speculate on whether anyone is going to get run over this time. But mostly, they just laugh. And eventually the gringos see them laughing, and some of them laugh too. It’s at those moments, with everyone laughing, that Antonio runs a rough hand over his face and knows that every line is exactly where he wants it to be.

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