We pay the Zona Arqueológica entrance money of 45 pesos each and I tie my shirt around my waist to conceal the fact my trousers are falling down. I contemplate a belt from one of the callejones, but the belts all have big buckles with the word “Teotihuacán” engraved upon them and I don’t want that. I join the others in buying a sombrero, however. We hand over a bundle of notes and some loose change. When Ben thwarts an attempt to short change us, the assistant says under her breath “el carbon no sabe contar,” which translates as “The fucker can count.”
Zona Arqueológica has hundreds of hawkers, badgering visitors with trinkets and souvenirs, but only one hawker has a big black onyx cock for sale.
“A souvenir for your mother-in-law,” he says as we pass him by. We physically restrain Ben from haggling.
In the heart of the ancient city, at the starting point on the roads that define the godly places, stands the magnificent Pyramid of the Sun, the third largest pyramid in the world. It is located on the Avenue of the Dead, between the Pyramid of the Moon and the Ciudadela, the house of the supreme ruler, and is built on top of a cave located six metres beneath the earth that was considered by the Aztecans to be the birthplace of man. Some people argue that the cave is actually a tomb. It is not possible for visitors to go inside the cave or go inside the pyramid itself, but somewhere inside are the bones and remains of innumerable children, appropriate behaviour to the ancient ones when buried strategically.
Climbing the steep 248 steps of the Pyramid of the Sun, clutching my falling trousers and with a shirt around my waist, we stop regularly to take in the view, and for me to adjust myself and for Caleb to perform deep breathing exercises. He swears he will get fit again back in Britain. I swear that I should have bought that belt.
There is a better class of hawker at the pyramid, and the sound of panpipes rising from the base of the ruins is less atonal than the pipes at the entrance to the site, where the pipes are blown by hawkers not as comfortable with wind instruments as they are their pendants and black fake cocks.
A biting wind greets us when we reach the top, and against the wind are the sightseers who circle the summit and survey Teotihuacán for clues to a meaning. Here at the top are gringos and New Age hippies from the continent talking about Iraq and better tasting latte at Starbucks.
“They are on it, you bet,” says one American with great authority.
The city that once spanned 20km, with its great and noble founders forgotten to time, is observed now by a tribe of lost idiots. There is nothing else for it and so Caleb draws the mask that he bought at the wrestling from his red shoulder bag of drugs and places it over his head. An eerie calm falls over everyone when he throws his hands up into the air and yells at the top of his voice, “MÍSTICO!” For evidence, I snap a picture of him framed against the Pyramid of the Moon at the north end of the Avenue of the Dead.
On the top of the Pyramid of the Sun once stood a temple with an altar where human sacrifice took place. The temple was painted red for blood, red for the setting sun. Destroyed long ago by man and by nature, now in place of the altar is a silver key embedded in the stone, a physical point of reference over which I place my fingertip, and also a spatial point, because here is the vertex for the celestial sphere.
I place the finger of one hand upon the silver key and hold my other hand high, in the manner shown to me by a man from Colombia, who is on holiday. “You can feel energy,” he tells us. Here is my hand in the sky, my body a conductor down to ancient times, and a labyrinth of power and dead children. Here is space and here is place. The Pyramid of the Sun has existed since 100AD, which brings to it almost two thousand years of joy and bloodshed, wisdom and ignorance; men have lived and died by and beneath this stone, beneath its three million tons, packed into shape before the invention of the wheel. And beneath it all, some six metres below ground, is a tunnel that leads to the cave that birthed all the inhabitants of the earth.
Archaeologists found the cave in 1971. The ancient ones believed it to be the womb of the world, the origins of life. It had writing on its walls.
“What can you feel?” Ben asks from a distance, refusing to partake because he doesn’t believe in it.
“Nothing,” I say, my finger on the key, my hand in the air, disappointed that no stars explode, no sky turns black, no Jack Kirby crackle bursts out from the frame.
No Quetzalcóatl, the winged serpent. No Super Tortas Hamburguesas.
The focus of all energy brings to me nothing but the woeful song played by a woman on the slow bus back to Mexico City. One might assume that a woman in a white blouse would have the voice of an angel, especially in Mexico, where the mariachi was invented. Let me tell you this is not necessarily the case. It was horrible to endure.
Cal says to the man from Colombia as we start the mission back down the 248 steps: “Have a good life, my friend.”
“May he order His angels to protect you wherever you go,” the man says by way of a reply, the biting wind silencing the words so they sound like nothing at all on earth.
And that’s when it hits me.