If I close my eyes and think of San Salvador, the first thing I feel is an awesome heat, as if I wasn’t walking on a pavement, but on a scorching-hot griddle pan or burning coals – as if the sun were a curse that’s about to singe my hair, and the wounding dazzle of the noonday light was going to blind me for the rest of my days.
If I close my eyes and think of San Salvador, the next thing I feel is a fierce anxiety, as though something terrible might happen to me – that fatal street-corner encounter with tattooed criminals or with a stray bullet. And from anxiety I shift straight into a brutal awakening of the senses, a state of heightened lucidity and suspicion; and even the breeze takes on a certain density, a kind of unsettling texture that tells me not to let down my guard.
If I close my eyes and think of San Salvador I start to sweat profusely, becoming pure clammy animal, and straight away I want to take off my shirt, wear shorts and nothing else, and find the coolest patch of shade to shelter in; or else escape to the beach, or finally convince some long-desired body to shut itself away with me in my motel room with the world’s most powerful air conditioning going full blast.
If I close my eyes and think of San Salvador, I see people everywhere, throngs of people, scrums of sweaty people milling anxiously about in streets, squares, shopping centres, at bus stops; a crazy swarm that’s impossible to push your way through; noisy multitudes that don’t mind walking on that scorching-hot griddle pan, don’t mind the sun that beats leadenly down, or the light that stings their eyes, or the danger that lurks nearby, because that’s what life has always been: a little air gulped down amid the crowd.
Photograph by René Mayorga