Top of the Earth

Posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2011 in Stories

I shall never forget a man from Taos Pueblo who passed through my life like a shadow long, long ago. It was late in the day when our paths crossed in a patch of sunlight on the edge of the town plaza. He stopped me with a gesture and I lit his cigarette. The man, basking in the uncertain warmth of a winter sun, nodded his thanks but maintained his proud bearing. I said something inane about the weather. There was no response. I was just about to walk away when he did speak.

“We were here long before the Spanish came,” he said in a nonchalant way as if we had been visiting for hours. “And, we were here long before the Anglos. “

I acknowledged that he was right, as if he needed my approval. He spoke again. “We will be here long after the Spanish and Anglo have gone.” There was not a hint of threat in his monotone voice.

He took another drag on the cigarette and slowly exhaled the smoke. Then the man — with long plaited braids and swathed from head to knee in a blanket — looked at me for the first time.

“Do you know where I live?” the man asked.

“I imagine you live out at the pueblo,” I said.

“I live at the top of the earth,” he told me. “Don’t you know where you are? You are at the top of the earth.” Then he turned and walked away. I watched him until he was out of sight, swallowed up by twilight and the dark mountain.