Monday, January 7, 2008

"Ahorita voy": Thoughts on the Near Future

The following article will be published in the Reporter's Language column on Friday, but since I haven't posted in a while I'll go ahead and put it up.

It's followed by a few photos of las Piedrotas I took in Tapalpa, a surreal and breathtaking experiment in rhinoplastic geology. Also, a beautiful and curiously arranged nativity scene I saw on the side of a cathedral, in which the devil appears to be keeping an eye on baby Jesus (see red blur in top right corner).


Ahorita, Mexico’s ubiquitous, diminutized ahora whose closest English equivalency is ‘right now,’ used to bug me. And that’s exactly why—if you ever hear someone tell you “¡ahorita voy!” grab a good book and get comfy.

My landlady especially favors this expression. A few weeks into my new residency I asked her to send a cable guy over to connect my internet. The phone rang early the next morning: “Ahorita vienen los de Megacable,” she told me. I rubbed my eyes, hopped out of bed and put water on the stove in a daze, fully dressed and caffeinated within the half hour.

Oh, my silly Yankee faith in scheduled service repairs. I eventually nodded off again after the promised cable guy stood me up, jostled awake every now and then by footsteps below, imagining the housecall that was surely on its way ahorita (he showed later that afternoon).

I’ve taken to asking my landlady to quantify ahorita; this allows me the freedom of leaving the house and returning if right now happens to be in 3 to 4 hours, or suggests urgency if right now is in 10 minutes (enough time to do the dishes and spot-sweep).

But I have found a new game in ahorita. Try it out. If you are like me and arriving anywhere on time within the hour of a proposed date is moderately to extremely challenging, ahorita will become your friend. Think of right now as you did as a child when your mother summoned you for bath or bedtime: tell her, “I’m coming right now!” then continue playing till you’re dragged by the ear.

Ahorita stretches as long as the speaker desires, and isn’t limited only to the near future: “ahorita lo hice,” means “I just did it.” “Te llamo ahorita,” means “I’ll call you right away,” but could also mean “I’ll call you later” or “I might call you.” If you’re leaving and coming right back within an undefined period of time, say “ahorita regreso” or “ahorita vengo.

Ahorita defines the magic of time and space in Mexico: a leisurely, sun-baked, arbitrary system of guesstimations and esperanza (which means, simultaneously and appropriately, “expectation,” “waiting,” and “hope”—and you will need all three), still wonderfully unscathed by that North American rush through linear time.