Now, the second day in, from the window of the commandeered cab, soundly drunk and outrageously happy, he surveyed the swirling morass, the maelstrom of perpetually congested Reforma Boulevard. There were all sorts of nightmares to be scrutinized here, countless strata: tragic trumpets drilling through thick air, smothering yellow smoke settling on the strange little suede-colored people, each of whom, if you cared to key in on it, had some serious flaw or another; an oozing burn, disproportionately large ears, a lousy toupee, a gimp leg, a missing finger, a clinging, deformed, half-naked child sucking on a way-ripe mango. Who the fuck were these people, anyway? That's what Cubby wanted to know. Quality was the problem down here, not productivity: there was tons of street industry; bicycle carts spinning through traffic, miniature chewing-gum salesmen asking a peso per pop, a fire-eating clown- faced windshield-washing beggar in a counterfeit CK Jeans cap, who at night became a window- smashing robber... Idiotically inappropriate census figures insured that here in reality-land, no job was too menial, no pay scale too obscene; everywhere, somebody with a rag or a squeegee was cleaning something; actually, they were mostly cleaning the same things over and over and over again, and yet in the aggregate, in their wake, there was a profound sensation of filthiness. Not so remarkable, actually. Because the function of these cleaners was to work, not to make things clean. You could reach a similar conclusion over an anthill, watching particle-shifting vermin skittering mindlesslessly, purposefully, through losing battles against grains of sand. On that level, both human and insect, the real insanity was the fear, not of failure, but of final subsumation, of total disappearance into the concept, which far from being irrational, was probably inevitable.

So, where was the significance in considering, over the course of a day or two, ten thousand complicated individuals you would never see again? That's what else he wanted to know.

Cubby's mood was more fragile than he'd admit, and he cackled at the Latin freak-show with growing uneasiness until his smile went suddenly bankrupt. An old stake truck filled with leafy green things and dour, shiny-trousered campesinos had edged suddenly in beside the taxi, cutting off his view of the sidewalk; and on the truck's door, opposite his face, a foot away, someone had written 'Chucky Ley' in small, careful orange letters. He scribbled down the weird, gringo name in his Franklin Planner; then deflated. The juxtaposition of events, possibly unrelated: the swarm of fucked-up mortals, the industrious preschoolers, the palm trees, 'Chucky Ley' in small, careful orange letters, caused such a melancholic eruption of emotion within Cubby Diller that he broke down and wept while the cab driver eyed him carefully in the mirror.

Later, on the television in the hotel room, there was a local channel running snapshots of missing persons, all sorts of missing persons, all ages, all social castes; evidentially, nobody in Mexico was immune to sudden disappearance. He watched in bleary fascination, for an hour or more. The Missing Persons Channel. What were the demographics? Either you were missing, and knew it, or missed someone, and knew it; either way, how did this help? Still, face after face appeared, reappeared if you stayed tune long enough, some of desperately pretty teenaged girls with glittering teeth, whose potential for a new life of sexual bondage was heady and erotic; some of little kids, who for all he knew, were bought and sold like ripe mangoes in the fairs and markets; some of middle-aged, out-of-focus, unshaven men such as never seemed to go missing in the states, if you believed the milk cartons; some were drawings of people who had vanished and looked like nine of the next ten strangers you'd pass on the boulevard; but all had genuine lives, individual cycles, distinct circulatory systems, private disgraces, personal passions, dreams, talents, and most had three or four names that somebody had, with circumspection, bestowed upon them once, not suspecting how badly it would turn out. Now, that was the biggest mystery; that was the sort of realization that made Cubby want to vomit. And he couldn't get enough of it. He jotted down the funny, polysyllabic Mexican names with a Jena pen on a Jena pad. He drank tequila until he fell asleep, and when he woke up, the grainy, unfocused, funny-named individuals were still flashing across the screen in an endless loop, each one of them still MIA; he'd been out cold for at least six hours, during which, not one of those poor people had turned up.

He'd drained the minibar of all the brown liquor, for which he had a preference but not a requirement, and now, he started in on the rums and vodkas, then polished off the Tecates and Sols along with the remains of the American Burger that room service had delivered prior to calling it a night, and by the time the rest of the hotel was stirring, showering, tightening ties, setting out, hitting the breakfast buffet, Cubby was bombastically boiled and unreasonably ecstatic, ready for another round.