A hazy Mexico City. ADAM MAUREY/COURTESY PHOTO

I am soon returning from temporary exile in Mexico City. The streets are merciless, the women even more so. The air on a good day would choke any greasy chain smoking trucker of a lobsterman of a Mainer. Making a ticket go away means getting rid of the cop. Street food breaks hearts and puts them back together again. The nights are filled with the haunting tunes of the passing tamaleros and the horrible screams of the high-pitched exhaust pipes of the wandering camoteros. Every black jeep with tinted windows has a license to kill, if they have a license at all. The volume of people makes ghosts of us all. This is a city where no one has a name, and if they did, it was at one point lost in the smoke, where existence melts away like the pain of lost love.

Days bleed into nights and into the next day. Weeks and months change depending only on the season. The heat, cigarettes and drugs leave one in a frenetic, suffocated haze. A northerner might wonder if it will end. Only in death or distraction. The streets are littered with business cards advertising local and foreign moving services. Late capitalism made vagabonds of us all, wandering the streets collecting roaches for the next joint.

The Aztecs believed that continuous sacrifice sustains the universe. A common sacrificial fate met in the Aztec empire was that of heart-extraction. Although ritual sacrifice no longer is common practice, ritual heart-extraction is. Just watch a telenovela. A common end to relationships in this city, of whatever sort, usually consists of a particularly violent form of heart removal and subsequent self-destruction. The luck of the Aztecs was that once the heart was removed, they could move on to the paradise in the east and become one with the rising sun. The problem of the pseudo-surgical heart-extraction of modernity is that we must continue living. The only sunrise we meet is three parts tequila.

The women in this city will give you everything and take it away just as quickly and painfully. Although my patently American brand of timidity might keep me from approaching the corporate lawyer in red on a liquored terrace of narcos, it would never keep her from having me buy her a drink. In this city you take what you want before it takes you. There are no questions and there can be no doubt. A moment’s hesitation can turn your night into a Frida Kahlo painting, laden with telenovelic misery, self-loathing and shame.

Making moves on women is commonly referred to with the infinitive form conquistar. Even in my state the connection isn’t hard to make. Cortes was reprimanded by his superiors for laying siege to what at one point was Aztec civilization—his job was to establish trade routes. He came and conquered. He knew what he wanted, so he took it before anyone else could get to it. It is often said that a good woman in this city vale un México, is worth a Mexico, and is therefore worth la conquista, assuming there are “good” women in this city. In this society every man must conquer blindly and without remorse, as did Cortez, with the hope that the woman, or country, will be worth it in the end.

A woman emptied the entirety of her husband’s worldly possessions into the street from the window of their third story apartment, as both he and I watched. I watched him, he watched her, she watched God. She tied his shoelaces together to make sure that she caught them in the electrical wires. She must be a really good woman, because he moved back in. All twelve pairs remain, out of reach, like open-winged birds about to do a nosedive.

The high priests tell us that as a language becomes a part of us, we will dream in it. My first dream in my new language happened two days ago. The logic was poetic. The extravagant tortas, sandwiches made and sold in the streets of Mexico City, are often named after famous stereotypes of beautiful women from around the world. In the National Immigration Institute´s offices, Cuban women are identified in the long lines of immigrants to Mexico for their voluptuous physique. Accordingly, the torta cubana is stacked with every kind of meat and cheese that won’t go bad after a few days in the sun. La Colombiana is similar, but without the grilled hot dogs and bacon.

From the menu I ordered a torta Mexicana, completo con pechuga, pierna, e ira. That is, piled high with leg, breast, and wrath.