Taqueria San Jose

I have never been to this place. It was a small taqueria under highway 101 in San Rafael. I have seen it almost every time I drove through the city. And it happened often. Coming back home from the gym or shopping I saw its yellow lights under the bridge. It always looked empty and the light coming from the insides was dense and yellow, like moonlight. “Cocktails”, “Burritos”, “Tacos” were written in green paint over the stained brown walls of the taqueria. Staying on the stop light under the bridge I used to stare at the few people eating or waiting for their orders. The insides always looked shabby. In my head I marked it as the “happy place”. I thought that you had to be very happy in order to eat there. I thought to myself that once I’m in love I will go to this taqueria, and I will be so happy that I will not notice its shabbiness and the dissonance with the rest of the world.

For years I have been driving past this taqueria. I welcomed its light before I would hit the highway. It was the mark for entering or leaving the city. It signaled the start or finish of my errands. Today, once again I was stopped in traffic right in front of its doors. There was a red and white sign that read “Open” and a man left the taqueria carrying a take-out order. There was nobody else on the streets. I lowered the window of my car to smell the air. The day was warm and silent. Just a distant roar of the cars on the bridge.

Sitting comfortably in my car, I felt certain desperation about everything. I was falling into it gently. What came to mind was that I loved math. I loved numbers. I loved logic. And there was nothing else to say, because these things don’t require many words.

Lately I have been falling in love with things that aren’t human. I loved to read books about robots. And in my head I had conversations with robots, I shared things with them, I discussed my ideas with them. With them I didn’t sound crazy being concerned with the future of humanity and exploration of space. I dug myself deeper in coding and data, it made me advance in my job, but the true motivation was bigger than that. It was beyond visible, I sensed that it was helping us build the future. I couldn’t talk about it much with people around me. Every time I touched this topic at my work I saw glazed eyes, my friends also preferred to talk about mundane things, and there was really nobody else around to talk to. I resorted to learning and conversing in my head with yet-to-be-developed AI. On the outside I was becoming laconic. On the inside I was always trying to solve a problem.

If I imagined I had a robot for a friend it was easier to deal with my shortcomings. I knew I would never be as good as a robot in many things. My shields were down and I never had the need to feel reactive. I also felt secure, because there would be no emotional battles. Robots can’t take your words in a wrong way. You can’t offend them, and they can’t offend you. Offense is only there when we suspect a wicked intention. And I thought that conversing in my head with a robot I was at my best. Or was it the peaceful silence around me?

I was driving along the streets of San Rafael slowly emerging from these thoughts and looking at the green trees and Oleanders in bloom. The smell was sweetish. There were a few people on the streets modestly dining on the spread apart tables. The streetlights were on, illuminating the lack of evening vibe. I thought that the taqueria must be shining with its deep yellow lights like a lighthouse. But I have passed it already and couldn’t see it, however the thought of it made me feel a bit livelier.

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