Astuteness of The Butterfly

 

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1 The Celestial Hand

She knew Uriel could be watching yet she didn't mind; she unbuttoned two of her school blouse's buttons, It's so hot, she said standing in front of her professor's desk. What's up Gabi, Uriel said sensing her near, yet not giving her his full attention. De que color son sus ojos, profe? To me, they're like honey nectar. He pondered a moment at Gabriella's brazeness then went on correcting the next paper from his stacked pile of tests to grade. El color de mis ojos, ni yo se, Uriel acted like she hadn't just hit on him. He has no idea. It's better this way. Allí lo veo Profe. Cuidate Gabriella. 

She pushed the girls' restroom door in to see a girl doing crack, shrugged it off and found a stall, closed the toilet and sat on the lid to eat a little, green mango from her tote bag, as she shook her leg. Chewing into the funky sour taste of her mango, she wished she had an IPod to listen to her favorite Mexican rock band - Jaguares. Instead she had a CD player with a scratched CD.  Putting the device away, she began to pen a letter from her future self to her current self.

Querida Gabi, one day you will look back and not miss this old school at all. Here in the Land of the American Dream you will find the love of your life. i can’t give you details about who he is, but trust me you will love him. Cheer up, one day you will be here, and even the stars will be different - you'll be lovelier. the wind will caress you more. sit tight. the best is yet to come.

As an early goodbye, Gabriella with a permanent ink marker wrote on the bathroom wall before heading out:

"Dream to dream! Love to love! Live to live!"

She put the top back on her marker, smiled proud of her poet's wit, even though if just in bits. She rose, and almost forgot to use the bathroom; she hung her tote on the door's edge relaxing as she did her necessities. Gabriella colored her medium sized lips.

On her way out she bumped into Gael whom immediately upon seeing her said, “Gaby, what's with the purple lipstick?"

"Let me pass, Gael. I don't need your absurd jealousy, especially now."

"Why now? What do you mean?" Gael asked.

"Well, because, especially now that I can’t be with you anymore."

"What? Are you serious?”

"Sorry, my Abuelitos are waiting for me - I have to go." Gael seized Gabriella by the arm, hurting her.

"Don't do this, please.”

“Let me go, Gael - it's over you like it or not. I'm sorry – I am."

Gael picked up his blue backpack with patches of the bands AFI, Jaguares, and Maná. He walked out with a disguised calm on his face. To Gabriella, Gael even looked older now - this moment had not been easy on her. Wrapped in her violet crocheted shawl, Gabriella passed the graveyard like always on her way home, but this time she took a detour. She looked back, making sure no one, especially no Gael followed behind her.

The view was spectacular from where she stood, she thought; a bittersweet call made her marvel at the approaching sunset: pinks and violets painted by a celestial Hand in the sky. Gabriella was thinking, "I'm headed towards my destiny full of hope, first a desert, then a river, then the remedy to my parents' indifference." 

Gabriella had taken a back road, an easy shortcut through the country. Lush green gardens naturally arranged by the same Hand that assuages the winds and paints the skies with clouds were overabundant here. Gabriella looked back, she was right - she thought she had seen a flutter - could it be? Yes, it was her special butterfly - white and like an angel in the wind. This time it did not linger, yet Gabriella did not bother to follow it; she picked her feet up in the midst of long grasses,  fallen logs and vines. She was afraid at times of a possible snake which could come up from any hole to bite her. Gabriella's heart pounded now; she had arrived at her destination - a cabin house located in the middle of nowhere.

Behind a screen door, an ex-gangster pushed half a taco into his mouth, grease made his lips glow beneath an unkempt mustache. 

"Hola corazon" the dark man spoke from behind the screen.

"You're here to see Anselmo, am I right?"

Gabriella felt shorter all of a sudden, like her feet were sinking in mud, yet managed to say, "Yes." 

"Anselmo they're here to see you!"

"Tell them I'm not here!" .

"Hold on, sorry. Let me go get him."

Gabriella licked her lips having forgotten she had purple lipstick on. She managed to pull out a hand held mirror from her bag. She saw her teeth stained with purple. She wiped them as if brushing her teeth. Gabriella fidgeted with her hair. By chance, a butterfly appeared.

She heard the dark tall man arguing with Anselmo. Gabriella looked up feeling strengthened and caressed by a soft wind. She looked back and decided to go back down the path that led towards the road and home. Gabriella looked back once, to make sure no one was following her.

She looked inside her yellow tote bag and found her old cell phone - the one Gael bought for her a year ago. She punched the numbers that put her in contact with her now ex. What if I’ve lost him forever, she thought.

Gael answered, "Bueno? Is it you, Gaby?"

"Gael, where are you - I need to talk to you."

The time it took for Gael to ride his bicycle to girlfriend’s neighborhood, she had walked back to the house where her Abuelita waited, the ducks quacking like they were happy to see their girl – Gabriella.

"Where have you been? You took one extra hour to get home. Start explaining!" said Gabriella's Abuela who brought Gabriella nonetheless past the door, and inside their humble home.

"Cálmate Abuela - I stayed helping el profesor Uriel correct homework assignments. I'm here now Abuela - sorry I forgot to call."

"Well, you're right m'hija - you're here now, and that's what matters now. But don't do that again to me and your grandfather - he was worried as well. Have you eaten?"

"No - Abuela, I’m hungry."

"I've prepared dinner - let's eat!"

 

Gabriella's grandfather read the town newspaper acting as if he didn't hear or see Gabriella.

"Abuelo, I'm sorry I came home late."

Closing his newspaper and folding it to place it on the small table in the small space that is the living room, Gabriella's grandfather said to his granddaughter, "Esta bien m'hija - let's eat."

Her grandmother passed her plate: cow's tongue with yellow cooked banana, raisins and potatoes, white rice, and a salad. Gabriella started with the salad. She inhaled the warmth of her grandmother’s delicate food, the warmth of home, and shoveled turnip and potatoes and egg salad like bits of snow into her mouth.

"You were hungry," said her grandmother. Soon Gabriella's small round plate was left a magenta mess with pastel yellow mixed in. When she continued with the tender cow tongue and white rice, Gabriella took her time. She appreciated the moment with her Abuelos as if they were her actual parents. A sting bit into her soul – how could she leave them? Gabriella played with her cow's tongue - chopped it into pieces with her fork without noticing.

"Stop that and eat," her Abuelo scolded her then went on to say, "How's your boyfriend?"

Gabriella rose from her chair to the door where the clatter of Gael’s bike let her know he was here.

"Sorry I took long. I had to eat first or my mom wouldn't let me leave," Gael cracked his knuckles, and placed his hands to his face, feeling cold.

"Gabriella come and finish your food," said her grandmother.

"I'm done eating Abuela, can me and Gael talk now in my room?" Gabriella said biting her nail.

"Just leave your curtain open, and you'll be fine."

"Sure," said Gabriella as she got up to wash her plate in the back room.

Gael chewed on his fresh strawberries. Gabriella carried her dishes and cup to the washing sink. She turned the faucet and reached for the rag which she rubbed against the hard pink bar of soap.

*

The next morning, she stood in the tiny plot that was her Abuelita's garden, watering the Rosemary bush, the pink and white roses, the tiny red camellia buds. It was too early to be up for anything; instead she could be wrapped in her sarape blanket, yet Gabriella preferred it this way: warm coffee instead of hot chocolate, bread with butter - not yellow or pink sweet breads this early for breakfast, and the quacks of three tall ducks she did not hate, in fact she loved their sounds; she felt her soul was in sync, in harmony with nature itself. It was not too early for butterflies, as here was one with its wings white and beating in the wind. Back inside, Gabriella secured the door, feeling the warmth of the coffee from the pot her grandfather had prepared.

"Buenos días Abuelo."

"Buenos días m'hija, go back to sleep. You always wake up this early. You don't let your body rest like it should."

"Si, Abuelo, I know. I'm going to sleep."

Gabriella appreciated what her grandparents had done for her, raising her the past year, yet deep inside she resented the fact their eyes constantly watched every move she made, as if she wasn’t already fourteen.

Crossing the sky blue curtain that draped over the doorway to her room, Gabriella sighed. One small bed with white sheets, one window covered with a crocheted brown curtain, a small desk where Gabriella did her homework, especially math and writing. A little Virgin Mary adorned the wall opposite her bed, next to the curtain-door. Gabriella sat on the corner of her bed looking out at the receding fog, wondering what the day would bring.

 

She felt a melancholy feeling start to tiptoe in to her heart, as if leaving in the next two weeks would be the wrong decision; only God knows, she thought. Gabriella felt she had a stable life in Orizaba, Veracruz Mexico; she even had a boyfriend who was about her same age, and claimed to love her - what more could she ask of life? Gabriella admitted to herself that the truth was that she missed her mother, yet she had gone off with a man ten years her junior; Gabriella was tired of waiting - she had waited long enough. She dreamed now with teaching her mother, and her father a lesson - if they did not appreciate their only child here, while she was near their grasp, would they value her the day she would be far away?    

Gabriella laid down as all these thoughts had saddened and dizzied her; she slept again with the scent of roses seeping through a crack - the window was slightly open. She dreamed again. "I'm in bed, Abuelo." Gabriella caaught her grandpa spying through her blue curtain as if she'd be sitting reading a magazine or drawing perhaps. "Esta bien, m’hija, I just wanted to make sure you were sleeping." Gabriella turned around with her back facing her grandpa; this time she was really going to head for dreamland. Gabriella soon dreamed of a snake in the desert following her every move, the snake hid in a hole, then csme out again and to her horror it had transformed into La Migra, an ICE agent stunting her dream of going to the United States. Gabriella saw in her dream her boyfriend beckoning to her to return, to ditch the train, to come live with him, and forget those silly dreams.    The dream passed. She woke up with the taste of a reverie on her lips. Soon, she remembered it. Only to forcefully forget it again - dreams like this could spoil her upcoming trip. She could not afford that. She could not afford to miss out on her journey to The Other Side.    Frailty came in the form of Gabriella - yet deep inside there was a change of shape, and frailty was no more, strength was slowly drawn upon her face and soul.    

In her neighborhood there were many little houses stuck together in two rows; Gabriella lived with her grandparents on the side pointing north, where the Pico of Orizaba was seen in the distance. It was mountains like this one which softened the look on her face - when Gabriella laughed and played was when she forgot the world, yet recently there had been no time for games; like jacks, spinning tops, and soccer with a torn yet taped ball.    In their modest dining room, Gabriella's grandmother prepared breakfast: chilaquiles with red sauce, eggs, hard cheese melted, slightly burnt bell peppers, white onions, and corn tortillas fried and soaked in the sauce, coffee sweet from the pot, chocolate for grandma, and cream ready on the dining table where Gabriella sat now yawning, yet eyes opening surely, her hands getting ready for the feast before them.  "Morning Abuelitos, need help with something?"  "Yes, Gaby why don’t you take out the trash for me while I finish these scrambled eggs for your chilaquiles?"  “I’ll take it out right now.” 

Gabriella met the white butterfly serendipitously on her way out.  At times, Gabriella believed they actually followed her by sniffing her out amongst flowers and pollen.    The fog had lifted and the warmth could be felt on her brow, the sweat formed there on her pretty face and caramel skin. She heard loud cascading chuckles which came from some neighbors she knew, yet not by name - they were a couple with two teen daughters who laughed like they had nothing better to do in life. What envy, thought Gabriella. She wiped sweat beads up towards her dark hair, shortened not like her grandmother's hair which was short like a boy, but instead her tresses fell upon her shoulders. To resemble her grandmother was the last thing Gabriella wanted to do. Gabriella felt like her not too short not too long hair spelled out ferocity and strength.    

Now she had tossed into the garbage container the trash, where a tagged up big headed doll sat, bags of leftovers sank, and a cat roamed searching for a lucky catch. She was back inside where it was a tad bit fresher. Her grandfather sits eating his corn tortilla meal with melted cheese which he loves to savor, eggs which he prefers fluffy, and tomato sauce which makes him lick his lips like a boy of twelve. "Sit down, m'hija. Eat," says Gabriella's Abuelo. Gabriella goes around the squared table of six although they are only three, and sits facing her grandfather and the wall where the television set is, as well as the altar with her grandmother's saints, prayer cards, and candle of The Holy Spirit, which her grandmother invokes for the entire family. "Sientese, Abuela!" Gabriella persuades her little grandmother. "Sit down? Why, yes, I'll sit in a minute, mi amorcito." She removes her apron stained with the tomato sauce and sits, placing Gabriella's plate - round, yet only half full. "Thank you, Abuela, you always remember I don't eat that much." "You should eat more; that’s just a little!" "A little bit is better for me." answers Gabriella. The cheese Gabriella twirls on her fork. When the tomato sauce touches her lips, she smiles like she has found the perfect notes on her lovely guitar. Her mother never cooked like this, only macaronis and cheap little potatoes and ground beef soups, occasionally - rice, if she was lucky.      

Her great escape she plans on making in the next two weeks, on the twenty-sixth of October – on an ordinary Monday. "So what's new with you?" asks Gabriella's grandmother all of a sudden. Gabriella looks up wide eyed and answers, "Nothing. Nada. nothing's new." "You seem different to me." her Grandmother goes on. "Well, I cut my hair again." "No, that's not it, low. Do you have something you would like to us?" "No, Abuela, I’m fine" "Okay pues."    Gabriella relaxes in her quiet room, refreshed and feeling content today there was no school, even though it was a Friday. Gabriella has learned to play the guitar, after her grandfather started to teach her. She remembers how when she barely had started to pick up the steel string guitar how her fingertips would redden and sting, and how this did not stop her from wanting to keep trying to play. Gabriella pens a song about her escaping to The Other Side. But she must hide it between her diary pages, beneath her mattress.    So far, in life, she has never adventured too far from home - the only time was when she went at thirteen to the beach all alone - her boyfriend - Gael - had been waiting for her. Gabriella looks out her window, somehow longing to see her boyfriend Gael appear as he usually does. He does not appear, yet she has her hopes up that she will see-him soon. She fears losing him, yet greater is the fear - of staying in Mexico forever with the crimes and not only the crimes, but the greater crime that happened to her - her mother and father having abandoned her.    

The day her father abandoned her mother was the day Gabriella's master mind mother begun plotting to leave her only daughter behind, almost as a vengeance, more like a way to free her own self, she met another man with time, and one night ran off with him, for good.    At sunset, Gael finally shows up, playing his little electronic game. Gael who is fifteen is a boy Gabriella thinks could have Attention Disorder Deficit. In class, Gael never pays attention, walks out whenever he feels like it to play with his electronic games. He admits to Gabriella how he does not like going to school for the very reason - he can't seem to sit still.    

Through the open window Gabriella and Gael kiss on the lips almost a peck, Gabriella does not want to French kiss him, as she needs to stop caring about him, so as to not feel that much longing and pain when she leaves for the U.S.  ”We won’t always be together, you know, Gael?”Gabriella says in a teacher-like voice.  "Oh really - why not?" Gael answers in a voice of innocence.  Gabriella sighs, "We won't… we can't be together forever we live in an imperfect world. Things aren't always the color of roses."  "Says who?" answers Gael feeling offended.  "Gosh, Gael, what I mean is - life says so. Life isn't always fair or fairy-tale like. Gabriella all of a sudden seems tired of Gael, and looks down at her wrist watch.  "Oh, I see ditching me for someone else, huh?" "No, I’m not ditching you for someone else Gael. It's just, nothing, I just don't believe in happy endings anymore." Gabriella feels pity for Gael. She eyes him top to bottom and finds him scrawnier than usual, his bangs make him look gay, she thinks.  "You know what, Gab, I bet it's your parents' fault you can't love me forever."  Gabriella looks down at her dirty gray and lilac sneakers; these are the ones she will cross the desert with walking, she thinks.  “I'm leaving," Gael climbs over Gabriella's window. She doesn't bother to stop him. She thinks this is how things should be.   

At dawn, Gabriella lingers in bed feeling the cold of another morning in the same bed. Just a few more days and she will possibly be flour of another container. Leafing through one of the magazines her mother left her with. Gabriella sees the models, the expensive houses, and skyscrapers in Los Angeles. Gabriella is stubborn to dream with these. Gabriella wakes up for a minute only to search for the songs she has hidden beneath her mattress. They are still there.    Back in bed, Gabriella tucks herself back beneath her blankets, not worrying too much about her future. 

There is a reason Gabriella dreams of the United States: her father when she was little would dream out loud about his own far away imaginings of the land of the American Dream. He’d imagine he’d only work a couple of years, then become a rich man - that he would have servants to clean his house, cook instead of his then wife doing so, and he would send all his kids to college, make them Hollywood stars one day.    At school, Gabriella struggles to pay attention especially in geometry class. Gabriella is usually is good with numbers, but with the worries on her mind, studying seems impossible. 

The white walls bore her, the droning sound of her teacher - el Profesor Uriel - who is in his thirties tall, husky, and codiciado por las mujeres, coveted even by the young teenage girls from the high school where Gabriella goes; this is the man Gabriella has come to daydream about, yet she hardly speaks to him. The bell rings, Gabriella picks up her tote bag from beneath her desk, when el profesor uriel approaches. "Gaby, you have not turned in the last two homework assignments – what’s going on?" Gabriella's professor calmly awaits an answer. Gabriella looks down at her tote on her desk, thinking of what excuse to make. Her professor then says, "Esta bien, Gaby, I'll give you more time to turn in these two homeworks. Estamos?" "Gracias Profesor.” 

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2 The One Who Escaped

Gabriella drew insects with intricate mazes for wings. She was mesmerized by wings of all kinds, and believed in an Intelligent Design. She finished her sketch, and dreamt of the City of Angels. She knew what her next step would be.

She walked the mall like a foreigner in her own hometown. After lingering at a book store, she stopped by the store she had actually come for: a lingerie store. The display at the window made her cheeks turn rosy: a white thong constructed with a butterfly outline at the womb. Out of the blue, she remembered her sneakers. She eyed complete strangers, rushed towards the restroom and hoped no one had noticed the filth.

Untying her gray laces, she stepped out her shoes, and grunted at the sight of a hole in her sock. She curled her toes to hide the hole. She dipped paper towels in water and and dabbed on soap, then scrubbed the dirt.

She returned to the sensual store - and hoped that no one would observe her presence. She chose the butterfly ensemble in small, took out the cash to pay at the counter, and bit her nails as she waited for change. She did not have enough for both shoes and lingerie.

Your first time, said the clerk.

How you know, she said.

You chose the first lingerie that you saw. That’s how I knew it was your first time here.

Oh, right.
 
Wait, you thought I asked something else, and the clerk grinned.

On her way to the forest, the dormant volcano was in sight. Home was lost to her. Her mother had abandoned her. Her father had apparently forgotten her. In her mind, Gabriella was the the only orphan in Orizaba with parents as cold as the snow on the peak of Orizaba.

The day was bereft of butterflies, only gnats nagged. She shooed the clusters of insects away and stepped onto the bountiful grassland. She took her usual shortcut through the town’s largest cemetery. It was a vast ocean of tombstones. A certain feeling took over her. Here were buried people who had lived, and who now perhaps were in heaven, purgatory, or hell. Her arm hair rose, and she caressed herself. A virtuous figure towered over her - a statue of Jesus Christ. She made the sign of the cross as Azucena had taught her once. She removed gum from her mouth and placed it in a fallen cup.

The sky was like a paper with burnt edges: brown with an orange tinge to it. A bird balanced upon a guardian angel’s shoulder with a white rose in its cemented grasp.

For the first time she noticed that two roads diverged in the forest, one lead towards the cabin and another: God knows where.

When she arrived, she discovered a reader outside in a decayed porch. He flipped a page and went on sliding his fingers across a certain book.

He closed it with his finger saving his page, looked up and said, Fer?

Si, señor, said the husky man and wiped his hands on his jeans.

Did you hear that? I think someone's here.

Digging between his teeth, he said, Si, señor, I’ll take a look.

Gabriella hid behind the thickest tree in sight, and breathed in.

Fer, Fer, forget it.

Trudging back he said, Are you sure, señor?

What I said. Forget it. That was just me hearing things.

She crushed foliage, and stepped forward.

He rose from his armchair putting the book down, his eyes squinted, and he fingered the handgun in his pants.Who’s there, he said.

Hola, she said and the reader’s furrowed eyebrows suddenly relaxed.

She swept a hand through her sleek hair.

Raising a finger in the air towards Gabriella, and turning his head back the reader called out once again, Fer? Fer? Ven!

Voy, señor, Fer said from inside the dining room.

Ayúdame a bajar si, and the reader smoothed out his black hair.

Fer guided his boss down the chipped wooden stairs.


Who are youasked the reader. Estabas escondida?

Why would I hide? He who owes nothing, fears nothing, she said.

She wondered about the man who was as attractive as the mark she saw below his lip. Gabriella secretly admired scars, the way the brokenness of skin resurrected the ghost of pain and reflected sheer beauty. Gael had a scar across his scrawny arm; she once inquired about it, touched and kissed the uneven skin.

What brings you here?

I…My dream is to cross over a Los Estados Unidos, she said and pursed her lips.

Well, you’ve come to the right place, said the reader turning back towards the stairs. Ayúdame a subir, Fer.

When Louie the ex-gangster walked outside he said, Hey, I know you, don't I? Right, you’re that girl, the girl who came a while back looking for mi compa Anselmo. Es la desertora, carnal, said Louie.

So you’re the one who escaped, Anselmo said.

*

They were alone now, and Gabriella mustered the courage to ask, Cuanto cuesta cruzar?

You got mula? said Anselmo scratching his elbow.

That’s why I came. I was wondering if, and she climbed the front steps. If you would accept...

Go on.

Accept my virginity in exchange, she whispered.

Here we go again, thought Anselmo. Why would you do that? Why do you want to cross over, he said.

Please, don’t tell anyone. They’ll laugh.

It’s tempting. You smell like roses y manzanilla but no.

You want to feel me?

You didn't answer my question. Why do you want to go to Los Estados?

I want my parents to notice me.

Wait a minute, what do you mean? 

They abandoned me with my grandparents.

Why?

Because they separated, and couldn't agree on who would keep me. To tell the truth, I think my mama didn't want me around anymore; she is marrying her new man.

Look, I can’t accept your offer. Just talk to your parents. Maybe go live with your dad, if you want. Cruzar no es un juego, sabes?

I know, I know it's not a game, yet I want to cross. 

You don't love our land, or what?

It's not that. It's not that. It's just...

You don't even know what you want, he said drawing her to him.

She led his soft hands to the outline of her bra.

You’re developed, and he removed his hands.

With the grace an artist smears paints on his beloved canvas, he traced her face.

Me gustan tus ojos. They’re almond-shaped. What color, and he looked past her as if looking for someone in the distance.

Brown. Yours are blue, and she touched his eyelids.

He opened his eyes and said, Yours can see, and he put her hands away. He revealed a pouch that contained cigars, cigarettes, and a phone-book.

She touched his face and said, Don’t smoke, please. She pressed her lips into his, and kissed his scar.

Don’t do that again.

Why not?

Because I’ll end up falling for you.

Please, ask me to stay, she thought, and she crossed her fingers behind her army backpack.


Tienes novio?

She didn’t answer.

Nevermind, he said, and lit up his cigarette. You know I could be your father?

You’re not that old. And yes, I…have a boyfriend, but I am not in love love him.

 


*

He knew the way around his bed, and that impressed Gabriella. His lips traced her neck. He dropped her sleeve, yet couldn’t see the butterfly outfit. She sat still: quiet, intense. He smelled of cigar and cologne. He dropped the other sleeve, touched the skin across her clavicle, and pecked her. He laid her down, then sensed her angst.


 

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4 The Toothy Kitchen

The sun had risen on Carlos Berilo's mixed bitter-sweetness, over the blanket of his sadness, the sky had arrived. With wild chirps and mild coos, a soft mist all the way from El Pico de Orizaba - the tallest mountain in all of Mexico- floated down - as the gown of the softest of angels - a woman's caress, and a baby's smile. Berilo slept well considering that he woke up once with a panic attack out of nowhere. It had been years since he had these horrible anxiety attacks. It was Azuzena's supposed wedding that caused such mixed feelings in him. 

On one side, he was relieved that the woman who had caused him so many nights of restless tears would now be married and far from his grasp, yet on the other hand - Berilo's heart stung like a cazcabel's sting, and worse - she would no longer be his, not even on lonely desperate nights when Azuzena would offer herself for her own entertainment and out of boredom. Berilo would appreciate these nights of free caresses and whispers; better than nothing, he thought. Carlos Berilo loved Camilo Sesto as his favorite Spanish artist. A certain song had come into his head, "Quieres Ser Mi Amante" What if Azuzena and him became lovers, despite the fact she was married? Wait a minute, he thought, what if she didn't even marry? This could be,"It may be," he kept thinking to himself. Carlos begun a silly dance as if holding a broom to his chest. He tripped over Niña his gray cat, she meowed as it hurt her poor tail. "I'm sorry, my dear Niña - tell me how to make it up to you? Oh of course - your breakfast and your milk!" Niña rubs her bony body alongside Berilo's jeans and feels electricity. A high pitched flute's sound hung in the air. It was Berilo's stereo playing Camilo Sesto, Berilo sung along: "Decir que te quiero, decir amor no significa nada/ las palabras sinceras las que tienen valor son las que salen del alma/ y en mi alma nacen solo palabras blancas/ preguntas sin respuestas llenas de esperanza. Un amor como el mio no se puede ahogar como una piedra en un rio/ un amor como el mio no se puede acabar ni estando lejos te olvido..." Berilo had been listening to this song on repeat last night. This morning he was craving seafood, the tostadas that his friend sold in a lunch truck in front of a park the park where he would usually play soccer in with his friends Ever, William, and Juan. Nina drank milk, and Carlos drank milk as well from a tall glass meant for an alcoholic beverage. The only difference is his milk has a dab of organic sugar, brown and silky. 

Hope had risen in Berilo's mind - perhaps his woman, the love of his life, had left her youngster at the altar. "Oh Lord have mercy on me a sinner! Tell me my mesmerizing mermaid is still single at least in paper evidence, if not in body and emotions." Carlos shuffled through his tattered black wallet only to find fifty four pesos and nine cents. Raised eyebrows, Berilo sighed. He would have to go out into town and try and sell a guitar or one of his poetry books, one of the cheesy but compelling passionate love stories in poems and prose. But usually he had more luck selling his well carved and polished guitars. Children and teenagers would flock to his side to admire the expensive guitarras. He sold them for 1600.16 pesos, equivalent to 120 US dollars, yet at times he had to give them away for cheaper, and settle for 75 through 100 dollars, but of course, in pesos.

Walking along a damp field, it was the field where Carlos Berilo would satiate his morning hunger once and for all. Berilo had dismounted his Chevy truck and had triple checked that he had left everything inside, including his brown leather jacket, a sticker-infested guitar, plus his soccer bag with shorts, shirt cleats and socks. Berilo didn't own a ball though, ever since he lost about three balls to strangers, neighbors, and kids who slipped the soccer balls into a bag or stickered backpack. Why even complain to them, he once thought? Berilo wasn't the type of guy to fight back. After gobbling down his tostada mixta full of ceviche - fish with lemon, octopus, crab meat, shrimp, avocado, diced cucumber, onions, and tomato. He slid his tongue across his two thin lips oily with the avocado, and spicy from the Tapatio. 

Walking with a walk like Nina his cat, a woman approached Carlos Berilo, and said, "Ya no quiero tenerte en mi alma, porque me destruyes." 

Berilo hands in pocket kept walking as if running away from paparrazi. 

"You heard me Berilo? I don't want to have you inside me, in my heart, in my soul, 'cause you destroy me!" 
"That's not my problem, Sylvia. I never promised you anything." 
"How can you say something like that? How cold you are! I can't believe you. I can't believe this." 
"You can't believe me, you can't believe this, my words to you, yet here you are still following me like some hound." 
"That's it, Carlos Berilo, I've had it with you, give me my three hundred dollars back. Besides causing me heartbreak, you want to steal my money - that I will not let you, if I can help it." 
"Look, here's half your dinero - take it and have a nice life." 
"Just like that? Just like that you leave me, you treat me like mierda." 
"What a pity, your mouth was so pretty just a minute ago, now its stained with your foolish words, garbage talk." 
"Garbage talk is better than no talk - you didn't call me for two whole weeks! How do you think I felt, Berilo? Horrible! My life has been hell. Or purgatory." 
"That's not bad, at least you feel something - that means you're alive! Agradecele a Dios and move on woman. There's nothing left here for you with me, I'm sorry, I really am." 
"Sorry, you're sorry? Yeah right. But alright, I'll leave you be, I am not a rogona anyhow. Que te ruege otra! Adios Berilo, Oue Dios te cuide, y que encuentres tu felicidad" In Berilo's kitchen, he prepared special painted tiles that made the wall look like it had horse teeth. But teeth with every pastel color. It seems Berilo was trying to escape his solitude and depressive state by adding actual color to his kitchen and life. Sky blue, light yellow, light orange, lilac, pink, and pale green all adorned his kitchen near the windows, above the curtains. "She was a mercenary. A half mesmerizing mermaid, that smelled of menthol half the time, mixed with rose water I admit, but she's a mercenary - motivated by her desire for money, she sugarcoats things and acts like she's in love. In love with me? Well, that's good for her - no, that's a pity, I must say. Poor woman, what have I done to her? Was I that good in bed? Is it the way I kiss, sing, or dance? My green eyes?" Berilo sighed and said, "I don't know. Whatever it is, I don't know and won't know, I don't want to - I can't have her when all I want is Azuzena - my lovely ex wife. Where are you Azuzena? Mi amada, mi amor, my life!" 

Night had fallen upon Orizaba like a dark lady's blue shawl, and Carlos Berilo became a shriveled up ball - like merely half a man. He was weeping in a corner by his bed, with the Virgin Mary blanket upside down yet Her piercing sad eyes facing him. "Berilo, my son," he imagined the Virgin say, "am I not here I who am your Mother?" He wiped his salty tears with the edge of his blanket, dark green like the Virgin's eyes. Berilo rose waveringly like a drunk man, only to fall on his side crying again to the bed. "Why? Why can't I live a good life? Why am I never happy? Is it Azuzena? Or is it ...what is it?" Carlos Berilo suspected the hole in the middle of his heart had nothing to do with his ex wife, but that now this was a spiritual battle; he was missing the very God of the universe, the God who gave him the talents he had like that of writing poetry, building guitars, and singing love ballads. A tattered brown and taped up Bible spoke to Berilo. He saw it from the corner of his eye, he knew he would have to soon open it, or else go crazy. And he read, "Los hombres honrados mueren y nadie se preocupa; los hombres buenos desaparecen, y nadie entiende que al morir se ven libres de los males y entran en la paz. Habian seguido un camino recto y ahora descansan en sus tumbas." - Isaias 57:1-2. The words touched somewhere in Carlos Berilo's heart, especially the part that said that honorable men when they die are freed from all evil and enter peace itself. This made Berilo think that perhaps God was granting him peace in the middle of his emotional storm. That God wanted him to be a good man, a saint. A man after His very own heart like David. Not like David, but like Berilo, like himself, he thought. 

A soft knock was heard at his door. Berilo ruminates, and doubts if he should even check the door. He peeks through a slit in the curtain of his window. He can see no one. He is forced to make a decision. He slightly opens the door and leaves it there with the dangling chain on. 

"Si?" 
"Soy yo Carlitos tu vecina de al otro lado!" 
"I don't want to see her right now. I don't wan t to let her in my house." Berilo thought. 
"I've only brought you a simple flan, that's all, I will give it to you and leave back home. No se preocupe!" 
"No no no esta bien! Come inside." 
"Esta frillito verdad?" 
"Yes, it's pretty cold. Come in" 

Luna wrapped a blue warm shawl around her shoulders snugly as if stepping into her own home, or getting ready for a party. 

"What really brings you around here, Luna?" Berilo takes the flan from her and unveils it from the cellophane. He grabs a fork from his kitchen compartment in this his single, and digs into the soft yellow brown flan without even sharing. 
"Youre not gonna share a bit with me, love?" 
"The point of your visit was to bring me a flan, right or wrong?" 
"Well... right." 
"Then, tell me, what brings you here?" 
"Nothing, nothing Carlitos - I just wanted to show you some affection since you seem so abandoned and lonely out here." 
"Well thank you, Luna, you are very kind to have thought of me, but I am doing alright. No need for you to worry." 
"You did something to your kitchen. It looks bright! I love it!"

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3 The Aimless Truck

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5 The Tight-Mouthed Door

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