MARIA SANTOS

 

The Calm


You come home to an apartment where the walls bleed silence and pain is the scratching of a dying rat, grown fat on insulation candy. You blame it on restlessness, this itch in your belly, hunger coupled with longing, a combed midnight desire to exist only in the dark, where no one can see you, but everyone can feel you. You close your eyes for a dream, and anger drives a thumb into your mouth, feels for a loose canine, pushes, pulls. You kick a hole in the wall. Once, twice. You push the couch over a couple feet so no one will see. White plaster impacted on the toe of your graying sneaker becomes a wishful memory of snow.

You sit on the couch, push your wrists into your eyes and release a few dry sobs. Do you feel better? No. You remember a fotonovela your father read to you once, a woman crying into her wrists. "Her husband is dead," he told you, scarred yellow hands feathering over the pages. You fit the dead Spanish words onto your tongue. "Mi esposo es muerto." Funny how you can trace all of your problems back to your parents. You can't blame yourself for anything. Kick holes in the walls and cover them up. Harbor a flickering passion, but swallow it whole before anyone sees.

You shot a rabbit once and cried, but your father smuggled away your tears, praised you, said you were such a good shot, you got that rabbit right in the brain so it didn't feel any pain at all, just hopped to rabbit heaven. The buck of its body, twitch of a foot, that was a leap into your bullet's path. Your aim wasn't that good; the rabbit must have had a death wish. Its meat was tough and your papa said it was because the rabbit was old.

The Rio Bravo tires of you and changes its flow and the memories collapse into the present as a wave of wind crashes over the building. Your face is at the window and an oleander bends in the blasting wind, a man in a coat rides his rusty bike down the dark street. It's two in the morning, a storm is breaking, the walls threaten to topple. "Mi esposo es muerto."

You make a phone call and a friend comes over. You don't care if your mother comes home and finds you sweat-stuck to this boy, with the fat rain falling on the roof, the hot air washing steam ghosts through the streets. You walk to the door, open it, let the wet hit you in prickles and jets, thunder shudders up your arm through the doorknob, lightning blinds and dies. Naked for the air and no one else. My husband is dead, and you lick your forearm for the flavor of salty semen and poison air and acid rain.