Places preserve odors and echoes over the years. This decrepit lobby, drenched in the fragrance of coffee and pineapple juice, more a market than an airport, the hallways resonating like a tuning fork with the sounds of the runaway city—Mexicana de Aviación, announcing flight five fifty-eight—The laughter and the merriment that accompanied Mariana on her many departures. Where did it all go?
Every weekend we stop in Lufkin on our way to the hospital—north, where hospitals live. Outside the shop there is always a line, five or six people wearing wide straw hats. Sometimes there are super-thin kids worked up with piss.
The days are long—congruously slow. They blend into one another. The present is fragmented with what lies ahead, or inevitably does not, or what could have, skewing my abbreviated notion of time and space, past and future.
I can hear the head tumbling as I turn onto Texas. She was a kind woman, everyone used to say even when she was alive, the kindness that impresses cats, all tarot readings and exotic cigarettes. She saw the flinch at the heart of you but lied and shook out stories instead.
The wind troubled the gap between her coat top and neck. She shifted the box to her left hip, fingers white and numb from the tight hold. Using her right elbow, she knocked on the driver’s window, her hand still clutching a coffee cup from the drive. A black Audi, he had told her. Two …
Baldy spots two breasts floating in the water. Baldy, Country, Sarge, R.J., and I all line up along the water’s edge.
“Look at this,” Aftershock yells from downriver.
A torso propped up by a knotted rubber tree. Nervous laughter. Baldy throws up. Country points to another body, neck to belly, that surfaces near the first.
The scrubs are itchy and tight and he feels ridiculous with the stethoscope draped around his neck. He wonders if it is real but he would feel even more ridiculous putting it in his ears, pressing whatever the thing is called on his chest, listening for the soft bump of his own heartbeat. He wonders how much of his life has been spent in exactly this way, standing to the side, offstage, waiting for the Rabbit to show him up again.
A few days later, while sitting on the rocks that served as the front steps, avoiding work, Arturo, Leo, and Adriana saw their father coming up the mountain, and on his shoulders was a goat. Adriana let out a shriek that Arturo was sure had startled the goat, because he could see it jerking and thrashing on his father’s shoulders, attempting to get free.