...

"The jaguar-headed gods, the phoenix-feathered deities, they are real to her in here, in the darkness. And they are with her, gods more ancient and more authoritative than her own, the one she ignores every day. They are unignorable. These gods have to power to transform themselves: the walls are full of illustrations of change. ..."

let me tell you something
fiction by susan rosalsky


Debbie, the girl from 3B who went to AA, talked the way she used to drink: greedy and promiscuous. She poured her words into anyone’s ears, regardless. Things she should have reserved for the gynecologist she told the girl in 3C. And the cheese man at the deli. Once at a coffee shop she told her life to a man without pants. How was she to know he was out of his mind? She was too busy talking. She wanted something from her own talking which even she didn’t know. She wanted something but the more she talked the more it disappeared on her. So then she would talk faster, like she was running after it, and maybe running after you, whoever you were, trying to reach you.

How she wound up in Mexico City with Rick Havalopolis isn’t surprising when you consider Rick. He called himself an entrepreneur, but what he mostly was was a crummy listener. Not wanting you to know this he twitched and nodded like he understood, as if he were following, but he always missed the beat. He laughed too late and stopped too soon, and asked revealingly wrong-headed questions. Rick was never listening carefully enough to be embarrassed or bored or disturbed by Debbie’s run-on, transcontinental narrative of her problem-filled life—her time as a runaway, her landlord dilemmas, her inability to see anything through—and for this he was loved by her.

They’re down in Mexico for one week already when Debbie, who is not as happy as she dreamed, puts one of her darkly-varnished, lightning stenciled fingernails on the exact coordinates of her problem. “Rick,” she says, “there is no one here for me to talk to. I don’t know any Spanish.”

Rick, tired from the strain of speaking a foreign tongue in business meetings, his graying ponytail hanging in a limp S down the back of his shirt like a snake giving out, is sitting on the can, smoking a butt, and mentally reviewing his future. His plan is to make a name for his thirty-nine year old self manufacturing stress balls, then selling them worldwide. Presently, he is working through an imaginary ad campaign for the sides of Mexico City buses: Que es el Stress Ball?? are the words he sees.

“Rick? Did you hear?” says Debbie. “Like I tried walking down the block today looking for some Mexican take-out...Rick!”

Rick is jolted back to where he is. “Debbie, it’s all Mexican. It’s just called take-out down here.”

“Uh-huh. And I met this woman, Mildred, in a coffee shop who used to be a Spanish teacher in Detroit, and now she teaches English here. And she said they have pretty cheap classes at this institute for mostly businessmen. She teaches there now. We can afford that, right? Cheap classes?”

“Well, I don’t know,” says Rick. “I mean, you know what the money’s for.”

A look of consternation gets onto Debbie’s face. “I thought… I thought since we were together, like, our money was together. Jeez, I gave you what I had.”

“Debbie, we’ve been over this. That’s for the business,” says Rick. “Just study the book and try to get a job.” Then he swings closed the toilet door—bam—using a foot, which he has freed, from the shackles of his lowered pants.

Mildred and Jeremy Midge: the Spanish teacher and her visiting son. They’re very short. When Debbie bumps into them again at the Museo de Arte Moderno, she is in cheap flats, but stands at least six inches taller than Mildred. Mildred, whose fragile arms are carapaced by silver bangles, whose wide, but still small face is obscured by large, tinted glasses. She is like a bird while her son is like a cat. He’s got a shaggy, tiger-colored head of hair, ferocious in its volume. It seems too much for his small, tautly muscular frame. He’s twenty-two, ten years younger than Debbie, and proud of his mane. He shakes it a lot, as if to free it for a moment from some imagined bondage.

“Debra, como estas?” says Mildred. “How’s your Spanish going?”

“Oh, Mildred, Mildred, it’s not. I get too tongue-tied. It’s embarrassing,” she says, which is a new experience for Debbie. A crushing self-consciousness. “Hey, Jer, how you doing?”

“What’s happening,” intones Jeremy. He makes a peace sign with his fingers. Back into his pockets both his hands go.

Debbie has spent the day trying to speak with anyone who will listen. She has stared into the blankness of their faces and watched her words drop dead to the ground after contact, like ping pong balls that don’t make it over the net.

“Did you tell Rick about the school?”

“Yeah, I told him…,” says Debbie glumly, who dutifully recalls the business plan. She needs to speak now, to choke out the back-log that’s been building up in her throat, as if a person could drown in her own unspoken words, and so she begins. The business plan, she’s put herself behind it, she’s given her savings to her boyfriend because this is what a loving girlfriend does, a woman who has faith in her guy, despite his little temper problem, which he’s handling, he really is, the courts have seen to that, and hey, it was never that big a deal. Sure, stress balls, it sounds funny, that’s what she thought too, originally, before she understood what a stress ball was, you know, the mechanics of it, the technology, the whole metaphysics of the transfer from the hand to the ball, but it makes sense, when you think about it, cause everyone’s got stress, and Rick, his idea is to make a superior ball, differentiate, you see, different balls for different hands, different sizes for different amounts of stress, it’s brilliant, because first there will be the executive, made of calf skin leather, then there’ll be the aa special, for administrative assistants, multi-colored, for smaller hands, and then there’ll be the mother ball, just for new moms, easily wiped down, it’s, it’s genius, which is Rick, he’s got a high IQ, his mother had him tested when he was fifteen, he’s fucking brilliant, and he’ll probably bust the bank once the plan gets going.

The Midges stand and stare, silently blinking. “Um, right on,” says Jeremy, hands hanging limply by his side now.

“I, I see,” says Mildred, who has a worried look.

Debbie searches her face to see if Mildred, open-minded, understanding Mildred, Mildred who divorced her husband after twenty years, truly does. It’s important to Debbie that she see. That someone comprehend why she’s there, in this kind of fix. She feels relief.

“Listen,” says the Spanish teacher. “Why don’t you come back to my house for the afternoon? We’ll make some drinks, we’ll make some salsa, we’ll do the Mexico thing.”

And so through the busy streets of Mexico City the three of them putter home in Mildred’s red Volkswagen Beetle to the suburb of San Angel. With the windows down they are loosely blown about by the instreaming wind: Mildred’s muumuu, Jeremy’s hair, Debbie’s long, gauzy scarf. Even in the heat, despite her sweat, she believes it adds a touch of sophistication. And it does, it does. And much like that scarf that seeks to escape from the Volkswagen window, carried by the wind, Debbie’s voice is flapping softly, never stopping, flowing out behind her like a trail through city streets. Today has been a good day, like the other good days of her life: she has found people to listen to her, to follow her trail.

The Alameda district—that’s where the Hotel Toledo sits, on a block that does not share that district’s civic improvements. Calle Lopez is dinky, dirty. Peering through an apartment window on their block, Debbie has the impression that the lives she witnesses don’t belong in these buildings, with their grand colonial facades. For inside, the wallpaper is always peeling, there is only one overhead light high above in the fifteen foot ceiling, and the pipes are rotting away. In the air is the smell of sewage, while a permanent cloud of diesel fumes hovers over the spread-out city. It looms above the whole Valley of Mexico, in fact, and will not move until next year’s spring winds blow the mass beyond the mountains.

Rick is lying on the bed watching a Spanish porno film on cable when Debbie returns to their room. She is geared up and ready to talk about her day. About Mildred Midge’s tangerine colored house with the rose-bush courtyard, about Jeremy Midge, and how he doesn’t know Spanish either, but Rick is not listening, and not interested in faking it.

“Well, I don’t want to watch this, Rick…” she says plaintively.

“Huh?”

“This…”

“Ah, look, don’t bust my chops, please. It’s been a long day. Unless…” He reaches over and paws her back, not without some tenderness. Not without some need.

She twists away from his hand.

“What’s that?” he says, his mouth open, his eyes wide, not yet resolved in his anger. Holding off on his anger.

“What? Nothing.”

“No, what was that? Come over here.” From his lying-down position he reaches abruptly out to grab her, but she is quicker and jumps back.

“Hey, look, not tonight. Okay?”

He loudly exhales, as if expelling her. As if she were made of air and can be blown away. This is something he’s been doing since the anger management sessions that the courts have made him take. His ex-wife saw to that, and he’s better now than ever before. “Fine. Okay.” With the remote, Rick increases the volume. The heated inauthenticities of the soundtrack fill the room. It is like another language, she thinks, a third language—the oohing, the aahing—for which there is no translation. It requires no translation, those sounds are so embarrassingly easy to understand. It is shameful how easy they are to understand. Foreign, but completely comprehensible.

Debbie pulls the sheet over her head, and feels her own breath, damp and warm, fill the bubble of her space. Her heart is pounding as she lies there next to Rick in his pants, on top of the sheet. Every muscle of her body tensely prepared. There have been times when she has acquiesced—she can no longer tell the difference between when she wants to and when she doesn’t—because it’s less scary than fighting. Rick’s a thrower—he throws food, he hurls plates, he has picked up his bicycle and dashed it to the floor. He has, however, never hit her. But nothing happens, not tonight; she loosens her grip on herself and drifts off to an uneasy sleep.

Not knowing a language is a hard thing. It’s as if Debbie stands in the middle of a city, another city, as choked and congested as Mexico City itself, not knowing which way to turn. This other city buzzes by her, around her, veers into her, then sharply swerves away. She stands isolated in the middle of all that traffic, that verbiage. She wants to find her way through it, to learn to speak its sentences the way she’s begun to learn certain of the city’s streets, the ones she walks repeatedly. And they are out there, somewhere, those nicely manicured sentences like boulevards that proceed in well-mannered succession—but for now she is lost in a chaotic, gridless maze of nouns and verbs and adjectives. She goes hungry during the day because she can’t ask for food, she is embarrassed for the first time in her life by speaking. And she doesn’t know the currency, anyway.

“Rick is doing the money,” Debbie tells Mildred. They are back at the Spanish teacher’s house, in the rosebush courtyard, a few days later. Debbie has learned a bus line. One bus line. It takes her south through the city down Avenida Insurgentes to San Angel.

“Honey, that was how Howard and I did things for years. It’s okay I guess, but it wasn’t for me.”

Jeremy, bored Jeremy, gives his mother a look. He’s got his feet on a stool, watching a Spanish cartoon on a lopsided TV. It is sinking into the plastic straps of a lounge chair.

“Well, it’s true,” says Mildred to her son. If it hadn’t been for him Mildred would have divorced her husband much sooner. As it was, she waited until the boy left for college. “But let me ask you,” Mildred continues with a clatter of her silver bangles, “didn’t you know it was going to be like this? Down here in Mexico?”

She knew, but she didn’t know, you see. She had gone to Madame Tiffany, and a tarot reader too, a woman named Sylvia on Bleecker Street, not far from the gift shop where Rick’s light bulb first went on, you could see it, she could see it, in the bubble right over his head, it was his stress ball plan, and she had these women, these seers, peer into her future and look into her past, and both of them, how weird is that, had said that she was on the verge of making a big move, that things were happening, there would be changes, so naturally when Rick said he was going to Mexico to try and make his dream come true, Debbie knew it was her job to go with him, to support him in every way she could. Besides, it was the condition. She would give him her money only if he brought her with him.

Debbie loves fortunetellers, she believes in them, in people who can channel the universe, who can condense time, who can see it whole. She loved it when Madame Tiffany told her about her past as much as when she told about her future, how she looked into her childhood and saw that Debbie had been a runaway, that once she lived on the streets of New York for two weeks, before winding up with her godmother in Huntington, Long Island. Her words, if Debbie remembers them correctly, were “You were once wandering, but now, no more.” It sent chills down her back when Madame spoke them, and she knew then that she had found her home beside Rick.

“And your job?” says Mildred, who has seriously begun to wonder about Debbie’s sanity, as many have done before her.

“I was a temp, so what did I have to lose? See?” Debbie sips her cola; the others swirl the melting ice in their rum and cokes.

“Yes, of course,” murmurs Mildred, who is looking in the direction of her son. She worries about how he’ll turn out, too, and who can blame her? If he will live as loosely as these two, Debbie and Rick, in what appears to be a free-fall.

For the most part, the boy ignores Debbie and his mother. He’s barely out of his teenage years, still a cipher to himself and the world. He lights a joint, and through the cloud of his own smoke offers it to Debbie, his breath held.

“Jeremy,” says Mildred. “I don’t care what you do in your father’s house…”

Debbie retracts her outstretched arm.

“Your Rick,” says Jeremy, “what is he, a drug dealer?”

“Jeremy!” exclaims Mildred.

“No,” says Debbie resolutely. She is telling the sad, sad truth. The stress ball plan: this truly is Rick’s dream.

“Then listen, dude,” he continues. “You’ve got to clear your head. You’ve got to get some perspective. You say he really loves you, but then, like, why stress balls? Why Mexico City?”

“Huh?” says Debbie.

“All I’m saying is, there’s something wrong with the picture here.”

And Debbie, who is as mystified as Mildred by the details of what Jeremy is trying to communicate, but not the gist, says quietly, “Do you think?” and then she is speechless. The weight of all the words that need to be spoken is pressing down on her, they are too much this time. They are too heavy. She can’t sort through them, she can’t pick up any little thread. Nothing leads to anything else. And nothing leads to her.

If Debbie had been back in New York City, the city would’ve known when she stopped talking. Bus drivers and token clerks, coffee men and diner boys, waitresses and paper vendors, they all would have heard the silence that she left in her wake that afternoon. Like when a light on a major highway goes dead at night, the city would have felt her sudden muteness. Because whether it knew it or not, the city needed her. To give to it its life, its absurd, stress-ball busting life. But down in Mexico City, no one hears it at all. Only Rick, and just a little bit.

“What’s up with you?” he asks, “what’s your problem?”

“I have no problems. Everything is fine. I love it here.”

“Hey, you didn’t have to come.”

“Rick…” she whines.

Rick nods. “You hanging out with those Midges?”

“We’re going to the pyramids next week.”

“They have money?”

“How should I know?” They are sitting on a park bench eating tacos for their dinner because they are counting pennies. Dejectedly, Debbie throws bits of shredded lettuce at the pigeons. She is surrounded by them.

“Don’t waste it. What are you wasting it for?” says Rick.

“I’m not wasting it. No one’s wasting anything.”

“Gimme that, I’ll eat it if you don’t want it,” and he takes her taco from her, gently, gently, so as not to spill its meat. Gingerly. With the same hand that he has raised against her on separate occasions, raised it high as if he would bring it down upon her—though he never has—with that hand he delicately stuffs the shredded lettuce back into the crispy taco, his long almost feminine fingers tucking and scrunching the filling back into the shell. With a toss of his frazzled pony tail, he shoves the food into his mouth, hungry after a day of debilitating meetings with small time factory owners and big-time con artists who do not seem to understand his plan, his vision.

And even Debbie didn’t understand at first. “So what does it do?” she asked him in the West Village card shop where Rick first identified his opportunity: it was an inferior model, stuffed with sand and made of balloon-strength rubber.

“Do?” he said.

“Yeah, like how do you use it?”

“You squeeze it, Debbie.”

“And?”

“And what?”

“Well, like, what else?”

Rick’s eyes rolled so far back in his head he must have seen the inside of his skull and the blackness of that cavity. “Nothing Debbie. Nothing else. Don’t you see? Don’t you see that’s the whole idea. It doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t give anything, it takes stress, all it does is take.”

Which was when Debbie, who felt she was still missing the big picture, who figured she was too dumb to understand it anyway, decided she had no choice but to put herself behind Rick and his stress balls, for their future lay in the cards.

A fortuneteller who speaks English, that’s what Debbie needs down in Mexico City. She studies the palm of her own hand, she studies Rick’s palm with a searchlight while he sleeps, looking for correlations. Looking for congruities. Only it’s like studying the county lines of two separate states. None of their lines intersect. Shit. She never noticed before. “Shit…” she mutters to the ceiling. She looks for Chinese restaurants, hoping for a fortune cookie. She peers through store front windows, on the lookout for a crystal ball. Someone who will talk to her, and tell her what she herself cannot say.

She has stopped talking to Rick. They dress in silence, she mixes her Sanka with Cremora after he leaves. Her lightning bolt nails have lost their zap, they are chipped at the tips, giving her the look of someone barely hanging on. Her dye job is fading from the rigors of the sun; her blond is failing her. Her blisters have turned to calluses, she no longer feels her feet. Nor does she attempt to communicate with the world around her. Instead she returns to Avenida Insurgentes, the road to the Midges, to silently walk the streets. In her speechless unhappiness she has come to know the city by this avenue, and returns to it only to orient herself, and then set off again. She depends on Insurgentes, on its unfailing North-South orientation, from which all her other knowledge of the city now derives. It’s a narrow, isolated knowledge, only as far-reaching as this one street, but it’s a broad street and runs a long way north and south.

It’s the same road that takes Mildred, Jeremy, and Debbie to the great pyramids of Teotihuacan—the city where men become gods. The morning is hot enough to induce a stroke, not yet ten o’clock. The land is flat and arid, low and scrubby, while in the distance are the hills and mountains that ring the lowland. The ruins of Teotihuacan lie on this plain, which retain the heat of previous days; the interceding nights make no difference at all. Baking beneath the sun are the vast Pyramids of the Moon and the Sun, while around them lies the ruined infrastructure of what was once a great city—its temples, its residences, its administrative offices. “And even then,” pipes Debbie, “you probably had administrative assistants getting ragged on. Jeez…”

She’s breathing easier today. Rick has traveled to Vera Cruz, on the coast, for two nights.

Mildred, her small frame sheathed in bangles and draped in an over-sized housedress, corrals them toward a man selling woven bags to tourists, thirty pesos each. She purchases one, brightly striped in yellow and red, and sticks their water bottles into it, so that now Mildred is a beacon on the plain. She will be spotted from the very top of the pyramids by her son, who will climb them. She will be seen by Debbie, who will fall back from her two companions as she involves herself in a deeply flawed flirtation with a security guard at the museum. She will appear as a vibrant, mysterious dot in the photographs of strangers, a brightly feathered, tiny woman somewhere in background against the gray-cast stone—another foreigner come to walk through the heavy unknowableness of this place.

And it is heavy. How could it be otherwise? It is burdensome, and no language, not Spanish, not English, can lift the weight of its mystery. Debbie feels that. The strangeness of the lives that were lived there, with their child-like, ferocious gods, their jaguar-headed deities with water spouting from their hands, crying tears of rain. What a serious business their culture was, the pyramids made of brutal stone, and yet how silly it could seem—those animal-faced gods and their head dress ceremonies, the bug-eyed carvings on the wall. The silliness was part of the mystery that they came to feel. And the power of it: in the absence of language, the stoic muteness of the place insisted on its power through its math, its technologies, its perfectly aligned angles.

The tour convenes in the air-conditioned museum and then heads out into the heat. It’s like walking into a wall. A thick, close to impenetrable atmosphere that feels like an inside, not an outside. The guide, Manny, is dressed in stay-pressed shorts, belt, and short sleeve shirt. He is missing the index finger of his right hand, and so when he points to any of the various sites, he salutes it with his whole hand. They are joined by other Americans: a scrappy looking couple of bead-wearers, who Mildred likes right away, a family of four from Akron—father, baseball cap, mother, tour book—and two German women in their late twenties, one of whom Jeremy’s eye strays to each time Manny speaks.

They walk down the Avenue of the Dead toward the pyramids. They breath slowly, move slowly, adjusting to the thickness of the heat. The day burns brighter and hotter than before, and Debbie’s pale skin is turning red, despite her application of sunblock. It’s too light a coat. She wanted a little tan, but what she’s got is a singe. She has been singed by the sun, she is a glowing ember. By the end of this day, when the sun-poisoning will have her vomiting and hallucinating, she will radiate. She will be a light source. She will make the eyes of others water with pain.

When she falls behind they’ve been walking for an hour and a half already. She is dizzy. She follows the tour belatedly into the Palace of the Quetzalpapalotl. The palace, with its cool, dark interior. Manny and the rest are somewhere else, deeper in. She is in awe of the inner patio, the vibrancy of its ancient murals, the enclosed subchambers. It brings her closer to the unknowable than either of the pyramids do. For they are monolithic and impenetrable. Here the ceilings are low, the lights are dim and as she walks deeper into these rooms below the palace courtyard, she thinks she’s getting nearer something special. She feels what can only be described as a religious feeling. Slowly she moves from mural to mural, dizzily observing the ancient configurations of man and animal, of man as animal, and animal as god, the silliness falling away, the stone-hewn seriousness confronting her.

Maybe it’s the sun poisoning kicking in, or maybe it’s just her imagination—she could never stand to be alone—but she feels surrounded. Surrounded by a presence that has no equivalent out there, beyond the pyramids, back in the city, back in the States. “What if it were all true?” she whispers to herself, and she shudders at the range of images that appear before her mind’s eye: mummies and natives, ancient curses and Egyptian crypts, Abbott and Costello, and PBS specials, and she is moved, truly moved.

She stops. In the silence, in the narrow vista through which she peers into the next two rooms, it feels true. All of it. The jaguar-headed gods, the phoenix-feathered deities, they are real to her in here, in the darkness. And they are with her, gods more ancient and more authoritative than her own, the one she ignores every day. They are unignorable. These gods have to power to transform themselves: the walls are full of illustrations of change.

She closes her eyes and feels her own skin radiate its heat. She stands straight, unmoving, she doesn’t dare go in deeper, where it is darker, where the gods are waiting for her.

She listens.

She is being spoken to.

They know she is here.

The ride back is painful; the surfaces of her skin are so tender and the car’s shock absorbers are shot. Her head lolls back and forth, eyes closed. She is trying to ignore her burning flesh, her nausea, her headache. Her ears are full with the remembered murmuring of the gods, so much like silence. She herself is out of it, whispering, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m sorry.

“Poor thing,” says Mildred softly, looking toward the passenger seat.

Rick surprises her when she gets back to the hotel room. He’s counting out a wad of Mexican cash; the bills, soaked by his sweat earlier in the day, have dried in a fetal position. They’re curling on the bed.

“Rick! What are you doing here?” she says. “I thought you were in Veridad.”

“Vera Cruz. Man, did you get nuked or what?”

“Oh, the sun, yeah.” She’s shaking. The words she must speak are pressing forward, but still. She has the impression that once she speaks them they will be the last things she’ll ever say. It will be like dying. “I…I had a, um, good time, you know? At the pyramids.”

“Yeah? That’s cool,” says Rick. “That’s cool.” He kicks off his thick white sneakers, which are scuffed and only loosely tied, and lies down on the bed.

“And uh, the thing is, I really felt something there. I felt something powerful, Ricky. Like that time I went to Madame Tiffany.””

“Oh, yeah? Cool.” Rick is thumbing through a paperback, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

“Rick, will you listen to me? You know, I get the feeling you don’t listen sometimes…” She’s trembling. Her hand, she’s staring at it, it’s wavering. Rick’s gaze follows hers to her shaking palm.

“Whatsa matter with your hand?”

“Nothing. Listen to me Rick.”

“All right all ready, I’m listening.” He puts the book face down, wings out, on his chest.

“Rick…I, I made a mistake”

“What kind of mistake?”

“Rick, I shouldn’t have come.” She gulps as she speaks.

Rick slaps one hand to his forehead. “Oh my god.”

“No, really, listen. I have to go home. I know it now. I have to go home.” And here Debbie pauses, because the gods haven’t specified if she should just leave Rick behind in Mexico, whereupon they will reunite in the States, or if it is to be a more absolute break between the two of them. The gods haven’t been particular. Not yet.

“Debbie, what are you talking about?”

“Rick, I want my money back,” she blurts.

His face darkens. He sits upright in the bed.

“Okay, now, all right. It doesn’t have to be all. Just some,” she adds nervously. “Enough to get home, Ricky, just enough to get home.”

His face is engorged with blood; it is empurpled, it is growing thunderous in appearance. He’s swung his legs over the bedside. “Put it on your credit card; I need that money. You didn’t have to come.”

“No, Rick. No friggin’ way. I’ve had it. I’ve had it with this place, with your friggin’ balls, I’m outta here, and I want my money.”

She’s taking her stand.

They’re face to face.

Rick’s got a sneaker in one hand; the other is pulsing open and closed, open and closed. A blinking sign, a warning. Instead he raises the shoe and sends it flying. It hits the opposite wall. But not Debbie. He has never hit Debbie.

Debbie twists away with a scream, “Oh, fuck, Rick. Not your friggin’ sneakers!” She dives to take cover. Rick is kicking the mini-fridge, he’s hauling up a mauve vase with plastic flowers; he’s hurling the toothbrush glasses. He can see the top of his girlfriend’s head; he can hear her from where she is hiding between the wall and the bed.

She is babbling now, summoning her words—memories of dive bars, and hockey games, of afternoons on the benches in Washington Square, of laser show rock concerts and fancy meals at Tavern on the Green — she is holding them out against the storm of objects that swirls around her. She is offering them up, their six years together, as if to soften the violence, if only Rick could hear them. “Remember, Ricky, remember?” she says, her voice pip-squeaking from between the wall and the bed, one lone hand like a periscope desperately searching the covers for her purse.

She keeps talking for as long as she can, until the concierge bursts into the room and tackles Rick to the bed. She backs out and runs down the hall. She talks through the streets of Mexico City, her cheeks wet from crying. She tells and retells the story to the hot night air, her sniffled words mix with shuddering sighs as she makes her way to the bus that will take her to Mildred’s. Distracted and muttering, she overpays the bus driver by an absurd amount. She pats dry her tear stained face and applies Noxzema to her burning skin, ignoring the stares of others. A new string of words is working its way through her, about how things fell apart in Mexico City; a new string of words like a trail of bread crumbs that she needs to lay down, about the pyramids, about Rick, all with the hope that somebody might find her.


©2004 Susan Rosalsky
Smokebox is a non-commercial, volunteer driven e-zine

archive index | current issue