Esperanza
By: Silvia Kundera

 

You wake up in the morning and make coffee barefoot, feet cooling on the kitchen tile floor. It's bitter, the cheap kind that comes in a large plastic container with a twistable lid, so you pile in the sugar tablespoons of it. Someday you won't live here and you will make your coffee out of real beans that come in a tin. There will be a desk you sit behind, and you'll get off at five, home before the worst traffic hits. When you open the door it will smell like food and warmth, even in winter.

You lie to yourself a little bit longer, and then move towards the window sill.

Squirrels scurry across the asphalt, little paws a blur, and you watch them like always, stirring clockwise, melting the sweetness in. You breathe in deep and sip, heat tearing at your throat in that good way that reminds you you're alive and not dreaming. You'd never want to be dreaming, because they always turn out bad. And you never know, today could be your lucky day. Today could turn out all right.

Cars linger a bit too long at the stop sign, sluggish and not quite awake. Hesitation is a daylight luxury and you hope they savor it. You watch evenly, chin straight and narrow, and try to tell them that the trick is to save up things and bundle them inside.

You are whatever age you are at the moment, and also sixteen.  You are so painfully breath-stealing in love with her.

In English my name means hope.

Buffy calls to 'check up' because she knows you like to hear from her, even though the plans are always the same. "So, we Bronzin' tonight?"

"Only if you wear that skirt I like," you say, and she laughs. It tinkles through the receiver and the little hairs on your arms stick up like it's static. You're so glad you told her on that bench, on that day, because it made every day after it easier.

You couldn't do this alone.

In Spanish it means too many letters.

You want to dance with her, and you can picture it in your head. Her fingers rest on her belly and she drags them up, unconsciously. The fingers skate along her arms, and she's so in love with herself, as much as you are, and it's like crouching in the eye of a storm.

She dances with blades, mostly - you've seen him teach her how. Muscles pull back and fly forth like rubber bands, her hands arching like slow motion arrows. Her toes curl in as her ankle darts, and you'd like to flatten them against your palm. You've touched them once, almost by accident, briefly. Her calluses were warm.

It means sadness, it means waiting.

The shower is running with the door open, steam billowing out to coat the bedroom walls, and you tell Anya to just get inside, you'll be right there. She'll be wet when you enter, grinning up at you through the downpour, and you will wrap your arms about her slim waist and press your mouth to her shoulder, closing your eyes.

You tell her she should take lots of showers because civilized humans are a very clean people, and because it's healthy. She uses fresh smelling soap that is supposed to smell Irish, and that's nice because in your head the Irish are a poor, earnest, earthy people. They just do the best they can.

It's stupid, but you're stupid, and you let yourself think it. She has blood that's not hers beneath her fingernails, and all you have is water and soap, and you need to believe.

My great-grandmother...  I wonder if she made the best with what she got

You're not a good man, and you know this.

Things are sharp for you, stark, and you're too sudden for her world. You think in singular instead of plural.

You measure actions, people, things, because it's like pretending that you matter. It's a game where someone is listening, really listening, some great mass of audience out there; and you can have your cake and be the only one left to eat it because you don't matter, and what doesn't exist cannot be judged.

You run on empty, on fumes, and want desperately to be full. There are those who have, and you have not, and you hate them.

You leap and open your eyes right before the bottom.

or was she sorry because she couldn't be all the things she wanted to be. 

She fell like sackcloth into a pile at your feet and you heard her bones crack and crumble like diamonds. The dust that settled on her body settled on your hands, on your forehead - smudged like ashes - and you couldn't cry because you'd sucked it inside of you; you were all dried out.

She fell, you think, she fell, and you watch her stretch up, all scratched arms and legs. Such a pretty dress - it's good you didn't get to pick it, let Dawn and Willow sort those things. You couldn't say "dead" quite yet then, and you don't think that's your fault.

Skinny tattered hands, and those are your fault but they're not yours to fix. She'll do it on her own, like everything, and as long as she wants it that way you want it too. You try, but don't try too hard.

You've seen her caged and you don't like it. Boxes and boys, they keep working to fold her up and away.

Esperanza

You either feel a thing or you don't, and that's a lie, to think that's the end.

You feel a thing, and you keep feeling it. You feel it every instant, set into each cell of your muscles, and you burn some and build some and build upon it. It's not about roots, trees that can wither, but settling. You feel until it's a part of you, a foundation.

Anya lies so pretty, just how you like it, and you miss her like you miss the mornings when you slept in. You would wake up late on Saturdays to catch the end of the cartoons, and dad would leave you alone, hung over until three.  The guys on the television screen had low voices and broad shoulders, always with belts full of gadgets. No one could touch them. Cereal crunched under your teeth as your back rubbed up against the flat front of the sofa, and you didn't know enough yet to know they weren't heroes.

You say, "I'm gonna marry that girl," you say, "the people I love," you say her name.

You say, "Well, try. I'll wait," and you don't know you mean it. You mean forever before you're old enough to understand what that means, and by then it's too late.

You rise a little earlier to catch a hint of the sunrise, and rise a little earlier still and a little earlier still, just a little more. Breaking dawn has a peppermint hazy scent that you learn to recognize, and you take stock as it trickles into your bloodstream, plotting out your entire life all over again, starting right now, from this.

Beginnings smell almost the same probably, just a tad choppier, and you want to sense them the second they hit. It helps to keep looking very precisely, because when you're precise you can believe anything's possible.

You catalogue the fall of her chest as she slumps to the table, leans over laughing, rests the back of her hand across the side of your neck. Her hands were smooth once, almost delicate, and you hope you will know their gnarled weight, skin sagging and thin. 

It would be worth so much, to be around for that.

She leans farther, feet kicking up against the back of her chair, and you smile along with her. She begins to poke at the hair tucked behind her ears, tightening their grip, and you want to help so you do. She tilts into your touch and its warm behind her earlobe - like silk. You rest your fingertips there - to feel her pulse, to breech it - and you watch, smell, breathe, listen, try not to be invisible very carefully, very closely.

This could be your day. This could be it.

I have inherited her name, but I don't want to inherit her place by the window.

- quotes pulled from The House On Mango Street