In the Garden
The scent of freshly cut grass wafted through the air. Genaro’s hands, with care, gave shape to the multitude of plants making up the garden.
The voices of the teachers and the cries of the children shattered the silence in school. Noon passed, with an irreparable load of sun, over his hat. He listened without much interest to the bustle around him. Genaro’s only thought was to finish pruning the bushes and putting fertilizer on the flowers. After several hours the school was silent and a sudden darkness tinted the skin of the arums.
The moon forced itself out of the thicket, and for a moment only a faint glow illuminated the jasmine. The flowers, brushed by the gardener’s hands, were torn into tiny splinters like glass shards. The light was short. It slipped into the folds of the sky and did not come out again.
The house was filled with the scent of burning candles. Isabel didn’t want to look out the window because the last thing she saw were silhouettes hidden in the ocher-colored night. A few hours passed, but her husband hadn’t yet come home. That day it was best not to trust people. She collapsed on the couch in the living room and gazed intently into the flickering flames of the fire. Wax drips marked the elapsed time. She thought of her husband wandering the streets without finding his way.
“Holy animas, illuminate my Genaro’s path!”
The woman repeated her prayer over and over again without being able to hear the timbre of her voice. She remained like a sculpted figure, uncertainty throbbing on her forehead.
On the Street
Genaro could not guide himself. Everything was a reddish gloom. His insecure steps could not get him anywhere. There was the metallic clunk of a vast number of cars at the moment of collision. Distrustful, he heard some heels coming closer. Suddenly, they came to an abrupt halt. He remained still so as not to have contact with what seemed like people because although they apparently spoke, they uttered desperate grunts rather than words. The world was coming down. The smell of burning metal penetrated his nostrils.
The gale grew increasingly stronger, turning the shadows into a suspended liquid. He groped for a place to take refuge and fell asleep at the entrance of a shopping center, on the cold mosaic floor. He wanted to touch clarity like a shiny cloth, feel the chaotic whisper of the streets, slide his fingers over the old blanket spread over his bed, and caress Isabel’s relaxed eyelids before falling asleep.
The dogs fell silent. No more footsteps were heard, only the whimper of weakened air, still freezing. The glow could be seen through the already thin skin of the gloom. He recognized the path despite the dramatic change in the landscape. Loose garbage rolled from one place to another. There was no one out on the avenue. The street where he used to live no longer had a façade. However, his house was still standing.
He knocked on the door, but no one answered. He banged on it again in the afternoon. Isabel peered cautiously through the peephole and saw Genaro’s fatigued face. In her husband’s pupils she saw, stunned, the reflection of the light from the candles that had not yet burned out. She opened the door without thinking. He finally heard the clang of the bolt. In the living room he perceived the intense aroma of copal, as well as the gleam of the dying flame clinging to the naked wick wrapped in a great stillness.
Born in 1970 in Guadalajara, Gabriela d'Arbel has lived in San Luis Potosí since 1973. She is the author of several books, including La cerca y un espejo (2002), Cordelia y otros fantasmas (2009), La casa azul (2010), and Un gorro ruso (2012). Her short story "The Corpse" has recently appeared in The Airgonaut. Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations of Latin American literature include books by Claudia Apablaza, Carlos Bortoni, and Selfa Chew.