Carmella – Josh Vigil
June 22, 2021
It is the evening after I killed my husband, and I am picking up my nephew arriving from New York. My sister Leonora hasn’t told me yet what he has done this time, though I am sure he too has done something bad. We are alike in this way. Unmoored by hasty decision-making, with little care for regret. Bad people who mean good. But our intentions have always been in the right place. That should count for something.
I double park outside the terminal, where many already triple park. A mass of us stand beyond the glass pane of the entrance, which slides open and closed with a sharp ding. There is commotion. People laugh. People clap. People cry. The doors ding. I hate the airport. It is always an emotional arrival, and an even more devastating departure. Every time Leonora leaves we cry, in the days leading up, then the days after. She should move back home, I tell her.
I have always felt you have abandoned me, I don’t tell her.
My life is here now, she says over the phone. It is what she’s been saying for twenty years. Maybe I should move to Long Island. I have killed my husband now after all. What do I have left here but to face the law?
I see Luca now. His hair is long, jet-black. It covers the side of his face. He is thin, as always. His skin is golden, though it could be several shades darker after a trip to the beach. His eyes are alert, and his gaze remains as discerning as ever. Luca smiles once he sees me. He is beautiful, disarming, a menace. He comes, we hug.
What did you do this time, I ask.
He shakes his head, and his hair falls across his shoulders. I catch the scent. It is delightful, something expensive, citrusy and earthy. Likely organic. His skin is poreless, too. I am overwhelmed by something like gratitude, and I think to myself, I hope he lives a long and healthy life. Is there any reason he wouldn’t?
Strangely, I feel a hit of grief too.
Not for my husband, I don’t think, but for Luca. His future.
What will come of us?
At home, I bake him quesadilla, a sweet cheese pound cake. When he asks me where Tío Enrique is, I say, Kaput!
What did he do this time, he asks.
I am just kidding, I say. He is on a trip.
Work, he asks.
I nod. That is good, that he is working, he says. Luca twirls a strand of hair along his fingers. We are in the kitchen, where only the day before I had sent a dull butcher knife into my husband. It was not unlike that scene in Volver with Penelope Cruz. Only, it was I who killed him. He was a bad man in any case. A plain castration would have been more cruel.
So you won’t tell me, I ask Luca.
Leonora found me in my bedroom with someone.
Don’t call her that. She’s your mamá. Who was the lucky man?
Ah! Bueno, congratulations. She should be happy you are not alone. Loneliness is more dangerous, I dare say.
Are you not lonely, he asks.
Ignoring him, I serve him another slice of warm quesadilla. Café, I ask. He shakes his head. He is sitting on the counter, tearing away at the cake. The faucet is dripping, the fan is spinning, the birds outside are singing. Luca occasionally brings his finger against the plate, picking the crumbs using only the end of his index. The plate wobbles as he does this, ringing against the white tile of the counter every time, breaking the harmony of the other sounds.
Carmella, he now says. You missed a spot. He points at the tile, where the ridges are marked pink.
Fresh cow hearts, I scream. You know how it is. Do you want any of the leftovers?
Carmella, I am vegetarian, he says.
I know, I know. But cow hearts, no exception? I light a stick of incense, then stab it into the soil of a potted snake plant. A string of dark smoke reaches for the ceiling. Lavender.
Not today, he says, his hair still wrapped around his fingers, which are dainty. Slender and long.
Do you play any instruments, I ask. I forget.
He examines his fingers, then says, I’d learn to play the piano just for you. He smiles.
How long are you staying, I ask. I stand ahead of him, bring my palms against his cheeks. He is warm. I run my fingers through his hair, tucking a thick strand behind his ear.
For however long it takes me to learn the piano, he says.
It is the middle of the night when he shakes me. Carmella, he says. Carmella!
What, I scream.
I found Tío Enrique, he says. For a moment, the white of his eyes are the brightest thing in the room. Then, the white of his teeth are; he is smiling.
Oh, I say.
He is in the fridge in the basement, he says. I see now Luca is smoking, and he blows a spume to the side, the little cloud crashing through the diaphanous cloth hanging over the windows. Beyond the lacey fabrics, the moon sits brightly in a starless sky. The mango tree outside shakes, shivering as a torrent of hot wind coming from the coast miles away throttles through. The soft thuds of green mangoes landing on the dirt ground come next.
And what were you doing in the fridge downstairs, I now say. Snooping?
I wanted a paleta. A Michoacana.
My ass! I am fully awake now, becoming vertical on my bed. The tip of his cigarette glows bright as he pulls. I push the covers to the side, releasing my hot chest. The ceiling fan spins, cooling me. I am wearing an old-fashioned nighttime slip. It was Enrique’s favorite, baby blue and made of satin. Briefly, I feel almost too exposed, nearly nude, and my instinct is to cover myself despite the heat.
I remind myself that it is only Luca. Well, do you need help, he now asks. I think we should do it now and not later. How long has it been?
Just over a day, I say. Let’s do it little by little. A limb a day.
A quarter of a limb. And then?
We feed them to the neighborhood dogs. The strays. They don’t know.
With barbecue sauce. Like a cow heart, he says, placing his palm on my thigh. It is a friendly gesture, one born of excitement: the prospect of another shared secret.
Do you want to eat your uncle?
Carmella, I am vegetarian, he says.
I know, I know. But your uncle, no exception? Then, the white of his teeth again, of his smile. We laugh.
We spend the rest of the evening hacking Enrique into irregular cubes, and in the morning we toss him at the strays, who gobble him up. We do this every day for the weeks that follow. Each morning, the strays prowl our yard, waiting for Luca and I.
Cigarillo, he asks the first morning, pulling out a pack. I nod, inhale.
Luca holds my hand. Our fingers are streaked with filth. With Enrique.
When they are finished, the strays wag their tails and I think this is the least alone I have felt in years.