by Vanzetti

She lives on a dusty street between the church and the arroyo. There's a fountain in the garden, where Marita sits for hours staring into the space and listening to the water. A gardener comes twice a week to keep the jungle out. Once she would have checked under every stone after his visits; now the only bugs she cares about are the scorpions that make their way into the bodega. Those she crushes with such a lack of fear and mercy that her neighbors sometimes run to get her when they find scorpions under their own furniture.

In those days, though, the routine she's fallen into would have frightened her. Today she hums to herself as she slips on a pair of sandals and picks up a mesh bag and dishtowel. The dirt road outside her door is still pot-holed from a summer storm; it follows the curve of the arroyo down to the bay, but she takes a side street past the white walls of other houses and gardens, past the little bookstore and the local jail, out into the jardin in front of the church. She's struck again by the ugliness of both: a concrete square relieved by palm-trees and ragged hedges, a dilapidated bandshell and benches painted in ice-cream-colors, and the church a concrete box with a peaked roof, like a cross between an alpine lodge and a garage. On her way to the tortilla factory and the grocery she passes the liquor store, the butchers and a tacqueria where gringo families will invite her to join them in the evening for quesadillas and tacos de carne asada at plastic tables crowing the sidewalk. There's a shop that sells t-shirts, bathing suits and stationary, and two women selling blended fruit drinks in front of Dahlia's abarrotes.

She's running a little behind this morning and there's a line in front of the tortilla-maker: white men dispatched by their wives and preteen girls dragging babies and toddlers with them. She watches the tortilla-maker's children push the dough into their machine, watches the rounds that come out to be carried through the oven and dropped, one at a time, onto the table at the front of the shop. She buys her quarter-kilo and has it wrapped tight in the towel. Dahlia doesn't have any sweet rolls this morning, but she buys eggs and milk, limes, a papaya and soft red tomatoes; on the way out she's stopped by a woman she knows in town and is invited around for drinks that evening -- seven o'clock at a white house halfway down the beach. She's no longer surprised by this, just as she's no longer surprised when she accepts.

The people in this town do not need to know her name to know her: to see her, to notice her, to ask questions of the police should she disappear. She still wonders whether she was wise to stop moving, whether death will follow her here too before the end, whether it will come down the road from Guadalajara or north from Manzanillo airport, on a weekend in the summer holidays when the beach is crowded with local families or on a pleasantly cool morning in February, just as the sun comes over the mountains. She wonders, but she is not afraid.



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