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Complete Coverage Impeachment inquiry. Financial markets The Latest: Chinese say people have expressed their opinion October 8, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang says ordinary people have already expressed Clergy Sex Abuse The Reckoning. I count some of them at the break room as I eat the empanadas Daiana has packed for my lunch. My colleagues help me count, even without an explanation. And later, at home, Daiana does the same.
I have had to learn it as carefully as at one time I learned the alphabet and vowel sounds in Spanish.
I go get la Marijoe a full two hours before our appointment, because PTSD makes survivors unreliable about keeping time. She comes out of her apartment wearing new plastic shoes and a fuschia-print dress. The mostly grey hair she usually pins high on her neck is loose and falls heavy past her shoulders. The smell of almond oil wafts up from it.
Before almond oil hair treatments became hipster, they were old school. This I know from my own mother. It is a man-bird, ungainly despite the strong, wide wings it extends. She knows I see the creature, have seen it from the first day she became my client. Marijoe calls it her zope — after zopilote, vernacular for the vulture from which the creature takes its shape — and these days I only see it riding her when something has pushed her beyond survival and deep into her core, where fear still lives.
To help her through her first meeting with him, via internet hangout, at the State Department office. The past is carrion memory, and the three of us — client, shrink, the monster given vulture shape by survivor guilt — live by picking at it. The internet coughs up a perfect image. The librarian seated at the computer is a muxe dressed in the huipil of the indigenous population of the town. Standing behind her, in western wear and twisting his hands in expectation, is Rolando.
He looks much older than his voice, older even than la Marijoe. It is a quick impression, really, because our screen goes to black as the feed buffers, and this time the sound cuts out too. In fact, I see the wicked ends poking all the way through her back; dark, blackish blood caught in the tips. I wonder about the State Department guy — Frank — and whether he sees something because every time the zope moves its wings, he seems to flinch.
The computer screen in front of la Marijoe lightens again, then fills with smoke. I can smell it. Wood smoke. Pine, resiny and hot. Frank grabs my shoulder, crushes it in his grip. The smoke on screen clears after a second, two, three … and then we stare at a stand of pinabetes — Christmasy, quick-growing trees prone to lightening strikes — rooted in a ground of charred bodies. There is a child, maybe six, standing in front of the pile.
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His eyes dart from the corpses to whomever is holding the recording device from our point of view. La Marijoe puts her hand to the screen and the small one on the other side meets it. The child scoots toward the bodies. He picks his way gingerly among them, drops to his knees, then to his back. He grabs an arm to pull the body closer to him. He drops the mass of charred skin and semi-liquid tissue, and starts inching his body closer to the body on his other side. He whimpers a bit as he pushes under it, and I wonder how long a burnt body holds the heat that killed it; and if the child, too, will be singed while hiding beneath it.
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The child is completely hidden by the burnt corpses when we hear the crack of gunfire. The image shakes violently, dives, captures a minute of tilted ground then fades to black. The hangout site pops up a static image onscreen to indicate the connection has dropped. The monstrous creature pushes its ugly head so deep inside the old woman, its beak temporarily bulges out a spot on her neck. She turns to me. That is enough. Frank stops me on our way out.
But if you convince her to come back and try this again, make sure the appointment is with me. She smiles.
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Why search for him, to what purpose? A month into her absence, I set aside my injured professional pride, and go to her apartment to talk to her. After I knock, a young woman with three children clinging to her legs opens the door. I give her my name and ask about la Marijoe and she invites me in, offers me a lemonade.
She disappears into the next room and one of the toddlers trots after her, but the other two stay and watch me with big, wary eyes. She comes back with a cigar box which she hands to me. Never underestimate people. I go back to my office, put the feather in my pencil cup and stare at it for a while. He looks confused for a few moments, then gives us a smile.
Then and now. He shakes his head.
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Just the burnt bodies and the vultures feasting on them. But I knew my sister would find me. I knew that she would never stop looking for me. He sounds just like the other survivors I treat, whose hopes — no matter how infinitesimal — cling like a burr. Just last week, when there was news that one of the Madres of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina had been reunited with a grandson missing since the dirty war, all of my clients spoke again about their own disappeared loved ones, their own future reunification days. One spoke of that to me even though we both know her husband was pushed out of a helicopter over open sea.
Frank clears his throat. My own reflection, and la Tere, the librarian, reflected on it too. May I talk to my sister now?
I imagine it is the same for her. Not for the first time I feel dazed by the sheer number of languages in the world, the sheer number of opportunities for translation to leave out that one element that gives real meaning to what is being said. Search Submit search Suggested Search.
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