AlvernoINK Spring / Fall 2017 - Page 59

grasping above her and straight down to hell. She bolted up, arms reaching out for her dead Mothers touch. With the curtain split in two, the sun seeped in like a drop of blood in the ocean, reaching the space between her thick brown eyebrows. The sun was especially unforgivable today, Sol rolling out of bed as the rays grew too strong, her skin sizzling like chorizo when it first hugs the aciete. Doña Julia frowned at her from her position in the creaky barrel chair, arms crossed over her chest irritably, long horse-like face looking haggard. Doña Julia didn’t need to open her mouth for Sol to hear her velvety, elevated voice: if you late, you no good. Sol bent down to her level and pecked her goodbye. She didn’t know what ghosts were made of, it certainly wasn’t air. Doña Julia felt like a corundum gemstone, brittle but tough.

Sol navigated from memory, zig-zagging to the rhythm of the streets, squeaky carts drumming in her ears as they came to a halt. Loose curls sat atop her head, framing her round face. If you stared close enough you could see the scar above her left brow. Long lashes blinked away the salty, muggy sweat that precipitated on her face. The brown of her eyes spilled out onto her smooth skin, an impeccable match. She was concealed in the shade of the train, the sun barely waking from its sleep. With every bump, nudge, and shake she felt the cool metal of her silver badge brush up against her skin. She was almost at Casa de Guadalupe, the mental institution at the hem of her town, the building so enormous that it bled into the music filled streets of the vibrant Tlaquepaque.

Her boots clicked and clacked on the rough pavement, the heel getting sucked into the uneven ground. She caught the ancient navy swing-set in her periphery and pulled her foot up in a swift motion. The ground teeter-tottered with a weary moan, slanted until she found her balance and steadied herself like a quick gust of wind, shaking the world back into place. There was no time to sit on the swings today and touch the sky, she had overslept. Again. Or maybe, she was stalling. At her temple beads of sweat cascaded in rough waves, curling down the coast of her tan face. It didn’t help that her stomach was reeling. When the nightmares rolled in her appetite went first. No matter how much she salted, buttered, or added spice to her food it tasted like wasted cardboard. The kind that was at the entrance of the train station, battered and bruised from the infinite steps that weakened its strength. She had also lost her strength. And it wasn’t because her mother had been dead for nearly twenty-two years. It wasn’t because of her failure to commit to any one place or person. It wasn’t even because her last case ran cold. These were all facts, floating in her real, inevitable universe.

The answers she needed weren’t matter of fact, they were secrets. Big, blood-stained, dirty secrets only her aunts—the Zaparrita sisters—had. They’d want something in return, that’s how they operated. Her aunts were deadly, ain’t no doubt in Sol’s mind. And they were smart too. Real, real smart. In fact, the three of them were an assembly of the most elaborate scheme and couldn’t function without each other. Sol would need to give to receive, but she didn’t have shit they needed. And she couldn’t give them an ounce of what they wanted—freedom. But what pissed Sol off the most was she couldn’t give herself what she needed either. Her aunts had stripped her clean of any freedom she thought she’d have. The Zaparrita sisters weren’t the only ones who got sentences back in 92’.

Sol was cooking beneath the rising heat, an arm cocked down in an attempt to shade her eyes from the sun. She should’ve brought her shades. What kind of Investigadora was she without her shades? After the playground, she arrived at the paradoxical Perdida Avenida, and it spoke truth to its name. When you came to the split in the dead ended Perdida Avenida, you were obligated to go one way or the other, there was no middle, in-between road. If you went right, the cunning streets and buildings manipulated you into believing the city was occupied, open and closed signs timelessly hanging in front of every once-was market, barbershop, cantina, and bank. If you went left, the wandering dogs and cumulated piles of waste appeared too sad; crying and talking in the lost dialect of Nahuatl with hushed cries. They were both empty. Part of a city too poor to move anywhere but back. The townspeople vacated quickly, leaving behind their remnants to dry out under the dastard sun. Sol had been here dozens of times, standing in the same place, and couldn’t quite remember a time she ever saw people. When she was younger, she headed here with a taste of optimism, her hand sweating tears of uneasiness in her therapists—Doctor Ronaldo Dominguez. He was a young man then with a mane of copper hair, harboring some of that optimism himself. Back then, the Zaparrita sisters were only her aunts.

56