After I finished filing away Anthony’s life for him, I asked him if I could expect payment before the first of September, when my rent was due. He hemmed and hawed and didn’t answer my question.
I then asked him if he could help me move. I needed to sort through my things and break the news to my landlord that I would be violating my lease agreement, but that would only take a few hours. If he could swing by with his truck the following morning, I would have my things packed and waiting. He agreed; it was the least he could do.
I managed to worm my way out of my lease agreement by proclaiming that I couldn’t possibly stay in this apartment complex, where I didn’t feel safe. The man was flustered; he didn’t appreciate the break-in any more than I did. It wasn’t good for his business. He gave me an out, no extra fees attached.
The greater difficulty was in packing up my things. I didn’t own much of anything, and my furniture wasn’t substantial. Anthony could carry everything I owned in one trip. It wasn’t that. It was the fear and loneliness that crept in as the sun sank away into the night.
I consoled myself with a smothered burrito from The Frontier and stopped off for a six-pack of lager from the store on the walk back to my apartment. With alcohol running in my blood, it was easier to pack my clothes in suitcases and my books and kitchen equipment in boxes.
I gazed at Sor Juana’s beatific, but torn image and decided it was time to let her go. I pulled her down and folded her into a trash bag. The letter that she’d hidden for so long haunted me, though. I couldn’t let it go.
I unfolded it and smoothed it.
My mariposa, my girl, my Ella:
You can’t leave me, not now. Say you’ll stay with me. We’ll get married in San Felipe and lead a procession around town with your family and mine.
Don’t be cruel to me, my Ella. Think of me.
Every voice calls your name,
Because you’re everywhere:
The rocks that cry are you,
The waxen blooms are you,
Your face is drawn in clay,
Your hands in watermelon hills,
And I am with you in the sky,
Locked together in the magnitude,
Where you glow with stars,
And new blooms wax the night.
Don’t leave me, Ella. For once in your life, trust me.
I frowned at the line, Locked together in the magnitude. In the days when I was young and foolish, I believed that Victor and I existed in a magnetically linked relationship, alongside the earth and moon. I could wax poetic about it, but Victor was the poet. That was the reason he wrote effective love letters.
There was some truth to my naïve assumptions that God had ordained our love. Everywhere I went, there he was. If we broke it off, we would meet unexpectedly. Accidental meetings are not so unexpected in Albuquerque. Although a city of a half million people, it felt like a small town in the way citizens of this enchanted place could go nowhere without running into somebody they didn’t want to see.
It was, however, unexpected that I should meet Victor in the enormous land of Los Angeles after I had driven out there spontaneously as a way to ensure that I was eight-hundred miles away from him. He had done the same: driven out to walk along the sand of Ventura beach and to deliver his angst to the Pacific Ocean as it lapped upon the western shore of the United States.
That particular miracle occurred after one of our many break-ups, the one five years ago, to be exact. To this day, I haven’t decided whether our meeting at sundown was divinely ordained or coincidence having to do with our intertwined thinking. Hadn’t we recently romanticized of honeymooning in San Diego and eating fish in Cancun?
That wasn’t the only coincidence that threw us together over the years, even if the biggest. And I had thrived off every event, longed and waited for the next one. I was like a swallow who returned in due season to Victor, only to wonder why the two of us kept meeting.
I folded the letter and thought about throwing it away. I couldn’t. What I knew about Victor could never be reconciled with how I felt for him. For example, that he had an MFA in creative writing didn’t give my emotions pause. The fact that the poetry he’d written me was frail in comparison to what he’d written in his MFA portfolio didn’t make it any less beautiful to me.
I hid the letter, filled as it was with emotional tripe, in The Big Sleep. I finished packing and cleaning; I finished three bottles of beer before I collapsed with a blanket on the floor. It was nearly dawn.
When I heard the pounding on my door, I shot up from the floor, bile filling my mouth. Through the peephole, I saw that it was Anthony.
His face looked wrong for some reason, his skin grey. “Are you ready?” he asked after I’d fumbled with the locks and thrown open the door.
“What’s the matter?”
His dark eyes darted to the left, away from my face. “Where are we taking your things? Your brother’s house?”
“I was thinking I could move into one of your spare rooms.”
“One of my rooms? You are joking, right?”
“I have nowhere else to go and no idea when you’re going to pay me.”
He leaned against my door frame as though deep in thought and studied my small heap of belongings. He nodded. “That’s probably the best way to do things at this point. That way I can keep my eye on you.”
“Why would you need to do that?”
He stood up straight–a little shakily, I noticed–and looked me in the eyes. “Victor’s dead, Ella, and I think you need to be very, very careful.”
**image copied from Sabino Canyon Blog