Category Archives: Albuquerque

New Mexico Noir: Partners in Crime

We hustled with the paintings and the bursting file folder out to the back porch, only to discover that Walt had disappeared.  It occurred to me that this primo of Anthony’s might not exist as a completely material man.  He was there one moment, and the next, he was gone.

I shook my head.  “Where. . . ?”

“Quien sabe?  He probably took off when he heard the alarm.  And we should, too.”

“I agree.  But will you help me with these paintings so I don’t damage them?”

“Why did you have to steal her paintings, of all things?  What are we going to do with them, put them in the back of the truck? ”

“Yes, I guess we are.”

Anthony was a little irritated with me, which was no surprise, since we spent most of our time together being annoyed.  But, more than that, he wanted out of the neighborhood.  He obliged me and took hold of the largest of the painted Masonite boards, and then we crept back to the truck by ducking in the sparse shadows of the xeriscaped neighborhood.

Once in the cab of the truck, I urged Anthony to drive slowly so as not to damage my mom’s precious artwork.

“You planning on redecorating?”

“No.  I just want to see if . . .”  I couldn’t finish.  It was absurd, I realized, that I had stolen my mom’s artwork in order to find hidden messages in benign renditions of life.  My mom would not hide messages in her paintings.  I groaned.

“You miss your parents, huh?”

“Yes.  Yes, I do.”

“It’s been hard for you lately, Ella.”  His tone sounded a little off, as if he wasn’t used to comforting people.  He reached over and patted my knee, but only for a second because he had to shift.  “I don’t know how this is all going to work out, but we’ll stick together, all right?”

“Um, yeah, sure.” 

I didn’t know he meant by that, but—-hey–sticking together sounded like a good idea.  The hand on the knee gesture threw me for a loop, too.  I was too tired to consider whether it was a grandfatherly type of pat or something else entirely.  My head jerked back against the seat, and I cranked open the window so that the cool night air blasted me in the face.

Back at his house, with the crickets chirruping around, I forgot how late it was. The crickets didn’t watch the clock, so why should I? I unwrapped the paintings and lined them up against the living room wall, ready to investigate.  If I’d had access to a hammer and some hardware, I would have hung them up, gallery style and sauntered back and forth in front of them, my chin cupped in my palms.  Lacking these things, I sat on my haunches and made a steeple with my fingers while I stared at the images.

“You praying, mi’jita?”

I wished he wouldn’t call me that.  It gave the wrong impression of our relationship.  It was as if he was my elder rather than my peer.

“If you are, will you pray for me, too?  Your mom’s organizational skills are worse than mine after I’ve been drinking for three days straight.”

“Do you do that often?”

“Not for a couple of weeks.”

“That’s reassuring.”

My eyes returned over and over to the painting of Demetria.  Who was the man?  I knew who he was, but my mind was too tired to focus.  In fact, the images blurred in front of my eyes, and the characters might have actually moved, but I couldn’t be certain.  I yawned.

A dream sequence of bailes filtered through my mind.  It had been so long since I’d attended one.  Victor had dragged me to a Christmas dance several years ago, the one sponsored by the mayor.  I smacked myself on the forehead.  Of course I’d recognized the man.

“Demetria’s dancing with the mayor.”

“What?  Not on my premises, I hope.  Oh, right, on the painting.  I could’ve told you that.”

I turned around and studied his wavering face, wavering because my eyes were blearier than before.

“Don’t look at me like that, Ella.  I recognized his bald spot and the stripy shirt he’s wearing.  Come here, you have to look at this.”

I staggered to his desk.  Sleep.  I needed to sleep, and I didn’t want to look at anything else. I looked, anyway. Sitting in front of Anthony was a plain page with a chemical construction of some sort on it.  It meant nothing to me.

“What do you think this is?” Anthony asked.

“Why would I know?”

“You’re the one who’s college educated.  The girl with the degree.  The smart blonde, so I’ve heard some people say.”

“Literature. I studied literature, not chemistry. Why don’t you call the lab that’s listed there on the header?”

“You are smart.  It’s verified.  But, sadly, most labs aren’t open at three in the morning, or whatever hour it happens to be.”

“Then call tomorrow,” I whispered, because it was now officially too late, or too early, to vocalize.

“That would be your job, Ella.  You’re the secretary.”

“Fine, then.  I’ll call tomorrow.”

“Except I don’t think I want you to be my secretary anymore.  You aren’t very good at it.”

I looked at him and felt nothing but despair. I could have wept.

“Why don’t you sit down?  We can go through these papers together.”

Demetria’s chair still sat in front of the desk, and I dragged it around and dropped onto it.  I leaned over and found that my head was very near Anthony’s.  We were a team, sticking together.  How ludicrous was that?

He turned to me abruptly.  “Maybe you should be my partner instead of secretary.”

“Huh.” Another dream sequence filtered through my mind, except this time it was pure fantasy, and Anthony and I were partners in crime.

“What?  Why are you looking at me like that for?  Do you want me to kiss you, or something?”

I did, actually. “No,” I said.  “I want to sleep.  Maybe we can be partners tomorrow.”

***Painting: Fire in the Bosque by A. Leon Miler (otherwise known as my dad)

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New Mexico Noir: Never Trust a Man With a Bigote

Of course Anthony wouldn’t hurt me.  This woman was nuts.  I ushered her out through the kitchen, only to find Herman had let himself in and was sitting at the dining table drinking a beer.  He stood up at our presence, chivalrous man that he was.

Demetria stopped short in her usual pattern of legs akimbo.  “What is he doing in here?”

“I have no idea.”

She smacked him in the chest.  “Were you listening to our conversation?”

“¿Comó?”  He opened his dark eyes wide.

“Don’t play the no speakie inglés with me,” she said.

“Cerveza?” He held up his beer and grinned at her like a fool.

“Unbelievable.”

Yes, I agreed.  These people, including her, were unbelievable.  I turned to the refrigerator to help myself to a beer, feeling that I deserved something finer than Bud Light.   I also knew without looking that there was nothing finer. 
 When I turned around again, bottle in hand, the universe and its disparate particles linked together to cause me trouble.

Anthony walked in while Demetria stepped out, and Herman cornered me by the sink, where he clinked his bottle suggestively against mine.  Over his shoulder, I saw Anthony and Demetria exchange hate-filled glances.

“Hasta mañana, Antonio,” Demetria sang with her a la Salma accent.  “Your secretary made me an appointment.”

“Great.  I love my secretary.”

Well, I loved him too.  He was the one who had left me alone with no instructions whatsoever, and without a phone.  And now I had Herman nearly leaning over me and breathing into my face with his beery breath.

“Ella, if you ever need me, I’m there for you,” Herman said.

I put my hands out as a reflex to prevent his falling on me, and they landed on his shoulders.  Well, one of them did.  The other still clung to my bottle, which I rammed into his chest.   He must have interpreted it as an intimate gesture, however, because he brushed my cheek with his bottle-free hand.

“Thank you, Herman,” I said.

“I want to know what you’re doing living with Anthony.  It’s not right.  Anthony’s my dude, you know, my hombre, but he’s not right for a nice girl like you.”

“You don’t need to spell it out for me.  I’m just borrowing his spare room for a while.”

“Well, maybe so, maybe not.  If you need me, you know where to find me.”

Herman really did have a luxurious mustache, as glossy and full up-close as it was from afar.  I had a sudden, strange desire to touch it, smooth my fingers over it, but I didn’t dare.  I couldn’t begin to imagine how he would interpret it.  I drank down my entire bottle of beer in one swallow and, in the background, I heard the swoosh of the refrigerator door.

“Anthony, will you get me another beer?”

“Nope, Ella, I don’t think so. Free beer doesn’t come with the contract,” he said.

“Why not?”

“It might, if you didn’t share it with the neighborhood.  I also have a landlord’s clause in my contract that says I don’t put up with your little trysts, especially if Herman has anything to do with them.”

Herman straightened up immediately.  “Hey, Anthony, chill out, all right?”

“Funny, I don’t think I’ve signed any contracts,” I reminded him.

“Well, you’re going to, tonight.  Herman, get out of my kitchen.  I need to have a private chat with Ella.”

“Mind if I grab a beer for the road?”

“Sure, whatever.  Take two if you want,” said Anthony, and he thrust two bottles at him.

After the screen door slammed behind him, Anthony turned to face me.  “I don’t ever want to come home to find those two in my kitchen at the same time.”

“Are you implying that I wanted them here?”

“From where I was standing, you were all over Herman.”

I couldn’t listen to this on an empty stomach.  I searched through the refrigerator and, lucky me, found more Bud Lights, y nada más.  I uncapped one and drank it down.  The bubbles made my stomach roll over in agony.  When had I last eaten?

“Herman was all over me, and not the other way around.  Demetria swung by to see you, not me, but you weren’t here.  Where were you, anyway?”

“Maybe it’s none of your business where I was.”

“Well maybe,” I paused as dizziness swept over me, “it is my business if you’re going to attack me for attempting to be your secretary without an appointment book, or a gun for heaven’s sake, to ward off the men who sneak into your kitchen and steal your beer.  Do you have food, by any chance?”

“Food?  I don’t think so.  I just came from my daughter’s birthday party.  I haven’t really had time to do the shopping.  You could do some.”

I closed my eyes and swayed back and forth.  He was at his daughter’s birthday party?  I’d forgotten about his fatherhood status.  “I don’t have a working car.  In fact, I won’t have any car at all if we don’t tow it away before my ex-landlord does.”

“You are the most pathetic secretary I’ve ever hired.  Did you still want to break into your parents’ house?”

Oh, yes.  I’d forgotten about that.  I nodded.  Of course I did.

“Let’s go do a little shopping first.  We’ll need to wait for it to get good and dark.  They don’t have a security system, do they?”

“Not last I checked.”  But, then, I didn’t know much about my parents anymore.

“I guess we’ll have to risk it.”

“Yeah, I love to take risks,” I said, and followed him out the door as if it were actually true. 

I noticed he was careful to lock up and wondered if he would ever give me a key so I could have the same privilege.

I also noticed a lingering odor of Demetria that pricked the backs of my arms with goosebumps.  It wasn’t dark yet, though, and I didn’t spot her or her car anywhere in the vicinity.  Maybe it was the scent of flowers, I told myself, the perfume of the late-August Hollyhocks next door that were covered in magenta blooms–which, as it turned out, was simply a poetic way of ignoring the obvious.

p.s. The dude in the picture is a Mexican singer called El Chapo.  He’s got a fantastic crooning voice, which is complimented by banda music of the finest sort.  Why is he here, in my NM Noir?  Well, he’s got a gran bigote.  That’s why!  Oh, plus, I have that album, and I happen to like it.

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New Mexico Noir: Hermanas de Corazón

The heat immediately hit me in the forehead as I ran after Demetria’s car.
I arrived breathless at the bottom of Anthony’s drive, my head spinning.  Demetria Gallina stood on the stoop in an offensive stance, her feet spread about two feet apart, her fist raised to beat on the door, or beat it down.

“Hello,” I called out.  “May I help you?”

She spun around, and her hair caught in the breeze and lifted dramatically away from her face.  The woman could have been a shampoo model with her thick black hair that glimmered blue in the sunlight.

Her smile was false.  “I’m here to speak to Antonio.”

“I’m sorry.  Mr. Carrillo isn’t here right now, but if you’d like to make an appointment, you’re welcome to come inside.”

I had the distinct feeling that I was being watched, and I spun around to find Herman staring at Demetria with his mouth agape.  Sabrina had disappeared, and Herman was caught with a rake in his hand.  I wondered if he was stealing it or using it to help Mrs. Garcia in her yard.

“Let’s go inside, all right?” I said.  “I suspect we may have private things to discuss that the entire neighborhood doesn’t need to hear.”

Demetria shielded her eyes to the sinking sun and glared at Herman.  “I agree with that,” she said, and turned to enter the house as if she owned it. 

“Bella!” Herman shouted.  “Wait!”

Demetria and I both turned around.  He’d pronounced bella in Spanish fashion rather than Italian.  Even so, many people insisted on pronouncing my name the same way, and I instinctively responded.  I suspect Demetria simply thought he was catcalling her.

“Yes, Herman?” I said.

“We need to talk sometime.  Let’s have a drink.”

“All right.  Why?”

“Now would be perfect, while Anthony’s out of the way.”

I looked at Herman, short and bulldoggish, and wondered what exactly he had in mind.  “Come over this evening for a beer.  I can’t right now.”

He cocked his head to the side, looked past me at Demetria’s silhouette in the doorway, and smoothed his mustache.  “Now would be better.”

Why were men so pushy?  “Later!”  I waved at him and literally pushed Demetria through the doorway and into the kitchen.

“I need some coffee.  Do you want some?  Anthony doesn’t keep things well-stocked here, so I don’t know if I can offer you milk and sugar.”

“Coffee is fine, but I think I need a formal introduction to you.  Don’t you think?”

I offered her my hand.  “Ella.  I’m Anthony’s secretary.”

“I’m sure you are,” she said, and she looked me directly in the eyes and grasped my hand in a firm handshake.  “Demetria.”

The woman was unnerving, and that was the truth.  I busied myself with the coffee, spooning it into the filter and pouring water in the back of the pot.  I found two mugs and set them by the pot, then ushered Demetria into the newly furnished office with its full file cabinets.  I saw her eyes stray to the cabinets.

“I see he doesn’t keep his files locked up,” she said.

I dragged a chair from the kitchen table and set it in front of the desk. 

“Have a seat,” I congenially offered.  “Should he keep them locked?”

“I don’t know.  It all depends on what he keeps in there.  I noticed he didn’t have his front door locked, either.”

“That was my fault, actually.  I needed to run some errands, but he hasn’t given me a key, yet, so I left the doors unlocked.”

“And the man from across the street?  Do you trust him?”

“Herman is harmless.”

Demetria gazed at me with her big, dark eyes and batted her lashes.  “Are you sure?”

“No,” I said.  “But I’m not sure about you, either, and I’m about to leave you alone with the unlocked file cabinets while I fill our coffee cups.” 

“Antonio has nothing in there I need, or that I don’t already know.”

I raised my eyebrows at her.  How could she possibly know about every case file that was in Anthony’s cabinets?  And why did she persist in calling him Antonio?  I walked away from her knowing full well that she did, indeed, want to rummage through his files.  She wouldn’t have time, though, especially if she was looking for the same files I was, otherwise known as the missing ones.

I poured us each a cup of coffee and carried the cups to the desk, where she sat, her eyes fixed on the file cabinets.  For a split moment, I wondered if she had x-ray vision.

I sat on the investigator’s side of the desk and leaned over it with what I hoped was an intense and profoundly serious expression on my face.  “Tell me about the ruby butterfly.”

She blew on her coffee and took a tiny sip.  “What do you want to know?”

“I want to know what it is and what you have to do with it.”

“I suspected you would.  You’re the one Victor really loved.”

No matter what she told me, I would remain neutral.  I wouldn’t change expression, show my surprise or curiosity.  I wrapped my hands around my coffee cup.  “You must have me confused with somebody else.”

She shook her head.  “No.  I was the somebody else, not you.  I was the a la mode, the desert he had on the side.  You were the one he loved.”

I couldn’t help it.  I had to laugh at that.  “Victor and I broke up a long time ago.”

“That means nothing.  We started seeing each other years before a long time ago.  And he never stopped loving you.”

“Fine.  So he was cheating on me.  I don’t care anymore about that.  Why would I?  But I do want to know about the butterfly.”

Of course, she had long fuchsia painted fingernails, and she tapped them on the surface of the desk.  “Well, Ella, I don’t know what you know already.  You’ll have to tell me that first.”

“I know nothing.”  I tried with some difficulty to mask my annoyance at her fuchsia fingernails, her cat and mouse game, and her heavily put-on accent.  Maybe she thought Anthony’s last name was Banderas, and that was the reason for her purring use of Antonio.

“Anthony says that I was lying to him because he never found anything.  I think he found the butterfly and is hiding it from me.”

“You might be missing the obvious.”

“And what would that be?”

“That he was drinking too much at the time he was working on your case and couldn’t have found anything if he wanted to and probably wouldn’t remember if he had.”

She laughed at me.  She had a merry, ringing laugh, with no guile at all to tarnish its beauty.  “Anthony’s a snake.  That’s what he wants us to believe.”

So he was Anthony, after all.  “Mrs. Gallina,” I said, “if that’s the case, then you need to make an appointment to consult him because I find it hard to believe he would risk his career and his license over some vapid, symbolic nothing called a butterfly that everybody keeps talking about.”

“Fine.  Make an appointment for me.  He is who I came to talk to, not you.”

My letter writing materials were still stacked neatly in front of me.  I picked up a pencil and held it poised above a blank sheet of paper.  I had no idea what Anthony’s schedule was like.  “Is tomorrow at two good for you?”

“Yes, that’s fine.”

“And please don’t bother looking through the file cabinets between now and then.  You’ll waste your own time trying to find something that isn’t there.”

She opened her eyes in wide-eyed innocence.

“Plus, I really don’t want to be responsible for what Anthony would do to you when he found out.”

“But he wouldn’t hurt you, would he, Ella?”

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New Mexico Noir: The Heat in Albuquerque

My panic button must have stopped working days ago because, when Anthony calmly explained to me that some kids had found my ex beaten to a bloody pulp down by the Bosque, I didn’t faint or swoon, let alone cry out in anguish.  It did occur to me, however, to ask him how he was privy to this information.
 
His eyes did the darting act again.  “I’ve got my contacts.”
  
 “So what did your contacts say?  Why did Victor get beat up?”

It was weird how numb I felt, how my limbs felt like they were falling asleep.  In fact, my body was so tired of standing that I began to shake uncontrollably with tremors that ran up my legs, up my arms, and ended with my jaw.
  
“Let’s talk about this tomorrow, or at least later today.  You need to sleep.”
  
“How can I sleep?  I need to know why Victor got beat up.”
  
“I have a friend who’s a cop.  He called me to tell me what happened, but he didn’t give me any details.  I swear to you that if I knew anything, I would tell you.”
  
“Why would he call you?”
  
“He knew I’d be interested.”
  
“Why would you be interested?”
  
Anthony’s gaze was level this time, square on my face with no evasion.  “Victor worked as an intern at the mayor’s office while your mother was still there.” 

I looked into his red-rimmed eyes, and I told myself that Anthony couldn’t be trusted, that he was stinking drunk.  At the same time, I also knew that what he said was true.  Why it mattered was an entirely different question.

“Yes, I already know.  That’s how we met.  Kind of.  We met at church, and then his family moved away.  He came back to go to college and ended up working with my mom.” 
  
Thinking of our early days together broke me.  My numbness disappeared as an image of young Victor wormed its way into my mind.  Before he’d jumped ship and turned himself into a poet, he had worked toward a professional writing degree.  He had written speeches for the mayor—beautiful, poetic speeches filled with classic rhetoric.  I turned away from Anthony and pressed my forehead against the wall and cried.  I had loved Victor for years.  I still did.
  
Anthony tugged on my shoulder until he’d managed to pull me into an awkward hug.  He didn’t say anything, which was fine by me.  He was probably too good a person to remind me how Victor had treated me over the years. 

Nobody knew the Victor whom I knew, the Victor who awakened my love for language.  He had become my true muse, hidden behind the false one which was merely the printed, painted version of a woman who had lived three-hundred years ago.  Victor was a living, breathing poet who moved under my touch.  He was.  He wasn’t any more.

By comparison, Anthony was an obnoxious alcoholic who stuck his nose into other peoples’ business.  Plus, he smelled terrible, like alcohol and sweat.  I pushed him away.

Later that day, I woke up on my own futon, laid out on one of Anthony’s spare bedroom floors.  Anthony and I were not on speaking terms when we hauled the last of my things from the bed of his pickup.   I didn’t have anything more to say to him after shouting at him for the first hour, whenever he touched any of my things in a disrespectful manner.  Finally, he waved me away and told me to shut up and go to sleep.
  
The house was quiet, except for the whine and rattle of the swamp cooler.  After sorting through my things, I left my new room to discover that I was alone in the house.  It didn’t surprise me, but I wished that Anthony would be a little more forthright with me, kind of how he’d been for a split second earlier in the day.
  
I sat at Anthony’s desk and picked up the phone receiver—still no phone service.  From my own things, I rustled up paper, envelopes, and a stamp book.  It was time to write to my absent parents.  It was difficult to know how to phrase my questions at that point: Dear Mom, why are you hiding in Colorado?  What exactly are you hiding from, and what the hell does Victor have to do with it??  Well, that would do.  Oh, I added, It’s imperative you tell me and be honest because Victor’s dead, and I’m scared.
  
That was basically honest, but I also knew it was best to make an emotional appeal.  She was a mom, my mom, and emotional appeals worked on moms.  Meanwhile, I would pick her locks—technically both my parents’ locks—and search through her things.  I felt disrespectful and decided I didn’t care.
  
I took a quick shower and put on a pair of jogging shorts, running shoes, and a tank top and went out for a little run to the nearest mail drop-box.  Just out the front door, a wall of heat confronted me that told me it was late afternoon and, therefore, too hot for exercise.  Apparently, it was not too hot for shouting matches because Mrs. Garcia’s family members, Herman and Sabrina, stood in her front yard cursing at each other and generally expelling bad chi all over the place.
  
Herman caught sight of me and waved and smiled, so I waved back.  It didn’t matter that a second before he’d accused the young girl, still clad in a half shirt, of stealing from her own grandma—using language I’d rather not repeat.  It was a typical Albuquerque day.
  
I stepped up the pace a little and was about to round the corner when a shiny black car passed.  The windows were dark, but not dark enough that I couldn’t see who was inside.  It was Demetria, either la mariposa or la gallina—I wasn’t sure.
 
But I was sure that she was headed for Anthony’s house, and that he would not want her there alone with unlocked doors.  I turned around and headed back.  The letter would have to wait.     
   

   
     
    

    

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New Mexico Noir: Even the Victorious Fall

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.

Yours,
Victor(ious)

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

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