Author: Zoe Baillargeon
La Llorona and Zozobra go on a Date
Zoe Baillargeon, a long time Santa Fe resident, is currently a senior at Santa Fe University of Art and Design where she studies theater and creative writing. She is also a reporter for Jackalope, SFUAD’s online journalism site. She loves Santa Fe, traveling, good food and reading, and hopes to travel the world following graduation. She previously won the SFR Holiday Writing Contest with her story “The Life of Ms. Claus.”
“AY DIOS MÍO!”
A chilling shriek of frustration tore apart the serene silence of a brisk August evening in Santa Fe. Sitting at her desk, local ghost legend La Llorona scrolled through her list of potential dates on It’sJustEternity.com in disgust. Why was finding a date so hard these days?! That ghost over at La Fonda hadn’t even shown up last time she answered his request for dinner, her ex was mildewing in an unmarked grave, and Kokopelli, the flirt, was just a self-indulgent narcissist on a baby-daddy kick. Dead ends, literally, all of them.
La Llorona slouched back, emitting a high-pitched moan of frustration that sent the cat skittering away. Fire light danced across the white-washed adobe walls while outside in the night coyotes howled and bored teenagers smoked weed in the arroyos. High clouds over the mountains promised flash floods. It was a perfect hunting night, but La Llorona wasn’t in the mood.
Why her?! All her friends had significant others, what was she doing wrong? She clutched at her tangled black hair, pondering eternity alone. Snatching children was all well and good, but where was the joy if she didn’t have someone to share it with?!
A sudden chime from her computer announced a new message.
“Hey there, Senorita.”
La Llorona groaned, ready to dismiss the messenger as another wishy-washy Santa Fe cultural icon who thought he was all that, but glanced at the courtier’s picture for good measure. She stopped short.
My god, he’s gorgeous! An unblemished white face topped with a bright green mop of tightly wound curls dominated the screen, stark colors that glowed in the light of what looked like a fire. His eyes, a sickly shade of pea green, glared out of the computer at her in a way that made her heart flutter. His red lips were closed in a perpetual sneer. His ears were large but perfectly proportioned, his inner lobes an exquisitely traced black line. One hand was poised against his face in a gesture of casual sophistication; his fingernails were long and pointed.
In a word, he was perfect.
La Llorona leaned forward excitedly, ready to type out a reply. But something gave her pause. She looked down at her pasty white skin, her unsightly fingernails and her unruly hair full of split ends. What on earth could this supernatural hotshot want by talking to her? She was no looker. Career-wise, kidnapping children wasn’t panning out the way it had a hundred years ago, so she had resigned herself to taking street performer selfies with teens on the Plaza. And, in keeping with modern spinster traditions, she had several cats. She wasn’t what she used to be. She didn’t deserve a nice guy like this.
Mournfully, La Llorona started to close the message. But then…
“Wait. I do deserve happiness. I’m La Llorona! Who else has kept generations of children at home, in bed and afraid, at night? Who else drowned her own kids in a fit of jealous rage? It’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and have a transformation! I can have it all! I’m saying YES to after-life!”
Pumped, she rapidly typed out a reply. Feeling brave, she even added a smiley face emoticon. “Hello there, yourself .”
Several minutes passed. She was beginning to think he’d given up when the typing icon appeared. She waited, biting her grisly fingernails nervously.
“Hi! How are you doing? My name is Zozobra. I hope I’m not being too forward, I’ve just heard so much about you. You’re, like, SUCH a legend around here. I almost couldn’t work up the courage to message you, lol.”
She felt herself blushing and squirmed in her seat. He was such a charmer.
“Well, I’m glad you did message lol. It’s nice to meet you, Zozobra.”
Zozobra. Hmm. The name sounded familiar. She cast about in her memory. She’d heard he’d been buds with some Will Shuster dude, but that was all she knew. La Llorona pretty much kept to herself.
“Your profile picture is stunning. I love what you’ve done with your hair,” Zozobra wrote. “Do you get it done at the Cuttery?”
“No, I do it myself,” La Llorona wrote with pride.
“Wow, I’m impressed!”
The typing icon appeared again, holding the conversation in limbo for a long minute. La Llorona held her breath.
“Say,” Zozobra typed, “would you like to grab dinner with me? Tomorrow night, maybe?”
He sure was forward, but La Llorona liked that. No more silly dating games for her. She needed someone serious. Deadly serious.
“It’s a date.”
The next night, Zozobra arrived at her house to pick her up, a bouquet of blooming chamisa in his giant hand. La Llorona, wearing her finest black shrouds and her hair properly un-brushed and oily, opened the door.
“Wow, you look wonderful!” Zozobra smiled and presented her with the bright yellow flowers.
“Chamisa?! Oh, how did you know? I just love messing with people’s allergies!”
Zozobra shrugged and flashed a goony grin. “I just had a hunch.”
La Llorona leaned back to take him all in. He was quite tall. So tall, in fact, she wasn’t sure he could fit through her door. He towered over her. But he still looked exactly like his profile picture, which was a relief.
His clothes, though. La Llorona furrowed her brow. In his picture, he’d been wearing what resembled a long robe or dress, resplendent with a bowtie, buttons and a colored sash. But now he stood before her wearing only a burgundy loin cloth. Most curious of all from his facial-hair-lacking picture, here he sported a dashing black mustache.
Zozobra, following her eyes, sheepishly provided an explanation.
“I know, it’s a bit much. I’m just trying a new look. You wear the same thing for 90 years and it starts to get a little boring.”
“Oh, tell me about it. This shawl? It’s from when I was alive, but every time I go to Whole Foods, people keep asking me if I got it from some store on the Plaza!”
Zozobra threw his head back and laughed, a giant sound that bounced off the surrounding hills. “I like your sense of humor and your style, Llorona. Oh! Can I call you that?”
“Of course!” La Llorona swooned. “It’s nice to have someone call me something besides “eiyeeee, el diablo!”
“Shall we, then?” Zozobra extended his arm and the two set off into the night.
Naturally, Zozobra had done this right.
“Geronimo’s sound good?”
They strolled down Canyon Road from out of the mountains, admiring the lit interiors of art galleries. At each new window, they stopped and made scary faces at each other in the glass, growling and shrieking. Laughing, they’d go on to the next gallery window, trying to best the other and ignoring the startled looks of passersby.
La Llorona was enchanted. She’d never had this much fun on a date before or been treated so respectfully.
However, once they reached the restaurant and continued talking, La Llorona couldn’t help but notice that all the tables around them were atwitter with people glancing over and whispering excitedly.
“Oh my god, that’s him!”
“Wow, he looks great!”
“Who’s that crone he’s with? Love her hair.”
La Llorona leaned close to Zozobra. “Are you famous?”
Zozobra sighed, setting down his prickly pear margarita.
“Yeah. I had hoped that it wouldn’t come up tonight because I wanted it to be just about us. But I’m a bit of a minor celebrity around here. I’m nothing compared to you, though. You’re the la reina of local legends!”
He reached out and took her hand. La Llorona giggled shrilly, causing a woman at the next table to faint. Zozobra gazed at her adoringly.
“I love your laugh. It’s so banshee-esque, but…better.”
After their meals arrived, the conversation continued predictably.
“Red or green?” Zozobra asked.
“Green, of course!” La Llorona answered while tucking into her enchiladas.
“Do you go see the aspens when they turn?”
“Go see them? I’m the reason the leaves fall...from fright!”
“What’s your favorite part of autumn?”
“It’s embarrassing, but I love pumpkin spice lattes! I guess I’m just your basic white ghoul.”
Throughout dinner, La Llorona glowed. Talking with him was so easy. For once, she didn’t feel as if she had something to prove, like with her ex. She could just be her several-hundred-year-old self.
“So, what do you do for a living?” La Llorona enquired.
“Oh, I’m a boogey man. I scare kids.”
La Llorona squealed hysterically. “No way! I’m a boogey woman! I scare and kidnap children!”
“What are the odds!” Zozobra cried out happily. “Did you die by fire too?!”
“No, I drowned. But hey, they’re both Earth elements!” La Llorona leaned forward, cupping her chin in her palm. “We just have so much in common!”
“Yes, we do,” Zozobra said, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. “I like that.”
Following dinner, sitting on a bench on the Plaza, La Llorona leaned her head against Zozobra’s chest, content, enjoying the silence.
After a while, Zozobra coughed nervously.
“I really like you, La Llorona. But there’s something I need to tell you.”
La Llorona tensed. He continued.
“I want to be with you, but my work schedule is a little tricky. See, the townspeople here still celebrate my death.”
“How macabre! I’m so jealous of you!”
“I know,” Zozobra said, twiddling his monstrous thumbs. “It’s a tradition. Every Fiesta weekend I get built, and then they take me and burn me. But it’s only once a year. Then I’m gone.”
La Llorona realized what he meant and started to wail. To have found someone so perfect, to purify her soul and bring her joy in her afterlife, only to have him burned by marauding townsfolk!
“But!” Zozobra said hastily, shushing her, “during those weeks I’m alive I’d like to be with you! I know it’s a lot to ask, having just met, but, La Llorona, will you wait for me?”
La Llorona cast her eyes downward, thinking. Zozobra waited, apprehensive.
Long minutes ticked by.
Finally, she looked up at him.
“Yes, I will!”
Their first kiss was more firey than the green chile at Horseman’s Haven and sweeter than the screams of all the children they’d ever scared.
Later that night at home, La Llorona watched Zozobra’s hulking frame retreat back towards the city lights. Only time would tell for them, but she felt it was a risk worth taking. Any guy who sticks around only to get burned again and again sure knows commitment. He was worth it.
“Que viva,” she whispered to herself. “Que viva.”
Author: Amber Foxx
Amber Foxx is a former resident of Santa Fe and a frequent visitor to her old home. She has worked professionally in theater, dance, fitness and academia. In her free time she enjoys music, dancing, art, running and yoga. She divides her time between the southeast and the Southwest, living in Truth or Consequences during her New Mexico months. The third book in her murder-less mystery series featuring healer and psychic Mae Martin was released Nov. 1.
Greta opened the door and greeted her first client. She tried not to laugh in the woman’s face. I can’t believe I’m really doing this. “Welcome.” Greta made her normally squeaky voice as soft and low as she could, imitating her yoga teacher back home in Maine, a memory from the time when she could afford yoga classes. “Please take your shoes off and come into my frevarium.”
Eek. I said it. Frevarium. It was a word she’d made up. After considering auratorium, inner space and other things that sounded either too funny or too normal, she’d opted for pretentious. If no one knew what her new word meant, it might put her one step ahead. Clients might be awed and pretend they understood the term, the way people did when they didn’t want to seem stupid.
The client, a lithe middle-aged woman, wore fitted knit pants and a flowing top, and the delicate leather pumps she removed looked new. Her jewelry was elegant, possibly antique. Greta swallowed her envy. Her savings were shot. Since her layoff, she’d been getting turned down as overqualified, and couldn’t even land a job in a grocery store or a bar.
The client glided into what had once been the living room.
“You must be Carrie Brattigan,” Greta said. She’d been stunned when two people had actually answered her ad the first day it ran, and the names were burned into her mind.
“It’s Kerry, not Carrie,” the woman corrected. “Like County Kerry. My family is very proud of our Gaelic roots.”
Who in the world said Gaelic instead of Irish? Maybe Greta should have been more pretentious.
Kerry eased onto the sofa as if her buttocks might break. Greta took a hard-backed chair facing her. Kerry took a breath and smoothed her soft slacks. “I’m interested in finding out if I should…this is a difficult decision.” She described her marvelous old house, and her need for something smaller now that she was divorced and her children grown. “I rattle around in it, but I just feel funny about selling it.”
“So you would like me to see what consequences might radiate from your decision.”
“I like how you put that. Yes. What radiates from it.”
Greta nodded. “So much of a life’s pattern is in the energy we put out from our choices, our intentions.” She’d practiced this sort of talk after reading flyers she picked up from psychics around town. It seemed like nonsense, but apparently it sold. “Can I get you some tea before we get started?”
Kerry hesitated. “I’m…very sensitive to chemicals. Do you purify your water?”
“No.” I filter it through the mouths of Gaelic virgins. “Just a Brita pitcher.”
“I guess that will be all right if you have peppermint tea. My digestion is sensitive.”
Sensitive. Got it. Greta went to the kitchen and rummaged in the tea drawer. “I have a peppermint-ginger tea.”
“Thank you. That will be wonderful. I went along with a friend who insisted on eating in a restaurant, and you know, restaurants—they’re almost never organic, and who knows what they use for cookware. It’s such a challenge to balance your personal wellness with the needs of others. I know it made her happy to have me join her, but I’m paying the price.”
Paying my price. That’s what matters. Greta filled the tea kettle and put teabags in mugs, wondering if Kerry would have an objection to the chemical composition of the glaze. This was more annoying work than Greta had expected. She should have realized she’d be inviting wacked people into her home, though.
Putting her serenity-spiritual face back on, she reminded herself to use The Voice, and brought hot tea back into her frevarium. She’d accomplished the transformation with a hasty thrift shop visit, acquiring a batik Buddha wall hanging, a framed velvet Jesus and a faux-Native creation shaped like a cross in a circle wrapped with turquoise-dyed suede. It had rattlesnake heads at its four corners, a little leather bag in the center, and feathers hanging from strips of the dubious suede. On the coffee table Greta had placed rocks from the Maine coast, hunks of granite pegmatite with black mica and white quartz, and some colorful gemstone pebbles that she’d bought at the Clines Corners tourist trap on her move West. These sat in a circle around a ceramic dish containing a mound of dirt into which she’d stuck a forked stick like a tiny divining rod, her favorite touch.
She said, “Give me a moment to tune into my guides.”
“Of course.” Kerry sniffed her tea before taking a cautious sip.
Greta closed her eyes and floated her hands above the stones, then took hold of the little divining stick and maneuvered it to look as though it moved of its own accord in her loose, two-fingered grasp. She felt oddly calm, as if her pseudo-ceremony had done something for her. Then a smell hit her. A stench. Like roadkill mixed with mushrooms gone bad.
Oh my god, this woman farted. Kerry wasn’t a hypochondriac. Her sensitive digestion was real. She’d let out gas that could kill a sewer rat.
Greta tried to maintain her act, but the smell was so strong she could even taste it, and she began to gag. She tried a sip of her tea, but it didn’t help. She bolted from the room and out onto the front steps, taking deep breaths of the sweet summer air, hot and dry, scented with sage and juniper.
When her stomach had settled, she went back inside. The smell was gone. “I’m sorry,” she said. Kerry looked expectant, as if this sudden bolt was part of the psychic process. Greta resumed her seat and gulped her tea. “I needed fresh air.”
Kerry frowned. “Did you see something troubling?”
“No. It was …” Greta sought a polite lie, but her rush for fresh air had been so obvious. Could she claim she’d had—what would she call it, a smellavision? “An odor. Not a real one. Something my guides sent me. Something rotten. Like a mix of dead animals and old mushrooms.”
Silence. Kerry didn’t blush. She stared at the stones and the little stick, which lay atop its mound of dirt pointing at her. “Yes,” she said finally. “Of course. Thank you.”
Kerry opened her purse, and paid the thirty dollars that Greta was charging for her services. Then she added a twenty dollar tip. “You have an extraordinary gift. It must be quite strenuous, to do what you do. You should charge more.”
When Kerry had left, Greta washed the tea mugs, feeling guilty. The poor woman had this embarrassing problem, and then Greta had passed the stink off as some spiritual message and the client—what else could she do—had acted as if she believed her. Paid her extra for enduring the odor, probably.
When the other client arrived later that day, Greta was both thrilled and crushed to see that Antonio Dejesus was her age, slim and fit and a little exotic, with extraordinary tattoos on his sculpted arms: a creature that that looked like Quetzalcoatl on his left, and all seven chakras in a row up his right. His smile was sweet. She was about to rip off this lovely man—but she had to.
She asked him to take his shoes off. She offered him tea. He asked for green.
“I have girlfriend problems,” he said from the frevarium, while the water boiled. “You good with that sort of thing?”
“We’ll see. It depends what you want to know.”
Greta delivered his tea and sat across from him. He looked around the room, frowned, and nodded, as if processing something he’d learned from her desperate décor. “I think,” he said, sloshing his teabag back and forth, “She’s seeing some other guy.”
“I’ll see what I can learn.” I should tell him he’s right. Then ask him out. No. I’m already unethical enough. Greta repeated her ritual with the stones and the little dowsing stick. Again, she felt calm. Then it came. Not a stink this time but clean sweat mixed with lavender.
Shaken, she forgot to do The Voice. “Does she wear perfume?”
“No. Neither of us does. I hate perfume. Why?”
“Who smells like lavender?”
“Her friend Lia.”
“I smell sweat—and very strong lavender.”
“I’m sorry.” Greta opened her eyes and stood, breaking the mood. She needed to clear her sense of smell again—and her mind. “Excuse me.”
Stunned and bewildered, she went back out on the steps and inhaled the smell of her yard. The other scents faded. Antonio appeared beside her.
“It’s okay, you know,” he said. “You did what I asked you to.”
“Please don’t take it as proof. I didn’t see anything. I…I only smell things. That’s all.”
Greta nodded. Antonio sat on the top step and did something with his smart phone. Greta sat beside him, curious. “I’m looking up a word.” He read the screen. “Clairalience. The olfactory equivalent of clairvoyance. There’s clairgustance, too, tasting stuff. Clairaudience—hearing things. I had no idea there were all those ways you could be psychic.”
He opened her blog. Even on the tiny screen, she recognized it. The featured image was a selfie she’d taken with a blue Christmas candle tucked inside a shawl, making her heart seem to glow. It was stupid, like the red-scarf-over-flashlight effect that she and her sister used to do to look spooky as kids. Was she going to need to redo it now with blue lights up her nose?
Antonio began to tap out some words. “I’m giving you a testimonial.” He sounded a little angry. “Now that I know what to call what you do.”
Greta read over his shoulder. “You’re not going to name your girlfriend and Lia—not on my site. I don’t want to get sued. ”
“Guess I shouldn’t.” He stopped, revised. “There. Reeks of lavender. She’ll know who she is.”
Antonio paid her, thanked her, and started down the walkway toward his car. He paused. “You like your work?”
Greta breathed the fresh air again, thought about the bizarre décor imposed on her living room, and then squeezed the three tens in her palm. Did Kerry Brattigan have a dead body in her basement? Buried in her garden? Was that why she struggled to decide about selling? Someone might dig it up? Greta wished she’d asked, but the fact that Kerry hadn’t said what the smell meant, only that Greta was good…
“No.” The word skidded out on strange, slippery laughter. “It stinks.”
Author: Richard Jay Goldstein
Richard Jay Goldstein has in fact lived in Santa Fe for a good long while, currently on the east side, where it’s still pretty quiet. He’s a lapsed ER doc, and has been writing fiction and non-fiction for a bit over twenty-five years. He’s published fifty-something stories and essays in the literary and sci-fi/fantasy/horror presses, including a number of anthologies and the SFR Writing Contest.
I came to Santa Fe originally ages
ago because of all the things it was not, and for the many things it lacked. It
seemed like the town time almost forgot — small and old, dusty, folks with
goats and gardens and chickens living next to the state capitol. I suppose I
was looking for some sort of personal transformation. Lots of people back then
were trying to purify their souls by reckless plunging into nature, or
embracing obsolete work, or seeking the explosive awakening of satori.
For me, rattling down a dirt road was koan enough, and Santa Fe then had
more dirt roads than not-dirt roads.
* * *
I sat one night, as I often did, on a bench in the empty plaza. The hour was
late, pushing midnight. The season was October, the year somewhere in the crazy
heart of the 1960s. Sweet piñon smoke drifted in the crystal air. I huddled in
a down jacket. A few nearby places were still open. Music spilled along the
street, sounding far away and full of sorrow. Voices. Strangers.
woman came walking along the asphalt path. She was tall, rangy, strong. Thick
blond hair curled out from under her cowboy hat. She wore jeans and a sheepskin
jacket and cowboy boots. Her face and hands were rosy in the chill air. She saw
me and altered her trajectory and sat down on my bench.
she said. Her voice was a husky contralto.
Mara,” she said. “You look lonely.”
because I’m sitting here alone on the empty plaza in the middle of the night?”
she said. “Because you move in the river wind like a pale willow. Because I can
hear your hollow heart like the faint beating of a dry drum.”
stared at her. She laughed — a golden sound — and took my arm. “Let’s walk,”
she said. “I’ll show you the hidden streets.”
* * *
was lonely. I’d come to New Mexico alone, running from New York and the
claustrophobia of a smothering marriage. That can happen. You start out daring
the wild storms of intimacy, knowing that nobody was ever in love like you were
in love. Then amazement turns to expectation. Delight to rote. It happens.
it happened to me, to us — to Adele and me. So I had come west, to Santa Fe, a
hippy wanna-be pioneer, and made a thin living as a silversmith and cutler — a
knife-maker. This was a craft I’d picked up while sojourning in the Bay Area.
My work was nothing like the Indian silver you see so much of in Santa Fe, and
so I managed to sell just barely what it took to keep body and soul more or
a year and a half Santa Fe had been enough, the embracing mountains, the rough
lumpy houses, the rough and ready people, the tasty multi-cultural stew of the
place. And the ancient nights....
Fe nights were not the blaring gritty nights like hammered metal I knew in New
York, nor the soft foggy nights fragrant with salt and roasting coffee I knew
in San Francisco. Santa Fe nights were clear and chilly and silent. Downtown,
things tended to close up early, and a hum of mountain silence would fall over
the streets like a fleece blanket. Lit windows glowed yellow in adobe walls.
Footsteps echoed in the narrow streets.
I had no old close friends, no lover. I craved a soft voice, a gentle hand, a
warm presence in my bed.
I sat often on a bench in the plaza and brooded.
* * *
walked, Mara and I. She led me through alleys of huddled sleeping houses, and
past sprawling hilltop houses that frowned down on the town. She led me along a
clanging busy boulevard, which I thought was just Cerrillos, but which seemed
dangerous and magical. She led me into fields of rattling cornstalks beside the
timid river. We walked more and further than an ordinary night could contain.
we talked — about Santa Fe, about the good quiet nights in Santa Fe, about life
and death and God and strange stars. Something dear and deep sprang up between
say God is the wide and endless sea,” she told me. “Then each of us is a wave,
born of the breath of the wind. We hurl ourselves toward an unknown beach, then
subside and ebb back into the sea.” She stopped and looked closely at me. “But
some waves,” she said, “are tsunami.”
ended our walk at the little casita I rented off Hillside. Somehow it
was still night.
like you,” said Mara, and wonder shone in her blue eyes. “I actually like
not all that strange,” I said. “I like you too.”
it is strange,” she said, and shook her head.
went inside and made love as if we’d known each other for decades. In a
glittering moment she bit my lip, and licked at the blood which welled up.
heart isn’t dry at all,” she whispered.
you hardly know me,” I whispered back. “You shouldn’t....”
kissed me into silence.
* * *
awoke just before dawn. Mara was gone. I stared into the melting dark, feeling
receding echoes on my skin. My apartment felt more empty than ever, like a
place where nobody lives. I knew her name — Mara — but not her last
name, and not her phone number, not her address. No email, no Google, in those
took to sitting in the plaza late, waiting. Waiting for her to appear again.
Days went by. A week. More.
I missed her. She had been like a glimpse of a sun-filled valley to someone who
strayed lost on barren peaks.
take up time during the day — while I waited for the night so I could wait for
Mara — I began to work on a silver piece I had been planning. It was a silver
dagger, solid silver from blade tip to quillon to pommel. Double-edged and
double hollow-ground. Ovals of sky blue Dry Creek turquoise set in the handle.
It took form gradually as I waited and pined.
one night I saw her, from a distance. Mara. I was heading for the plaza after
eating out down on Guadalupe. She was walking in the railyard, walking with a
man. He looked ragged, and shambled as he walked. Her arm was across his
shoulder. He looked like one of the homeless men who camped along the tracks. I
slunk away, hoping she wouldn’t see me.
* * *
dry heart cracked like mud in the sun. I stayed home as long as I could, worked
for hours on the silver dagger, until it was finished, bright as a stab of
lightning. But I had to see Mara again. Had to. And after all, I had no claim
on her. She was free to be with anyone she chose.
I went back to the Plaza, to my bench, because that was the only way I knew to
find her — or have her find me. I brought the dagger with me, wrapped in a
piece of suede, to show her — if I saw her — what I had done in her absence, to
present it to her, a gift of my hands.
was a cold, misty November night, foggy and damp. Just as I was deciding it was
too cold to wait any longer, I heard footsteps. It was Mara, dressed again in
her jeans and sheepskin jacket and cowboy hat.
stranger,” she said.
stood and hugged her. “I was afraid you were gone forever,” I said.
you were smart,” she said, “you’d be afraid I wasn’t.”
sat and talked. It was as if we had never paused. The night grew later, and
colder. Finally I said, “It’s too cold to sit here. Let’s go back to my place.”
tonight,” she said, and laid a pale hand on my arm.
then,” I said. “Lunch.”
lunch,” she said.
Tomorrow night,” she said. “Here. At eleven.” She stood to leave.
what if I never see her again? I thought.
you go,” I said, “let me take your picture.”
always carried a little daypack in those days, and in the pack was my camera, a
Nikon-F SLR, high-tech at the time. I took the camera out, set it on the bench,
and started the delay timer. We stood with our arms linked until the camera
clicked — a pre-digital selfie. I glanced at Mara. She looked sad, distant,
kissed me and started to walk away.
I called, remembering. “I made something for you.”
turned. I unwrapped the dagger and held it out. It gleamed in the streetlamp
light. There was a moment, electric. Then she backed away, turned on her heel,
and vanished into the dark.
didn’t come to the plaza the next night, or any night. I never saw her again.
But that meant she really did care for me. Because I got the film from that
night developed. You must realize that old Nikon was an SLR — R for reflex,
meaning a mirror. In the photo I stood alone, smiling, my arm linked with