She kept stepping on the bricks – red one, red one, red one.
Red one. He said it’s the only one of a different color, she thought. A red
one. She kept walking through the lush botanical gardens. And walking. Her eyes
were fixed on the ground, closely following each step, closely watching every
brick in front of her. A red one. Maybe he was wrong. Maybe she was wrong. An
immigrant’s mind is one of constant worry and doubt – always. It could be a
different garden, after all. Or a different city. He had travelled so much in
his days and she rarely had. What if she didn’t know this to be the right place?
An immigrant’s mind is so often in ignorance. He had promised to take her to so
many different places.
If that brick was here, she wasn’t seeing it. She had
already been walking in circles for 3 full hours. She had learned the name of
the plants, read through every rose bush description, just in case he had
hidden it really well. She had noticed every sign in the place, except the one
she was looking for. Her eyes were
getting so tired of staring. She kept rubbing her contacts to adjust them
better on her zeniths. And then the doubts were back again. What if they had
taken the brick out? Maybe he hadn’t paid for it properly? Or maybe when you
die, they just dig out your sign – just in case someone from the living, who
holds some cash in hand can purchase just that same brick. That would be the
last of his items to take away from her.
The sun kept beating on her. It was brutally hot. Hot. Is
this really what October should feel like? What happened to all those chilly
days when long pants and light coats were the norm, not the exception? She had
finished all the water she had brought with her. There were no water fountains
around. She kept looking. Her hip was straining. The pressure that had built
into it from walking in circles would cause her a lot of trouble tomorrow. She kept
trying to focus on today. If she can’t find the brick, would that change
everything? Would she cry? Would it change the way she felt?
She knew he loved her. Her and only her. And if she had never
said “I do”, what difference had that made? Was it all about the marrying? How
would life had been different? More secure? Would the immigration services had
been nicer to her? She still would not have had any of his family’s respect,
maybe they would have been angry. Yes, they would have never come to a wedding.
They would have all been worried about the people that would come – immigrants
from all walks of life – with different hairs, outfits, legs, languages. They
would not have been able to handle the goodbyes. And especially the welcomes.
If it hadn’t been for that one misery, she would have never
known about love. That it was possible to live without anger, upset, fear and
pain. Her husband had left her and more power to him. She would have left him
first, if he hadn’t gone so soon. An hour after he had closed the door behind
him, she had opened the sealed box with the perfectly cleaned wedding dress and
had smeared the whiteness with orange juice and catchup. She took the dress
outside on the porch and shoved it in the large chiminea. The dang thing would
not fit in all at once inside, so she had to cut it into pieces. She kept stabbing
the scissors hard into the dress. Anger. Not at him, not at her. At life. Life
always played tricks on her. She lit the match and it burned. They were white
ashes, not black. And they exploded into the air. She felt better. The scissors
then cut her hair. Huge chunks of it coming down like a broken waterfall. She grew it all for him – to be beautiful and
satisfying – complete. She nurtured it for years, pained through it. Her new,
hedgehoglike look had scared her. And had liberated her.
The next day she had gone to the hairdresser. She wanted the
leftovers of her hair colored – a deep , red color. The color of wine, of fall
trees, of dark apples. She felt so old. That was in October, a different
October, many years ago. The hairdresser
left the color too long. When the head piece came off, so did all the hair with
it. Huge chunks of it, again. The horror in everyone’s eyes was refulling. To
cry or to laugh, to scream or to whisper? Should she blame it on life again?
When all the hair was gone, she had stood up to see the boldness. Her fingers
gently touched the pure scalp. She rubbed her hand all over it. Bold. And bold.
He had walked in right then. She saw him in the mirror.
Elegant, refined, tall. Handsome. She turned around and he locked her eyes.
There was no shyness, no uncertainly. He knew. She knew. It was bold. She was
not his class. He was not her type. In
her ugliest shape, he had loved her. Night after night, day after day, they
drank from each other – it was one spirit, one soul, one freedom. It was one
sleep and one dream. When he travelled,
she was lost. When he was by her, she missed him. She wanted to be one with him,
physically and emotionally. One. She hurt to love. He never disappointed her, not once. He never
made her sad, not once. It was more than she asked for. He freed her from herself. She lived for him,
in him, with him. They forgot about the rest of them out there. For that, they
were despised and unexcused. And hated. And envied. And alone.
One day he told her about a special trip. She wanted a
marriage. He would marry her, but she must first find the question. He gave her the clues and let her search. She
travelled cities, visited parks, watched people. She talked to strangers,
searched movie theaters, talked to the animals at zoos. She played games, took
classes, walked the mountains. She listened to speeches, swam the waters, threw
the leaves. She overturned stones, shopped the malls, walked through
waterfalls. But she hadn’t found it. Trip after trip, clue after clue - subtle
One night, she narrowed it down to 2 final places. And then
he didn’t come home. And he didn’t come home the next day and the next day. And
the next day. On the next day, they told her. The gambler was dead. They had
found him on the banks of their favorite river, 50 miles down the stream. He
had gambled his life. She cried. And
cried and cried. For months. When life had taken the best of her, it always asked
for more. She begged and prayed and screamed. She wanted for his people to
leave his memories intact, to leave her with his love. But they did not. You
are nobody, they said, you’ve got no claims to his things. They didn’t leave
anything. Like vultures, they had come in, ate and left. At the funeral, they
were many, but she was alone. An outcast. Again.
But this little brick, they were not going to take it away
from her. The tears started rolling down her eyes. The pain was so strong, her heart cried for
mercy. In this heat, her whole body was covered in shivers. She remembered the
funeral, that one last moment with him when they were lowering his coffin down.
People kept throwing roses on top of his dead body. People who didn’t love him,
and roses he didn’t love. The world now seemed to be swirling around her. The
cold and hot waves were powerful. She now sat on the bench by the white roses.
She needed to breath. She pulled a white rose petal and wiped her tear away. It
felt on through the crack of the bench. And there, right where the petal laid,
she saw it. All written in black on the brown brick.
Eliza, will you marry me? John.