Gods go begging - By Alfredo Vea


the amazon luncheonette

For a time, they both held on to their lives, gasping softly, whispering feverishly, and bleeding profusely, their two minds far, far away from the cruel, burrowing bullets that had left them mere seconds away from death. Face to face, they spoke their last words in crimson-colored breaths. Theirs was a withering language, one for which there are no living speakers.

Then, like warriors abandoned on the field, they lay in unearthly calm as the things of life deserted them. They had seen the mad commotion boiling in the air above them. In bemused silence, they heard the alarms, the screams, and the growing wail of sirens.

Pronounced dead on a cold city sidewalk, they held on to each other as the gurney rolled from cement to asphalt and into a waiting ambulance for a long, anonymous ride. In the end it was clear to every onlooker that neither dying woman would ever let go of the other. Leaves of lemon grass had drifted to the ground from the dress pocket of one of the women, marking their trail to the ambulance. Some of the sprigs and blades were bloodstained, adding spice to the liquid life that had trickled away.

Now they lay nameless on a long metal tray, two cooling women, breastbone to breastbone. Struggling together in motionless travail, they had become wholly entwined—their arms, their fingers, their final breaths; even their histories had become entangled. The tags tied to their toes bore the same name.

From a growing distance the dead women watched in nonchalance and saw in the swelling dimness the chief coroner and his assistant doing their lonely work. Unashamed, they saw themselves stripped naked in an airless, comfortless room and they felt dispassionate probing and bloodless cutting as if it were being done to bodies far, far away. From that great distance they watched their own innards sliding out like roe.

Devoid of cushions and warmth, it was a room of numbing dimension, a room made of corners, certainly not a place meant for living things. It was an empty, airless space with walls that concealed gleaming, heartless edges carefully arrayed within rows of silent drawers. Its hidden compartments were lined with finely honed contrivances, sharpened saws, and suction pumps. That nature that so abhors a vacuum must detest a sterile straight razor even more.

It was a chamber of stainless steel and sanitized white tile backlit by banks of lifeless light. Even sounds were frightened to death in a room like this one; bold timbres and shy tenors alike were suffocated, haunted into silence by a legion of echoes. A hall of mirrors for the spoken word.

“My wife says that music happens whenever you take the time to look carefully at another human being. Well, no one on earth looks closer than I do,” he said. He grunted as he shifted the large object beneath the cloth and rudely tugged the material to his right and away from the table. “And I have yet to hear a single solitary note, much less a melody.”

The assistant medical examiner grabbed a stiffened brown shoulder with his right hand and an ivory-colored one with his left. To get a better grip, he pushed his hands between two brassieres and toward the two breastbones. As he pulled, his words reverberated from the walls around him. The sound of his own voice coming back at him again and again never failed to make him dolorous. It was a dolor that had tormented him for three years now. He had consistently mistaken it for a migraine headache. So many echoes, yet no voices ever overlapped in this room; no matter how many spoke at once, each voice always sounded alone.

“My wife keeps telling me that there really is a melody in the slow, shifting weight of a mature woman walking on the beach, the easy metronome of her breasts; that if you watch a child quietly playing alone, you can detect definite musical tones and the overtones of an imagination running wild. Personally”—he shrugged—“I think my wife is worried that I’ve handled too many women. Maybe she thinks it’ll make her body less special to me.”

“What is your wife anyway, some kind of poet?” asked the chief medical examiner, his voice a mixture of humor and disdain. His own wife was waiting at home, and the very thought of her evoked at least a dozen reasons to work late. He nodded his head, indicating his impatience with his assistant. It was a common gesture. The