Reflection from Lisbon

Vanda drove me down the Bairro Alto, seventeenth-century homes rushing past, facades streaked in sun, steam lifting off terra-cotta roofs from the downpour last night. Leaving Lisbon. In silence. We drove through the Baixa and still didn’t speak. In the Tagus a slim battleship slept in iron-gray water. On the opposite bank a massive monument of Christ, arms outstretched—a small t in the distance—protected and blessed. We lit cigarettes, rolled down windows, allowing cool air to rush through. I recalled a novelist taken with the idea that nature responds to emotion, as if grief could summon rain clouds, regret, a turbulent sea. The day was perfectly clear and I felt ill at ease. At the airport Vanda parked while I waited, nudged my bag with the toe of my shoe. Flight 38. New York. My home base of ten years. The warmth of a body stepped behind me and a chin came to rest on my shoulder.

Did you find a close place to park?

She was taller than most Portuguese (her father, deceased, was from Minsk), almost six feet, eyes lifting at their outer corners, nose with a small smooth hump.

Yes.

A man glanced at my passport, stamped and stapled papers, and we went and sat at the McDonalds not far from my gate. Vanda looked at people lined up to order. It is like the forks and knives, she said, the foam plates and the food, are all poured from the same batter.

She cut identical pancakes into small squares.

It’s not cozido, I said.

No, she said.

Her accent made “no” sound like “now”, only drawn out, as if softly saying “ouch,” yet matter-of-fact. On-the-level Vanda. Who always wore black. Oddly, we laughed. It was the setting, so cheerfully bleak, with a life-sized Ronald MacDonald, grinning his grin ten feet off.

I will miss you, she said.

Holding hands wasn’t easy. I didn’t want to let go. A certain remove that she knew and sensed when we met did not posture as loss.

We had met at a ludicrous bar, a mock gentleman’s club, coat-of-arms on burgundy walls, elephant guns, and that sort of stuff. I was among men and women of four or five nations speaking English so all could partake—debating, foisting opinions, the room thick with importance and smoke. For a time I engaged, but the armchairs, puffy and regal, were designed for short people. My foot fell asleep, and at an ungodly hour booze fueled anxiety and high-minded speeches. One man—a wealthy, healthy golfer from Newport Rhode Island—relentlessly sought me as one who would feed his lost self with approval. I listened, aware of Vanda, tall and calm in a chair. She was indifferent to group scrutiny (grad students maligned American policies, but what could I do?) when she offered to introduce me to Portuguese food. I wouldn’t or couldn’t quite hear. It was not merely that a day’s work in a windowed hotel room had set me outside of myself, nor that I had produced project after project for so many years, but that this particular project blasted the past forward and slammed it down in a way that shook my whole frame.

The rodeo played into my life early on as I had something to prove. At eighteen I rejected the sweet suburban calm of Cherry Creek Colorado, slipped out of sight (bar-back, pallet factory, ranch hand for a year) then shocked people I knew by doing the circuit full on. Horse breaker and heartbreaker was my arrogant claim. I wore a red shirt, flipped family the bird, finally rode champion livestock and split before I busted in two. In part it was poor Dan Hillyard the pick-up man I saw freight-trained by a bull that sent me along. It’s the accidents and weather and travel time that make or break a pro-cowboy more than the eight second ride. I had written an unglamorous true cowboy story concerning that time in my life. That time was more than a primal coming-of-age. I liked it because in contrast to the so-called smooth surface of Cherry Creek it felt real, but I began to see that, win or lose, the fixed background was harsh. Likewise, as a producer years later, my successes and failures, pretty much evenly mixed, were not respectively happy or sad, but all jobs battered together opposite feelings and were an effort at best. Now the only thing that came easy in my thirty-eight years had made a big splash. Now there was an advance attached to a fax with bulleted suggestions. There was a movie option and players awaited a revision suited to Clarissa Sinclair. Clarissa Sinclair was Sue Henshaw when I hired her to play Rosalind in the forest of Arden. My friend Jack put me through to her “people”, cheerful twenty-something execs in LA. They were oddly apologetic, like they’d become rich and unreachable too soon and they knew. Clarissa, they said, could produce diamond tears, but integral to those rodeo years was a woman I’d not held dearly enough. I don’t recall to what extent integral and integrity share meaning, or when it was, exactly, that I departed the bar, but returning to my hotel room I fluctuated above and below the level of sleep like the slow-motion bob of a sewing machine needle. A funeral tried to filter into my thoughts.

I woke the next morning thinking of a black woolen sweater, of an offer, a calm. On the flap of a novel I’d jotted her number. My arm reached out for the phone.
Vanda?

Sim.

Ah, last night, you may not remember—

Hi Sean.

Waiting for this relative stranger in an unfamiliar city I questioned my choice, stood like a post among mid-sized people flowing about. My hotel, edged in sun, was a white wedge, as if the Flatiron building in Manhattan were older, shorter, and French. I looked to the tall double windows of room 402 where my manuscript waited on a bowlegged table. Four hundred pages hollered to be trimmed to three sixty or so. The bulleted suggestions were less subtle than crude. I had been considering omitting an intimate scene. Lisa, nude in the quiet light coming through the curtains of a motel room. Lisa, softly giving advice. A car door opened and Vanda rose up. I’d grown callous to partings, with so many “projects” where you close shop and shove on. But I was surprised at this tiny reunion, that no more than a presence the previous evening felt stirring. Still, when I got in her car something sealed up. So…

The Doors played as she drove, asked where I was from. It seemed a strange thing to explain: Denver, Sioux City, Casper, Seattle, Portland, Charleston, New York. I noticed her way of driving, relaxed yet too fast, a liquid indifference to the crisscross of traffic. I had heard that an unceasing forward motion through ones’ personal history could mean you never stop to smell the flowers, and I had been told more than once to ease up, but Vanda’s lax driving sent my hand to the dash. We swung wide around the city on a two lane highway. The mass of a semi truck rolling at us shook the car as it passed. My heart lifted as I sieved air though teeth. No, I would not let execs dictate that Lisa shake ass on a bar. Lisa was not a shake-ass person, at least not the bump-and-grind variety the suggestion advanced. Dean Stockton, Lee Quadras, Troy Evans, wore western shirts, sure, but they varied in sensibility, in mental stability, in humor, often returning to family without prize money, the rodeo mystique wearing thin. They were not rouge-cheeked hee-haw representations served up on a platter. I’d tell Jack right now—watch out. An orange plastic traffic cone was acknowledged by Vanda as I rapidly patted my pockets. My cell phone was gone, back at the hotel, where I should be now. We lurched onto an off-ramp and my foot felt about for the missing rung in a ladder. It’s okay, Vanda said, looking ahead, and when we arrived at the restaurant—It’s just a little slice on life, I heard her say—my reserve, the charming distance I struck, encased me. An hour, no more. It is important to set your own course.

Indeed life sliced on, as the proprietors—a fiery husband and wife—ran a place where dock workers and professionals lunched, pans banging about, a lot of hollering going on in the kitchen as sea creatures were cracked and chopped and boiled, flames licking the sides of thick metal pots. My knee bounced under the table as a dish of various meats steaming with carrots, potatoes and turnips appeared. Vanda warned that her cousin Sophia, and her sister, Katya, might show, just as they whirled into the room. Their vitality jolted, as if the door had been flung open to some cosmic force, something ceremony was made to give shape. Yet they were just kids. Twenty or twenty-one. Having fun. Vanda was ordering wine when Sophia—tomboy in T-shirt and jeans, toting a violin—gestured over the table with her fresh face, raising and lowering eyebrows: I should really try what looked like dark sausage. Not bad, I lied, tasting the vinegary stuff, as Vanda turned back. Cow’s blood, she said, sorry. She gave Sophia a look of reproach. Sophia bit her lip, placed Marlboro Lights by her cell phone. Katya, sumptuously contained in her dress, repressed a laugh. I said something to let it come out—initiation by hi-jinx, or some such thing—and they intuited the jest, their teeming compulsion for life unscrolling, Sophia lifting a hand for a high-five, Portuguese streaming out of their mouths with its slight Russian sound.

I met cousins like this in Wyoming, I whispered to Vanda. 

Vanda’s smile was wide, full, gently compressed. It seemed to hold in a flood of emotion for her sister and cousin. It seemed she appreciated yet pulled apart from something she needed, as if solitude, as a kind of completion, still contained feeling. We sat shoulder to shoulder, watched the hi-jinx proceed: Craving attention, Sophia teased Katya, who after a while swatted Sophia on the back of the head. Then came a medley of rapid-fire quips (Vanda couldn’t translate fast enough), until Katya got the upper hand, and Sophia, suddenly puckish, honked Katya’s breast. Katya glanced at me, turned scarlet, glared at her cousin and then dead ahead. Her voluptuousness expanded with a long draw on her smoke, its orange ember glowing. Sophia cooled wrath with a kiss on the cheek, said things in a lilting, loving way, stroked Katya’s hair, the whole mischievous joy of inflaming her cousin scrunching her features. She deftly went into a mobster routine, spoke with a deep Brooklyn accent she’d picked up on TV: I’m talkin’ to youse…Say what one will about the pervading mediocrity of American culture, in that moment, Vanda and I shook with a laugh. They’re crazy, Vanda got out. Her bemused smile, her solitude among people, her boundary between warmth and remove, dissolved. She flushed. Her spine arched. Her black woolly sweater rose to her naval. It seemed fundaments of her sister and cousin were loose in her too, and we turned, sort of lifted or pitched toward each other. Her complexion was alive and light and smooth and I heard someone speak. 

I realized Sophia and Katya had stilled. They breathed, looked at Vanda and me, a serene gravity on their faces. We moved a bit in our seats.

Do you have rituals in America? Katya slowly asked in English.

Her question was so earnest, her expression so open and clear, that for a moment nothing came out of my mouth. It seemed in a heartbeat of uncritical knowing they’d deemed Vanda and me as similar sizes or sensibilities and so suitable for the performance of a lifetime. It was awkward but kind. It was naïve, endearing, no game-face impeding. I explained Thanksgiving while Vanda fished for her Visa, and when we left we emphatically agreed they were young.

Very, Vanda said.

Wow, I said. Wedding bells, and after only one lunch.

A shared savvy glance eased us out on the street. Vanda merged with traffic and shifted gears. She seemed to mull things over all the way to a stoplight at the crest of a hill. Idling on the crest the fresh force of her sister and cousin still made itself felt. Below was the Baixa, the commercial hub of Lisbon. The stately grid of streets—built after the earthquake of 1755 leveled the city—was a sane center from which other, older streets snaked up the hills. Vanda lit a smoke, spoke with a soft matter-of-factness:

I feel divided when I’m with them.

The light changed, she let off the brake, and we rolled down the hill. I had forgotten her lax way of driving. I had forgotten my project, with its advance, its insufferable demands, its problem a pearl: Lisa, blonde-brown hair, dense brown eyes, one with a tiny green speck. Lisa, intrepid yet easy. Unlike me with my push, she was pulled forward. Vanda slid a cassette into its slot and I sensed her mood deepen. I sensed a lucid calm in her body as The Next Whisky Bar carried on. The city swept by, roller coaster-like music continuing till lyrics resumed. We funneled down a rocky-walled road, the clatter of paving stones felt in my teeth. The walls listed inward and I retracted an elbow. A square of sky between homes opened up, the monument to Christ moving through. I looked forward to a choice between overpass and tunnel as a crossroads approached. In the tunnel-darkness I recalled Lisa, camera in hand, placing one foot in front of the other as we strode over the wine-purple grass of Wyoming, surging under a storm. In the tunnel-darkness I recalled Vanda’s release of natural happiness at the restaurant. Her complexion—alive and light and smooth—had also been fluid with grief. We shot into daylight and my hands pressed my knees as we went flat and fast for the Bairro Alto. Vanda, blasé, swooshed up labyrinthine streets. She hardly touched the lower part of the wheel, elbows in lap, languorously slouched toward the door. The road rushed toward her—forking, cresting, cars lurching out from blind corners – as if inducing a contemplative mood, a woozy embrace of whatever occurred.

I’m here, I said.

Where?

Here on the right.

She pulled over, clicked off The Doors and I rolled up my window. Silence sealed us. In the stillness, in the compact car and in all parts of my body, desire unfolded. The engine ticked and when we said good-bye with the brisk touch of our cheeks she was warm. Thank you for lunch. You’re welcome, she said, then, Sorry about the blood. Her mouth compressed with a slight shake of the head. Sophia…she said. We quietly laughed in the car. Laughing felt unfamiliar, like the space on the other side of a rule, and when How about tomorrow? fell from my mouth, it sounded odd, as if it tumbled out unawares, then tried to dust itself off. She smiled, exhaled smoke, the five short words she spoke—Men are all the same—a gentle mix of condemnation and acceptance, like some ancient phrase that just needs to be stated, followed by a look that said: so let’s not pretend. On-the-level Vanda. Who always wore black.

I don’t think it was wedding bells, she said. A gust of wind rocked the car. Outside, a seagull was a sheet of newspaper, jagging about in the air. It’s okay, she said in her calm way.

The newspaper lifted and looped and disappeared and I raised up a finger. Project, I said. She laughed, reached over, showed me the door. 

A stand of trees expanded and contracted as her tail lights receded. I got in a cage of an elevator, a clanking thing installed in the 40s, the old marble staircase boxing the shaft, counterweight descending as I slowly rose up. A device to lift people. Everything seen. The symmetry of triangles comprising Katya’s collarbone and throat came to mind, how they lifted and fell with her breath, her hourglass shape. Vanda was an hourglass too, layered and older. At the end of a high-ceiling hall I entered my room, a tall peach-colored wedge with two views. Opposing windows were open. The maid had been in. I looked out at the “city of roofs.” They were like terra-cotta cards blown askew, moss-splotched, rust-red and green, concealing a maze. My hair surged about as wind geysered up a few of my four hundred pages. They thrashed at chest level and fell to the floor. Natural selection suggested the preface should go. Woozy, I wavered. A cricket chirped in the closet—my cell phone, left in a pocket. Let the wind edit, I murmured, and paused.

Make me a willow cabin at your gate/and call upon my soul within the house…

These words, some four centuries old, were recited by Lisa a mere fifteen years ago. They seemed to detach from their surrounding block of text and float in my head.

She had read out loud in the yellow-brown glow of a cheap rawhide lamp. The lamp sat in a squat, L-shaped cinderblock structure—The Wrangler Motel—on the edge of the plains. No storm could blow those utilitarian rooms over, though the vacancy sign was missing its V.

A photo shows the lamp branded with a bison like some dime store copy of an ancient cave painting. It is romantic and fun because the inevitable bed of creaky springs and side-table with dank Bible are shown, as well as walls that make a stark seam in the corner, while the lamp, in contrast, spills its amber-brown light on Lisa, supine and seemingly timeless. She looks up from Twelfth Night with apprehension (I had trespassed, handling her camera), the miracle of her face contrasted with the soulless check-in, check-out, one-night-stand surroundings no storm could blow over. So the photo evokes the question about what’s truly immutable, and at the same time, as a Sears & Roebuck painting (lake with deer) enters the picture, combines comical or unpleasant facts, like the first time I saw her.

She stood outside the stands that encircled the ring. She stood in loose black dirt, sneakers immersed. She wore jeans and a cardigan, a dark turquoise-green. She was a twenty four year-old amateur photographer with the idea she might do a coffee table book on the rodeo scene. For the moment she was held at a threshold by the ferocity of an argument, a kind of feuding that boiled up between bull riders who traveled together to save cash. Anger about entry fees, about who owed whom money, tapped an overall undercurrent of violent preparation. Running late, a truck and trailer jackknifed backing in. A clown, red-faced with drink, marched off, a production manager shouting him out. Backside to a gate a bull lifted its tail as if sensing excitement and fear. The peel and plop of defecation juxtaposed with Lisa’s thoughtful, pensive intelligence, and Lee and I laughed. We leaned on a flatbed truck unpacked of alfalfa. When the laugh trailed off a terror slipped in that I only half comprehended. I had trekked off in my teens, no one knowing my whereabouts but me. I had little fear blasting bareback out of the chute, and even the saddle-bronc nightmare—dragged with boot looped in stirrup—eventually passed. At twenty-two I had slept with women, younger and older. I assumed that because girls came easy the terror had to do with the fact that her pensive intelligence struck me more deeply than Lee. She’s a looker, he drawled and walked off. Everyone rushed along with the sound of fans filling the stands. It was one of those things where no one person takes the blame for leaving someone estranged, but blame gets parceled out among many, like the very capacity for ignoring or forgetting, as it suits one’s needs, that I had thought came with particular ease in a suburban middle-class setting. I would counterpoint the fixed gritty surroundings, say something to show our different worlds, like circles, could overlap. I strode toward her, kicking up dirt. I strode with a glad defiance of what I assumed the terror to be. That you could circle people, absorb them in your pool of activity or way of thinking, or you yourself be circled, was not lost on me. People had a sort of circle around them, too, I knew, like the boundary moving around a show roper, the lasso circumferencing in and out, rising and falling, even as he walked. I moved at her like that. I came at her friendly but fast. Can I help you? I asked. I was supposed to meet Mr. Ferris. He’s the lead producer, I said. He’s up in the booth, flying off the handle ’cause some Pepsi guy is whining about signage. She wore a coral necklace, polished and smooth. Oh, she said. Bracelets, hoops of thin silver, faintly chimed. I knew I had to get our circles to loop or overlap, while maintaining the integrity of my other half. I needed to believe that something beyond reproach was a pure part of this life I had chosen. (Never mind that Trudy Boon, reclined in the warm wood-beamed universe of a barn, with her pants around her ankles and no time for the removal of boots—get inside the circle, she’d whispered—had her heart broken.) Nice necklace, I said. Thanks, she said. How do I get to the booth? Thisaway, I said, knowing a single word could etch an indelible impression—and yet I would get her. I was proud. I led her to a fence and pointed. Take the back way there. Up the steps. He’s got a walkie-talkie, a white beard, and a belly near big as Tahula’s. Who’s Tahula? Hell if I know, but don’t let that stop you. Thanks, I won’t. I was playing a part and yet I was not. My cowboy mouth allowed real things to come out. I’m Sean. Lisa—nice to meet you. You too. Elbow propped on a post, squinting in sun, an unexpected sentiment fell from my mouth:

You seem nice.

She snapped a picture of me on a high roller, floating, and another biting the dust. We had a week at the Wrangler Motel where the walls were grainy and porous. She was a graduate of Marlboro college and any possession I might have had on her heart went unknown. I could make her laugh, and we wrestled, rolling right off the bed. She knew a lot about politics and expressed herself well. Her double major was journalism and international relations. I struck her as curious when I spoke with brief authority on the unconscious aristocratic calm evoked by Gauguin (I’d read a blurb in a bookstore in Sheridan), and I gained ground having plowed though Thomas Hobbes (soiled Penguin Classic conspicuously stuffed in back pocket). Yet when I thought Lebanon a city near France, and when I pronounced Chopin as if it were vernacular for striking a log with an ax, she bit her lip. She talked of atrocities halfway around the planet with a humanistic passion that made me uncertain I had a chance, yet the uncertainty made me advance.

Life is nasty, brutish and short, I quoted, rolling her over, the bible at easy reach for a quick single spank. Hey! She fought back, laughing, got on top and tried to pin my arms back. This was toward the end of our week, after I’d taken her places beyond the rodeo proper. She got a shot of Lee and his wife Janey and Janey’s rambunctious sister and cousin hi-jinxing on a couch in a stucco house with no yard. She got a shot of Troy Evan’s hands, worn and shiny and laid open like evidence on the bar at the Sapphire Lounge (bulleted suggestion: Silver Spur). She got remarkable shots marching under a black-clouded sky, when a huge healing fracture of sun and rain broke open. She likely would have been lighting-fried if I had not gotten angry. Hollering unheeded warnings in wind, I finally flung her over my shoulder and walked off when the odds of getting zapped on that flat land caused every other creature to hide. In the motel room I let her pin my arms to the side. In truth, I had not expressed that her storm quest had scared me when lighting severed an already dead tree some fifty yards off. Don’t you dare do that again, I slowly said, and she knew what I meant. I’m sorry, she said. It was all the more unnerving as I spied no sign of manipulation in her features—she was simply pulled forward. The tacky lamp cast light on us from the side. Her face was fragrant, and in the silence I half-jested, as I often did: Why is everyone romantic on bison? I don’t know, she said—the majestic bison, I guess. I adopted a bit of Lee’s drawl: But of all God’s creatures near gone…You said you were an atheist at the Sapphire Lounge, she said. I am an atheist at the Sapphire, I said, it’s outdoors I don’t know. Yeah, kiddo? she said. Yeah, kiddo, I said. I rolled around on top of her. Of course, I said, the army killed them. Then railroads got laid over the plains. It became the rage for civilians to slay them. Train operators would slow locomotives so people could sport shoot from the windows. Really? Yep. I can’t tell when your kidding or not, she said. I’m not kidding. Liar. No, I said, it’s true. She thought a moment. That’s terrible, she said. Yeah, I said, chug along, leave the bison to rot. We lay facing each other like parenthesis, I thought, with no words in-between us. We had not talked about what our brief time meant. It seemed for a week our paths would cross, and that would be that. You know, I said, if you want to erase a person or people, and if you want to do that in an indirect way, figure how to take away what they most dearly need. She seemed to place this notion in some context, though whether the context was international relations or her upbringing on the coast of Maine, I could not say. She lay back and looked at the ceiling. True, she said. She seemed five thousand miles away. Like how bison were more than just food and clothing to the American Indian, I said. I, too, laid back and stared at the ceiling. Then an awkward pause commenced, as the sound of a man and woman sexing around on the other side of the wall, rose, came to a fluttering crisis, and then fell away. Make me a cinderblock cabin, I said. The bedsprings seemed to laugh with us under our backs. Quiet, she said, be nice … My cousin, Sam, who at eighteen wandered off in the woods and shot himself dead, rattled up in my head. I was only ten when it happened, but I had wondered a time or two if, like the American Indians, something had been taken away from him. A truck grew loud, passed, and somewhere a dog barked off its territory. I guess to really see a person clearly, I said, you don’t look at them straight, but more like at the conditions around them, and how they fit in. I sensed more than saw Lisa’s forehead pucker with thought, and even though we’d already gotten our bodies to be as close together as possible, I felt for the first time our circles collude. What do you mean? she asked. It was not her pensive intelligence, exactly, but that life lured her too close to things, and, in a way I did not understand, that brought its opposite feeling. We made love and after lay there and I was aware of items on the table, her camera, a coffee cup, a map folded in half. In the dim light it seemed these things might take life and walk off. They brought to mind the trip she’d mentioned to me and the guys, stuffed in a booth drinking beers. She’d be in New York in under two weeks. In bed she said, So, where do you go now, kiddo? Don’t know, kiddo. Home? she asked. No, I flatly answered. Home’s long gone. So what then? She rose, moved to the curtained window and turned. You really see a life here? I gave a small shrug: eight seconds for a grand ain’t so bad. Light touched her shoulders and hair. I detected a smile, a slight shake of the head. Sean…

~

I had the odd sensation that a bird flew through opposing windows in my triangular room. I heard a final chirp of my cell phone. Jack, trying to get through. He might lobby for a compromise on bulleted suggestion ten, in which guys vied for Lisa in what amounted to a barroom brawl. Lee, two years older, was devoted to Janey. Dean, missing a lower row of teeth at thirty, just sort of lumbered along. And Troy, a show roper and the oldest, with a year in prison and a tour in Vietnam, had sworn off violence in a way that felt digested and real. They had liked Lisa, acknowledged her as one who might alter my course.
A silence surrounded me, pitched me out on the street.

I had a whisky and a smoke while milling a cannery converted to bookstore, tried to wind my way back, but arrived at an intersection where an ancient lady stared from a window like some eternal question had absorbed in the folds of her cloak. I entered a seventeenth-century warehouse, a zink bar installed where boats had once been scraped and painted or completely rebuilt. So a poet told me, Miguel, whose picture I’d seen on the flap of a book, the pages filled with blank verse. He never mentioned it, even as we drank and spoke over a chrome and Formica table you might imagine in Texas. The bartendress’ arm reached between us, pouring chilled vodkas. Self-assured, her button-up shirt was tied in a knot at her navel, her hair pulled in a bun. Miguel was mid-fifties, in trench-coat, legs crossed in corduroy trousers, brown leather shoes. His plastic reading glasses, a translucent aqua-blue, seemed poured from the liquid shimmer of a huge window newly inserted in a thick clammy wall. He warmed at our mutual appreciation of Faulkner, of Salinger, of Portuguese authors he felt would endure, and later into the night, with the bartendress’ hand at rest on his shoulder, he spoke of Portugal’s Age of Discovery, its trade routes over the seas—spices and silks—the nation’s former glory as the mercantile center of Europe now a nostalgia soaked up in the stones, an afterlingering scent that everyone breathed. It seemed he and the bartendress had something going, for when I mentioned the lax way Vanda drove—as if steering were a thing merely assisted—the smile that passed between them was wry and alive. A sad laughter welled up, made Miguel’s mention of the great earthquake—how it struck at exactly the hour of mass on All Saints Day, crushing tens of thousands of people—go almost unnoticed.

John Stewart is a writer who lives in Park Slope.

Contributor

John Stewart

John Stewart is a writer living in Brooklyn.

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