Esperanza awoke to the cold dew of a desert night. Sagebrush and Yucca perfume stroked her face and sent a chill down her body. She opened her eyes slightly, just until they were slits and they captured the image of a globe of stars swimming in the ink of the sky. Esperanza took inventory of her limbs slowly; she moved her shoeless feet, driving pains through her hips up to her back. She felt the ground with her fingers and noticed the dry earth was still warm from the day’s sun. She dug the heat with her nails, lodging it underneath, wishing she could pull it over her like a blanket and fall back to sleep, fall into that darkness once more, but the aching in her bones would not cease. Esperanza lay there trying to remember how she came to this place in the desert where no lights flicker except the stars, where the silence was interrupted only by the wind moving devils through the dust. "Yes," she said, "the sea is outside the window. I heard it." I told her, "We don't have a sea, not here in Indiana." She is now feverless, and she dreams of the sea in every moment, night and day. The church has proclaimed God will save this poor girl and Father Amis comes every afternoon to do the saving. He is an expert in sodomy, disguised as ritual saving, and his face becomes luminous when someone says...exorcism. To him, every mind is like a scout knot; the unimportant facts are suppressed and the imperative ones, only vital things, survive. The trivial things merely vibrate the strings of gospel played on harps. "Pass me the bible please. The ancestors suffer inside a person in such a state. They must come out, one way or another." Father Amis says. The crucifix lay in one hand and a tiny bottle of water in the other. Father Amis always holds this transgression to be very special. He keeps score against the devil. "Open up!" He says raising his voice. Through the open window he could only see, in the far away distance, trucks running in the morning mist. Like migratory birds, they came from the north and were never seen again. "I belong to that wave," Esperanza whispers, "now let me go." Esperanza grasps her hand into that of Father Amis. She does not feel safe beside him, but needs to touch his skin for a while. She can taste the ocean in her mouth. Her tongue is a salt flat left when the sun had taken away what she loves the most. She senses her hand in Father Amis’ hand, and it gives her and uneasy feeling of connectedness that she does not desire, and in his skin she can feel the evil no one else can see. Esperanza tries to lift her delicate fingers from the center of his palm, but he grips her there and begins speaking his exorcism. The words quickly form in the air and then float down onto her chest and into her like tattoos. These words a comfort to her now like daily prayers, she could speak it from memory with him, but decides not to. She lay there waiting for the spirits to be driven out, these devilish ghosts, but nothing happens. Esperanza feels the fever begin to rise and take her over again. She cannot keep her eyes open; cannot will away what Father Amis will do to her, so she settles into it like a bear in winter. “Yes,” she thinks, “I will be a bear in winter.”
Aleathia Drehmer/Beto Palaio 2009
Published by Shoots & Vines, Print Anthology "I Can't Be Your Virgin and Your Mother"