A Wake Part 2: Isabella

by: Jonathan Marcantoni

From the pages of Traveler’s Rest comes part 2 of a 3 part series, where reflections of the past linger ominously…..

From the balconies the people released white flowers into the dying afternoon sun, that drifted to the streets on waves of Caribbean sea-breeze. Floats and caravans with local beauty queens and children singing patriotic odes drove by, as the flag was waved with divine fervor, tears in the eyes of all who see it, their hearts brimming with pride. The flowers turned to fire in the sun before being engulfed by corners where light had been forbidden by the encroaching night, stomped upon by revelers dancing sambas and waltzes, military men spinning and tossing their rifles in the air, beating the petals in mid-flight. The ones that landed on the onlookers were more fortunate, finding a place to rest atop the head of a child or atop the shoulders of a crying widow.

Amidst this glorious celebration, in the deep shadows of an ancient café, she sat facing the open patio, men and women of all ages cheering and toasting and saluting the parade in reverence to the first year of independence from Batista.

“Long Live the Revolution!”

“Long Live Castro!”

A parade of 1960’s Volkswagens carrying radios and bullhorn speakers declaring passionate speeches from the beloved leader, who gave the people back their pride and love of country after years of occupation and corruption, rolled passed the café in quick succession as night enwrapped itself upon the great city and the celebrants took their children home to bed before joining the others at the bars and nightclubs, all cheering, “Viva Castro! Viva Cuba Siempre!”

But, that would be later, the sun was still gripping the buildings, fighting to its last breath, and she still watched the cars and children and military men and beauty queens and floats of birds and national heroes and the crowd on the patio singing and laughing while she dipped her bread in wine, sucking its juices before devouring its essence. As she swallowed and took in the bittersweet aftertaste, she gently touched her face with the tips of her fingers, exploring the wrinkles and remnants of dimples for any semblance of youth. She raised her glass to observe her eyes in the blood-red wine against a dimming light that provided no heat and little vision, so all she could make out were hints, suggestions, of how heavy these eyes really were, how deep in the realms of sadness they had fallen, how full of life they once were and how resigned the world had made them. Her sigh clouded the glass, further distorting her image. She was now behind a smokescreen, beating at her reflection trying to break through. But, this was a permanent prison.

The revelers cleared the café hours later, in the dawn of morning as the streets were swept, drunks tumbled home, sometimes with a friend to assist, most with only the edge of a building to guide them, falling once they reached the end into an alley piled full of wandering drunks that stretched out into the street, where they were pushed aside with the rest of the garbage.

She watched the clean-up from her apartment balcony, unable to sleep, waiting for the day to come. She fixed herself a cup of coffee as the sun began its ascent, its rays caressing the faces of her living room photographs. Wake up, mama, she thought, wake up, papa, wake up Julio and Juan, wake up Nestor, why did you all leave me so soon? 

The photographs answered with blank stares. In death, each had lost the will to explain, for to speak, to be understood, would force them out from oblivion, the numb hereafter, safe from the pain of the world. “Ay, mi alma,” she said, holding up the photograph of a teenage girl, big brown eyes like her father, an angel’s face like her abuela, coffee-black curls like her titi Linda. Her daughter had taken the picture before leaving for school in Havana last May, “Don’t worry, mom. I’ll remember to write,” she had said as the train whistled its departure.

Evelyn Rosaura, she thought, God himself could not think of a more beautiful name, one that sings with the birth of life. My precious Evita. It isn’t Cristina Rivera, but Nestor wouldn’t have it any other way, “She will be named after my mother,” how that man loved his mother, what a good woman she was though, dead before her time like all good souls. But, she knew the story. Yes, Gustavo, I told her everything. My boys liked your tales of revolution, Goddamn me for telling them, although Castro has granted me a nice pension for their bravery in fighting Batista and his fascist pigs, but no pension will give me back my boys, just as dying in peace did not give you back your country. But she preferred the love stories, your witty Yolanda and the beautiful Cristina Rivera, whom she wrote stories about. Yes, Gustavo, my darling is a wonderful writer and almost as good a storyteller as you. Oh Gustavo, why couldn’t you have lived a while longer? How my children would have loved an abuelo, the poor souls forced to be the children of orphans. 

How I would have loved for you to have given me away at my wedding, to have approved of my Nestor, such a kind and gentle man. Oh my friend, the one I have kept closest to my heart, why did I never take your picture, so on these mornings I can at least have your face to talk to?

She put down the portraits of her children and took her coffee outside, the streets humming with the stirrings of new life blessed by dreams. She had not talked to Gustavo for many years, not since before meeting Nestor, talking to the dead being a habit one had no use for once love had arrived to fill the holes in life.

The second day of celebrations commenced at one in the afternoon. Store clerks and vendors came prepared with boxes stuffed with merchandise at the ready for when the initial goods ran low. Families awakened early to make the children breakfast and send them out to play before taking cat naps to build up energy for the night. Young people slept through the cannons and roars of horns that heralded the new day, the explosions of confetti falling on largely empty streets, all the people inside buying supplies for the day ahead or eating a quick lunch before the large crowds. The tourists from Latin America who revered in the victory over tyranny and anti-Franco youths poured into the airports to bask in the glory of Communism. Russian diplomats sipped tea on the patio of lush world-famous hotels. No bourgeois North Americans could be found, save for a few beatniks who wouldn’t be going back. The people watched the confetti of the opening ceremonies from their windows.

Isabela spent the early part of the day, the silent morning hours, looking at her faded image in a hall of mirrors. Her apartment was lined with mirrors from Europe, Asia, and Colombia, dressed in fancy royal trim and bought by her husband in the early years of their marriage. She loved mirrors because they gave her a sense of constant company. Standing back, looking at the innumerable reflections, she hosted dinner parties and danced to her varied selves. While guests saw the same image in duplicate, she knew the differences in each one, whether it be a change of light on the face, or the angle at which they held their heads, or the sound of their voice resounding in the hall, they were their own person, with singular ideas and traits.

When she married Nestor and started a family, the images grew until the rooms were so crowded you could not walk through them. The duplicated images of her family furthered the conviction that a mother does not have one or two children, but gives birth to the world. Juanito was the charming boy and conniving miscreant and ,Julio, the gallant angel and vengeful serf. Then, there was Evelyn, the calm reasonable darling and fiery nymph, and the beloved Nestor, the witty gentleman and selfish lover with a dash of tormented mama’s boy.

She was mother and wife to these images and several others, some children dying with age, others maturing and molding their thousand faces into a single, coherent adult. But, for her image, she no longer saw the idiosyncrasies that set each one apart, she only saw a tired, broken face, a difference in light here and there. No longer was one clever and the other morose; they were all too worn out to make a stand for anyone existence. Every eye droops, every wrinkle sags, every hair is peppered, every curve is a pillow of fat, and every breast is neglected, unable to nourish, with no one wanting to touch them.

In one image, however, stood a distant frame of a time dead and buried. It was her wedding photograph, dated December 1942, nine months before the twins were born, how young they were when they went to fight in the hills. But the revolution needed strong men: who cared if they were eighteen or fifteen? Such love for their country, God bless their souls.

Nine months before I started to turn ugly, when my body still turned heads and my face melted hearts. Two and a half years before Evelyn, who took all my beauty and strength, who knew me as a mother with pudgy legs and a round face, who thought that she was the sister of the great beauty in the wedding gown—”Where is your picture, mama?” 

Twelve years before Nestor, God bless his soul, was taken from me by a bloody cough. Ay Nestor, if you had lived, then maybe your sons wouldn’t have mistaken Castro for the father who abandoned them, whose love they could win with bullets. Yes, I am well off now, a charge of the state, mother of national heroes, who can afford a boarding school in the halls of Havana for her adventurous daughter, who will undoubtedly grow up to be a writer for the people, for this glorious land. 

She looked away from her image so the tears would not show, but a duplicate surrounded by red pearls and ancient dragons was caught in the act, all the others looking in her direction, wishing they could meet her eyes, but finding that they too hid their own private sorrows.

And, then the confetti dropped; the cannons sounded; the trumpets sang a song for the mother country. Turning Isabella’s head to the balcony, onto which she walked out as small squares of blue, white, and red tumbled along her battered face. She watched her neighbors walk out on their balconies, toasting the charade with champagne and laughter, dancing as distant music warmed their soul. This show of love forced a smile onto Isabella’s face, one that she fought for as long as she could, but the rhythms sweeping from the shore of this Caribbean paradise, engulfing the land with the sweet embrace of victory were more than she could bear. She submitted, as hard as it was for her to believe that any amount of bloodshed could bring peace, either to her land or to herself, she smiled and for a moment forgot her age and faded looks, forgot her very name, and made her way to the street.

As the music approached, the rhythms bore down with greater force. The crowd poured from every building waving flags, dancing, singing, cheering. A statue of the Virgin Mary floated above the shoulders of four identically dressed brothers wearing white roses pinned to their chests. The street crowd blew kisses and crossed themselves as the Holy Mother gave blessings with a paralyzed hand and glass-eyed stare while the celebrants on the balconies, who might be angels themselves, tossed red roses and sang five Hail Mary’s and an Our Father. Seven rows of choir boys from all the city’s churches followed behind the effigy singing “Blessed the Day the Lord has Made,” holding children-sized crucifixes to their bottom lip, eyeing the crowd for their mothers, who were holding back smiles until they saw their sons in their Sunday best—”Look how beautiful my boy looks, Bless be to God.” As Isabela saw them passing, she did not see four respectable men carrying the Holy Figure followed by seven rows of reverent children. Instead, she saw the funeral of General Miles.

Yes, Gustavo, I still remember. My boys especially loved that one. In her eyes, the crowd was dressed all in black, toasting the doomed coffin of the American general as it moved toward to the door, where the seven rows of choir boys lined up, throwing matches to light up the Virgin Mother like a birthday cake, all the while singing “Long Live the Revolution!”

But, of course, it wasn’t true. These boys were so sweet, little Botticelli angels, cherubs of the Roman Empire; they could not harm a soul, not at such a young age, and such faces could not grow up to be defecators and killers, not these boys. That was another time. Right, Gustavo? The Age of Revolution is dead, now we sing and celebrate and live our lives in peace, what need do we have for fighting any more, the great God of the heavens has descended, wiped out the dictators and imperialists with a single stroke, and we are finally a land of the people. What need do we have to burn coffins now, or God forbid this beautiful Virgin, laced with silk and jewels, a wooden rosary hanging from her neck, the cross that carried her son hanging near her heart.

The singing of the choir was drowned out by a mournful trumpet solo; the men marched in military garb before a float carrying the local singing goddess, Celia Diaz, whose fiery tongue caressed the opening words of the national anthem. Whose final words, “Hear the clarion call, Hasten, brave ones, to battle,” sent chills down Isabela’s spine as the crowd roared and the trumpets wailed with life. And the conga played behind the float pounding out their heart’s message, accompanied by a row of claves and guiro stylists joining the trumpets in the front singing the praises of country and the beauty of señora Diaz, who was now singing a saucy ode to the men of Cuba, as cat calls and whistles spilled out like rotten fish tainting the religious purity of the occasion.

The wind, which until that moment had remained in slumber after its long night, rushed from the depths of the sea over the mountains, waking the dozing trees and budding flowers, pulling up sand for a quick tango before releasing it to spin without reason or sense, climbing buildings and opening doors, shaking hands with curtains and clinking glasses, playing with the fallen confetti and the last of the rose petals, raining down on the streets with a child’s scream, tipping the hats of the musicians and throwing Celia Diaz’s bushel of wavy curls around her face in the thick strands she vehemently shook from side to side. The crowd took the sudden fury of her body as a sign she had been touched by God through the holy songs of the country.

The wind burned Isabela’s eyes and she retreated to the stairwell of her apartment. A lone light shined from a hole in the ceiling, four stories up, casting the stairwell in deep gray. She leaned on the railing, staring at the ground, feeling Nestor’s hand upon her face. Would he complain of her wrinkles? Would he find them endearing, with the aroma and complexity of a fine wine, or would he shudder, “My God, Isabella, where is the woman I married?”

He had been so kind when she had gained weight, holding her like a newlywed and kissing the drooping love handles like they were babies, giving them names and toying them with his finger, making her squirm and laugh, “Basta Nestor, basta, carajo, hehehe.” Her childish laugh made him roar like a lion and call her, “Mi pajarita.”

Yes, he would have found reasons to have loved her wrinkles. Yet, when she reached out for him at night, when she begged for him in front of the hall of mirrors, when she could think of nothing beautiful in her dead eyes and chilled fingers, when she ate a good piece of bread, or made a savory meal, especially when Evelyn was here, his voice was nowhere to be heard, only hinted at in the rushing of the wind, or the realms of the imagination, where she forced the memory of his voice to say the things she needed to hear. And, it had been so long: how can she be sure it is still his voice? She knew that she could not ask someone if they heard the thought she had just had, and if that thought was not the voice of Nestor Olivera Pacheco, as if he had been present in the flesh.

She began to weep as a young man in military uniform descended the stairs. He asked her if she is was all right, and she told him that she was, waving him off with an excuse about the heat. He asked her if she lived here and she said “yes, I do,” and he asked if he might escort her to her apartment if she was not feeling well, which prompted her to look the kind soul in the face, and if he was not the spitting image of her Julio, she thought. She reached out to hold the boy and he accepted, slightly disturbed, not sure what to make of this old woman who appeared to be delirious. Still, he patted her on the back and started to escort her upstairs, but she refused, asked him to stay a while with her if he wouldn’t mind. But he kindly declined as he was expected to participate in the parade with his platoon and could not be late. She nodded and smiled in embarrassment, realizing how pathetic she had behaved, and sent the boy on his way, but not without observing, one last time, the boy she was certain to have given birth to, and named Julio after an older cousin she had a crush on as a child.

Julio, my sweetheart, the one who was always there for his mother, who stayed up long nights after his father’s death so I could cry on his shoulder. My darling, my first born, who guided his brother just moments after him, protected him, made sure his journey was safe and this new world they were embarking on was as kind as the home they had shared inside of me. And as he emerged I could sense how overwhelmed with pleasure he was at this new sight, at the dawn that shone through my bedroom window, at the sunken roof of our tiny house, at the red clay floors. And just as he was absorbing this paradise and pulling his brother out as fast as he could so he would have someone to share it with, that bitch of a midwife smacked him and he let out such a shock of pain. I reached for him, my arms nearly flying from my body to snatch him away, to let him know that the world was more pleasure than pain, that my love would protect him, and when his brother came out he seemed to be warning him of the pain to come But my Juanito was too mesmerized to pay attention, and his scream was louder, because his brother had not protected him and did not have the words to explain it was out of his hands. And when I first held them both I could sense a rage between the two, and it never left, they always had to outdo one another, “Who is stronger mamì?” “Who is faster?” “Who loves you more?” As if the other one was so treacherous they must be inferior and be proven inferior repeatedly, but I loved you both, I wanted you both to come home alive, you boys and your goddamn pride. I bet when the first of you was shot the other jumped in front of the next available bullet so as to not be outdone. 

Why didn’t one of you come home? Why did you have to leave me without any men to confide in? Without any man who would tell me, whether it was true or not, “You are beautiful, wrinkles and fat and dimples and dead eyes and blotchy skin, all of it makes you perfect, makes you the woman I love.” 

A shot rang out in the street and the crowd let out a wild cheer and a million whistles and it was all too much for Isabela so she climbed the steps and opened a door that seemed heavier with every inch forward and closed it with a mute shudder as she limped to the bed and escaped into a dreamless sleep.

The sun awakened her through stained curtains and her head ached with the weight of a new morning, though her clock read six in the afternoon. She looked out her window and saw that vendors had filled the street with fresh cuts of meat, vegetables, fruit, candy from foreign lands, handmade jewelry, clay pots and cups. The market filled the street, forcing cars to detour a mile and a half into another detour until they could find parking. A distant announcer, filling the stagnant air with a voice as deep as God’s, announced that this year’s beauty pageant would commence at eight o’clock followed by a tango at the Hotel Sol.

She started a hot bath and, as her muscles loosened, her mind emptied itself of anxiety and regret. She rested her head on the edge of the tub and let her arms go limp, her body reflecting itself in the clear water. But, instead of her usual thoughts of how fat she looked under this natural mirror, she saw her body as an island, her pinkie toe the small town of her birth, connected to the smallest bone, the most solitary and least noticed, making its way through the jungles of the shin to the small city of her knee, where she experienced the whirlwind of tragedy and love that spilled over the knee and into the thigh, expanding with each passing year until the love of her life embedded his seed into her fertile womb and her stomach fattened with love, filling her breasts with their own pains and hunger and laughter before traveling up the various roads of the throat, the windpipe and esophagus and then climbing out her mouth, making their way first to the mountains of her nose and her eyes with rebels and gunmen, then to the capital of her skull for an education and the chance for a better life. This map was full; there was no more room; there was only memory. This body was tired, worn, drained. She thought, what was left for me in my old age? Perhaps Evelyn will find a place I have missed, a lung or a hip, to give me grandchildren and a son-in-law who will love me as his own, and then I will have some happiness to fill this map out, some cities to clear the jungles and pave the rocky roads I have crossed with bare feet under a blistering sun with no shade that my precious grandchildren will provide in these times of peace and prosperity, for things cannot get worse. This century has been bad enough. 

She served herself a dinner of papaya and mango with tostones and café con leche. She did not usually have coffee at night, but she wished to see the beauty show, hoping it would lift her spirits. When she descended to the streets, fireworks filled the distance. The buildings hung low, as if sleeping, but when she turned the corner onto the next block, the buildings stood erect and were bathed by spotlights filling a stage, which turned the beauty contestants into shimmering moons.

Masqueraders passed dressed as clowns with long white noses and red faces, and there were others dressed as historical figures of the Spanish past, conquistadors and governors, generals and bandits, one gentleman with a beard to rival Castro, with the smell of blood and gunpowder to match.

The vendors were nowhere to be found, save for some old maids still hawking their flimsy necklaces and faded bracelets. As she neared the stage, the crowd thickened to a tight square in front. The announcer introduced each girl with great fanfare and the masqueraders called out vulgar come-ons while the parents tried to drown them out with loving tributes to ensure that their children would not hear such language. Isabela moved to the back of the crowd to lean on a wall. Next to her was a man dressed in a long cape with a green face and a fat nose. His smile revealed yellow teeth that reeked of bloody meat. His laugh had a disturbing familiarity. He looked at her with big eyes and she shied away, but he called her to come closer, to not be afraid of his mask. She retreated further and looked back to see if he had followed, but she did not see him. Instead, there stood a handsome man with a closed grin and an outstretched hand. In the dim light, she felt as if she knew him. He begged her to stand with him, and she felt obliged. Perhaps, he would protect her if that strange man appeared again, she thought.

They watched the entire show without looking at one another, but sensed each others satisfaction and comfort. The contestants were half impressive and half laughable. A foreigner could tell this was a small city given the lack of discretion with the definitions of beauty. She could not see the contestants’ faces well and told the man that she was leaving to get a better look, and thanking him for accompanying her. He smiled and shrugged, assuring her it was his pleasure. She squeezed through the sweat and flatulence of the crowd until she could move no further. The lights were almost unbearable at this distance, but she was able to make out the girls’ features enough to agree with a clown standing next to her that Contestant #3 had the mouth of an ass and the legs of a dog, although she would not use these exact words in public…how times have changed. Contestant #8 had strong legs and brilliant curves, but her breasts were nonexistent and her face was far too round for such a slender frame. Contestant #4 was the crowd favorite, a brunette with perfect round eyes and a smile that caused cheers even from the women of the audience. Her walk was a dance. The men threw her their numbers and some crossed themselves with prayers to the saints that she might give them the honor of a dance at the evenings tango.

The announcer introduced her by name, but Isabela was not concerned with such formalities. She had already crowned her Evelyn Cristina, for she had a face almost identical to her daughters and the most revered beauty since Gustavo’s martyred lover. She wished to pull her aside and tell her of these women of her heart, that perhaps she would know beauty could be serious and powerful, that walking across a stage was the least she could do, and to demand these men give her proper respect, because she would not look like this forever, save to the man who truly appreciated her, may she die before he does. An old man is dignified. An old woman, a prune.

She wished to hold this child as her own, for it has been too long since her beloved Evelyn Rosaura had graced these streets, had felt her embrace, had spoken to her of childhood crushes and the stories she wished to tell. She wrote her a letter a week or so before. She said to herself, perhaps in the morning a letter with her name would appear and tell me how Evelyn loves me and misses me and isn’t that you on the stage, Evita, aren’t those your eyes and your walk and when you speak isn’t that how your voice sounds? Why do they call her this foreign name when she is obviously Evelyn Rosaura Olivera Morales of my womb, of my heart?

As the last year’s beauty queen placed the crown on Contestant #4, the lights dimmed and a spectacle of fireworks filled the sky turning the streets pink and green and yellow. The people on stage and the crowd in the street laughed and clapped hysterically. The new queen was escorted through the crowd atop a throne adorned in flowers and vines and the procession filled the city with guajira ballads that, if one were to pick out each individual voice, one would find the songs off-key and haphazard at best, but amidst the mass of voices the casual passerby would hear a single voice, as in sync as the world’s greatest choirs, as the participants all believed themselves to be.

The courtyard outside the Hotel Sol was covered in white, blue and red petals that had intricately been laid out to resemble the Cuban flag, a task that had taken all day and forced visitors and employees to enter from the back. The petals were now allowed to be trampled upon by the crowd, who did not even notice the amazing sight, who were too enamored with their beloved queen, whom they held high, as the colors of the petals turned black under their heavy steps.

The hotel staff rushed to open the doors and the voices and stampede of people resounded off the great walls of this historic hotel, one of the finest in all of Cuba. The doors to the ballroom and dining hall opened just before the crowd broke them down, and the band cued to begin, the violins and piano letting out the shrill screams of a newborn before settling into a calm, rising melody brimming with sex and the power of the sea crashing upon the surf.

Food was served at large banquet tables and couples joined hands and hips and danced with the casual simplicity of those who knew an entire evening awaited, that there was no need to rush, that there would be no shortage of food or wine, that the great leader had made sure of it. The first thing that Isabela noticed as she entered the great hall were the tall mirrors that stretched to the ceiling, filling the room meant for hundreds with thousands. She walked toward the mirrors and watched the husbands and wives dancing with their young ones. Teenagers grabbed a smoke in the corner talking up young girls shielded from the protective eyes of their discerning mothers by the crowd. Old ladies sat at tables ignoring their husband’s pleas to dance. College students danced crazy mambo’s even though the music wasn’t right for such dancing, but what do they care for tango, or any sense of tradition: the revolution now celebrated was their doing. If they wanted tradition, Batista would still have his hand wrapped tight around their throats. The clowns and masqueraders made lewd gestures and mocked the dancing with wild swaying hips and grotesque smiles.

She scanned the entire room of couples and strangers talking and laughing and dancing before finally seeing herself, alone and still, a stark white blob amidst a sea of color and movement. She looked into her dead face and could not conjure a thought, afraid of what it may entail, before continuing her wandering gaze. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a man in dark clothes slumping around the dining tables, looking at the floor, hands dug deeply into his pockets. As he neared her, he stopped, looking at the mirror with a pale face and distant eyes. She knew him at once; she formed a thought.

Gustavo, have you come for me? 

His eyes traveled across the sea of images before stopping on her reflection. He shook his head and began to walk away. She turned around but couldn’t see him. She ran through the crowds, nearly calling out for him, realizing before the words could form that dead men do not come to parties. But his expression was so real, and why had he shaken his head? 

He sees how ugly I have become. He sees I have amounted to no more than him. He is ashamed of me. Who am I kidding? He’s dead. I didn’t see anybody. Her breathing quickened and she feels she was about to cry, but I know I saw him, I am as sure of it as if he had been my own child. Oh God, I must be tired. I am old but not old enough to lose my mind. She let out a laugh to ward off the tears building at the back of her eyes.

She looked out at the dance floor and saw the handsome man from the beauty contest approach her, arm outstretched, asking if he might have the next dance. She conced as the music began with a tap-tap and catchy piano riff, the violins dancing a jig and the crowd bursting with laughter as they twirled and stepped and held their loved ones and perfect strangers close to their hearts.

Isabela and the handsome man entered the dance floor somber and with patience. Their steps were deliberate; he could tell immediately she had not danced in some time. As the music sped up, he forced her to adjust, but she was awkward and he could sense her self-hatred at not being as skilled as he, so he maintained her speed, kept his cool, and his show of patience melted her heart, made her forget how foolish she looked and how inept she felt. He placed his hand on the small of her back and swayed her with the music, which rose to a crescendo, at the apex of which, he dipped her. The tips of her hair brushed the floor, his friendly grin filling her eyes, and as he brought her up his lips touched her ear and he told her how beautiful she was before pressing against her lips a moist compassion that made her knees buckle and her heart almost explode. She knew these lips, this face. He pulled back and in his eyes she found the name she had wanted to say all night, “Nestor, my love, you’ve come for me at last.”

But, she was only at the mirror; the man with the green face laughed as he pulled away from her, as she recognized the error she had made. He pulled his cape over his mouth, his dancing eyes twinkling with the great joke that sank her soul. He yelled to his friends, standing a few feet away, that for an ugly old broad she kisses pretty well. They all got a big laugh from this, their drinks spilling onto their jackets and the floor. The man in the cape put his arm around one buddy and told him that she even called him Nestor.

“Isn’t that a kick?”

His friend nearly fell over with laughter as the caped man pointed at Isabella as though she were a prized cow.

She rushed out of the Hotel Sol, tears throwing her to the ground. The blackened petals grinding into her palms as she wept into the bricks. Inside, the music pounded and swept the people through the long evening until dawn, when they would leave the building to watch a sunrise that would never come. For the night had enveloped this old woman and the country she once loved, and the beauty of day would not be able to fight off the shadows that blind them. But, they would wait. They would light lamps and spend many hours looking into mirrors contemplating the horrors they had committed and those that had been committed to their brothers, and they would see the darkness in every heart. They would tell the authorities about the evils of their neighbors, and one day a sliver of light might finally reach their disgruntled images and Isabela would see the truth of her life as the waning moment of clarity was engulfed by the victorious night.

 Coming soon: A Wake Part 3……

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