He hasn't been home for a long time. And if he has, he's been drunk. Either way, the lights haven't been on for months and the letters by his doorstep only keep on coming. Everyone pretends not to know who sends them, for the sake of the remitter, but it has just as well turned into one of the street's traditions, to check if they're still there each morning. Elena, nosy as she was born, has stolen some of them and sometimes lets the other girls at the café read them. Only sometimes. Today, they're sprawled all over the table and designed in tremulous handwriting.
Ay, mi Flaco,
The house isn't as bright without you around. I've never been much of a writer, you know this. But when you're gone I tend to fall into melancholy. How's your job? Hurry up and finish it so I can tell you everything that has happened over here. The girl on the floor below, the one with the sad eyes, I'm sure she's up to something. The Morales and the Smiths sometimes come over with fresh cookies. And Elenita, well you know how she is, she's kept me well informed. Please respond as soon as you can.
With all the love in my heart, Mom.
A tragedy happened, so now I'm staying with the young teacher, Sophia. I can't even write it down, dear. Please come visit, I'll tell you about it. If you can't come, respond as soon as you can.
Love you always, Mom.
What have you done?
Mi Flaco, mi corazón,
I didn't want to believe the rumours. I still don't. I'm old, you know I can't take much more. I told you over and over that fighting and stealing would get you nowhere. You told me it was a job, Flaco. What you did can't be that, because it's not work. Why don't you listen to me? I can help, why don't you believe me? I would say I don't want to see you anymore, but not seeing your face once again would kill me quicker than my age is. Please. Come home.
Love you, Mom.
Today, they're disorganized and stained. Today, some tears fell on top of the last lines. It's been three years since the Fire, and only three hours since the old widow that lived with Sophia passed away. Elena and the girls are silent, smoking. Cruz is picking out flowers for the funeral, nothing but sweet peas and daisies. By the time Eustaquio arrived, the woman's breathing matched that of the rhythm of her rocking chair. The wind howled and sobbed, as it would for the next week.
Some days later, Claudia Bernal would be buried next to the small chapel. Some neighbours would be there, maybe the Smiths and Morales. There'd be no family members of hers. And her tombstone would carry no name, no dates. The young teacher Sophia would cry silently, stay there hours after everyone left.
Some months later, Sophia would receive some money in the mail. It'd have a note, For the troubles and the funeral. Thank you, El Flaco, attached next to it.
Some years later, flowers of different colors would adorn the nameless tomb.