Boogaloo lived in a small quarter of the city, an indistinct district bordered by certain streets he never liked to cross, and where no one asked his name. Boogaloo—born Manuel Perez—lived in an old brownstone on the top floor, almost level with the El, where in the spring he watched for the tops of the trees to suddenly bud in green, the bowl of sky above Chicago turning slowly to blue with a vast space that mirrored his anonymity. The high beige walls of his room held no pictures, and the clean and shiny wood floors caused the room to shimmer on bright sunny days like a lone patch of undiscovered sea. He sometimes sat on a folding chair in the sunlight, strips of light falling through the blinds, and when the train rumbled overhead, he leaned back, turned his head, and seemed to listen to something important.

    Braced on the wall was a single bookshelf, and on the shelf he had placed a few seashells, a copy of M. F. K. Fisher’s Letters, the well traveled Comida Criollas, a cracked, leather-bound volume on new Hispanio vegetation and food stuffs, Fruiticas Paradisio, from the late 18th century, Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human, and the three volumes that make up Seneca’s Moral Essays. In these essays some passages were starred, a few sentences underlined. A particular passage had exclamations along its edges, which Boogaloo had copied by hand in blue ink on a three by five card, and with a few small pieces of tape, he placed it in the middle of the wall next to his shelf. He would reread the passage often when his room seemed to fill with the incomprehensible weight of shadows.

    In the corner of the room, on the edge of the shelf and below the passage, Boogaloo had a small folding table of wood. On the table were sheets of butcher paper he had cut as close as possible to ten by ten, a white paper cup from a coffee shop holding black and red wax pencils and a few number two cedar pencils, some gold clips and an orange barrel-shaped sharpener on a shallow, clear dish, and a stack of three by five cards next to the cup.

    In the center of the table there was a recent recipe he had composed, the wax cursive script working through the intricacies of mangos and smoked Spanish pepper for a rice dish Boogaloo was striving to master. There were several sheets with drawings of a simple, ideal kitchen he dreamed of working in, the majority of the space dominated by a thick butcher-block table (he could see how in the future it would be oily and rich with colors—saffron, oregano, cilantro, garlic and olive oil—that became a part of the wood’s nature), a six burner stove with a flat grill, and a small stone oven. He drew a small alcove in one of the kitchen’s walls, where he sketched in a chair and a desk with a small goose-necked lamp. He set his pencil down. He listened to the robins chirping outside his window. He picked up his pencil and wrote 10 and 15 on a card, then totaled them. Direction: Soak rice in a ¼ cup of coconut milk for 30 minutes before cooking.

    Soon he would arrive at the moment when he had not had a drink in ten years, and the fact he had not seen his daughter in over fifteen.

    Most of Boogaloo’s life was contained in, during the somewhat good times, a suitcase, and, in the not so good times, a paper bag. He moved from job to job, although work was always defined for him not by the specific tasks but the places he experienced: a kitchen dish room in a squat, steam shrouded basement where his eyelashes collected little silver flecks of water and soap bubbles; the long and thin red rows of dirt between tobacco plants, his shoes caked with dirt, and his socks never seeming to lose the red ring of dust just below his ankle; the deep and endless blue sky over a beet field; the low and dim light of his helmet, his hands black with manure and dirt in a mushroom cannery; and the brief space—a bubble of musical time shaped by the rhythm of a knife—between a cutting board, prep table, and stove. New York, Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois—the slow movement of sweat coursing down the back of his scalp, his sore neck and shoulders, the dull, constant ache in his lower back, and always in need of a new pair of shoes as he found himself moving west. Without ever understanding the gradual changes to his emotional life, Boogaloo was slowly transformed into a man without likes or dislikes, without a strong sense of desire or remorse, a shell alone on an empty beach without the inner, passionate song of the sea found in that place where shell, ear, and sea meet in the radiance of music. Continually in motion—adrift in work—he seemed to simply stand still.

    For some reason the dream of his kitchen, the quiet new kind of work of his recipes, filled him with a sensation he couldn’t quite name, and yet he described the sensation—one sleepless night he saw it on the edges of the shadows that slowly moved across his apartment’s walls—in the memory of a childhood hurricane, that quiet moment just before the fury of the storm, when the golden sky looked streaked with guava paste, the sea dark green and thick with deeper currents, and Boogaloo mesmerized by a palm tree swaying in the breeze, its fronds shivering like a horse’s mane, his feet solid and heavy in the sand.

    Boogaloo’s days were spent working in a restaurant on North Clark Street. A very small place, Cassava, with only five tables, most of the business to go, and the customers ordering either at a small counter separating the dining room and the kitchen, or sitting at one of the formica tables. Cassava was one of three in the city, specializing in a fusion of Caribbean and Mexican food made up fast and hot. The top two sellers being a ropa veijo burrito and a cubano sandwich. Boogaloo cooked and managed a staff of two. A young Peruvian man, Tomás, kept the kitchen and dishes clean, and helped with the preparation of vegetables and seasonings, and an older Nicaraguan woman, Rosita, took orders in the dining room and at the register. Beyond work, Boogaloo lost time when he sat at his table and began the draft of a new recipe. He strove to capture the various smells, flavors, and colors evoked from an established recipe and his memory—how his mother had simmered a soncocho of chickpeas, pigs feet, habaneros and cilantro in the afternoon, and then in the thirty minutes it took the white rice to cook, she dropped slices of mango into the soncocho, thickening its consistency and flavor, the habaneros still evident as they painted a thin strong line of heat along the tongue. Once a recipe was drafted on a piece of butcher paper, he took it the next day to Cassava and tried it out; it became the meal he, Tomás, and Rosita ate in the afternoon lull between 3:30 and 4:30. As they took bites he watched their expressions, tried to note how Tomás licked his lips, casually focused on how Rosita’s eyes glazed with the strong sensation of flavor. Boogaloo let the recipe exist in his mind for a time, sat down with a three by five card, and in the presence of Rosita’s green-blue eyes he composed the recipe in a steady hand, his version of the recipe now translated into English.

    Boogaloo had no friend or lover in this city. When he left Connecticut with a handful of men to work and live in Michigan, he never imagined how quickly their brotherhood would fall apart with loss, a rending of friendship difficult to bear; he never imagined he would have no choice but to witness their disappearances by death, marriages and families, and the madness of drink and wandering. Common fates, he thought, yet he couldn’t seem to inhabit any of them—save his years of drink—with any passion. He had once had a great love in Michigan. He remembered her shyly undressing on the edge of a sand dune, her breasts dark purple plums in the night, and how the cold wind of the freshwater sea ran along his spine, his eyes almost watering with desire for Ramóna. He listened to the waves crashing against the pier, then hushing on the sand, and his ears filled with the sea of his heart. That was many years ago, and he still could evoke the smell of the cold air, the grit of sand between his fingers and trapped in his underwear. And their daughter, Magdalene? She became entangled in their longing that night, even though she was not even an idea or a hope then. Now twenty-five years old, making her way into a world he did not know. His loneliness, his exilic fortune, was the grand meal of his life no one could take away, and it was Boogaloo’s fate to chew it—macerate it—every day.

    His desire for Ramóna he never felt again. Sometimes, on windy, nighthawk fall evenings, the air wet from the sea, he walked along the shore in his shirtsleeves, his flesh rising to meet the wind and the memory. Magdalene never learned that Boogaloo was her father, and if there were times when he walked along the shore and wept, it was never just for himself: His tears raised the questions and fears and losses his daughter couldn’t control.

    One evening, a clear blue night in late April, the air smelling clean and tinted with the lilacs, Boogaloo had stopped to savor in Lincoln Park that afternoon thoughts like these shadowed his footsteps down Clark Street. He had decided to stop at Café Intelligentsia for a cortado, a few note cards in his shirt pocket to help him mull over the possibilities of yuca and curry. As he turned toward the door, Rosita walked out with a coffee. They greeted each other with surprise, exchanged pleasantries, and remarked about the change of weather, the beginning of spring. Outside the café they sat on a bench, their coffees between them, and continued to talk, sometimes their words lost as cars passed by. That first meeting lasted until midnight, and then two or three times a week they would meet for coffee and conversation once Cassava was closed, Rosita leaving work first and finding them a table in the corner of the café, or if it was too warm inside, at a bench or table on the sidewalk. Once Boogaloo and Tomás had cleaned up the kitchen, the floor wet and shiny, they stepped into the alleyway. Boogaloo locked the door, and with their good-byes Boogaloo picked up his step to meet Rosita.

    Over time, Rosita’s conversations and presence broke through his loneliness, as if a blue egg shell surrounding his existence had cracked, and perceptively the gold yolk began to trickle out, and in its place there was room for Boogaloo to become aware of her slender neck, the thin streaks that highlighted her hair gold and red in certain slants of light, how she smiled with wistful pleasure after the first, hot sip of coffee. The way her green-blue eyes ravished his face into a smile. Rosita gradually shared with Boogaloo her life in Nicaragua. Back home she had a ten-year-old son, Roberto, and an eight-year-old daughter, Margarita, who were living with her parents. Her husband, who worked as a mechanic near the city center, died during an earthquake, his body discovered under the collapsed garage. She worked at Cassava and as a seamstress six mornings a week in a t-shirt factory on the near northside. She sent home as much money as she could, and hoped to save a little to bring her children north.

    He could never find the right moment to reveal himself; then one day the egg’s shell shattered to pieces: A few tables over a young boy and his father shared a single steaming cup of chocolate, and from a plate stacked with Scotch Shortbread cookies, they would each take one, lean closer, dip the cookie into the cup, hold it for a moment, and then raise the soft, wet cookies to their mouths.

    Rosita, my name is Manuel, Manuel Perez.

    She had followed his eyes to the other table. She smiled.

    Please, call me Manuel.

    Boogaloo and Rosita met for coffee often. One Sunday evening they met at the Grant Park Pavilion, and watched a strange movie about the artic, windswept regions scratchy with the shifting and buckling ice, an almost tender violin in the background. They were both freezing, their breath clouding in front of them, and they laughed with great joy at how strange and beautiful it was to sit there in December watching the film of what seemed an even colder place. They left the pavilion and made their way down Michigan Avenue. The dusk began to rise all around them in grays and deep blues as they strolled down the avenue, window-shopping in the blaze of Christmas lights. Little by little Boogaloo revealed the details of his life, memories of a childhood always close to the sea, how he never imagined making a living as a cook, and how by accident, given his vivid memories of his abuela cooking, it seemed natural, even though he had no sense of where it might lead, what was next.

    They separated to make their way home—Rosita taking the El north, Boogaloo walking the last mile along the edge of Lincoln Park to his apartment. They stood under the tracks, a train thundering overhead. His hands shook at his sides, and he did not want the night to end just yet. He had been alone for so long and did not know how to make the night last, and in this state the sudden weight of fright lay heavy on his shoulders. Rosita clasped his arm just below his elbow.

    Don’t go, she said. Not yet.

    He looked at the ground, shifted his weight to his left foot, wiggled the right in the air, and then stomped it in the cold. Their breath turned silver between them, ghostly butterflies rising, then disappearing. He nodded.

    I have something for you, Rosita said, and then pulled a long red box from her bag. She handed it to him.

    Feliz Navidad, Manuel.

    He looked at her without expression—perhaps quizzical, a kind of misunderstanding, hesitancy. She held the box between them, and then tapped his chest lightly.

    For you, for all your friendship.

    Boogaloo held the box in his left hand, and with his right gently shook the lid off. Inside, folded in a neat square, was a scarf elegantly patterned with shades of purple, the fabric a soft silk, the pattern feeling rich against his knuckles. Rosita lifted it from the box, and they both looked quickly as the tissue paper lining the box jumped with the wind and flew down the street, the scarf unfurling like a flag. She flattened the scarf against her thigh, and then raised it behind Boogaloo’s head. She tied it in a loose knot around his neck, tucking the ends of the scarf into the small V of his black overcoat. She flipped up the collar of his coat, smoothed the scarf down on his chest.

    Thank you, Rosita. It is too much—the money, your children . . .

    She raised two fingers to Boogaloo’s lips and shooshed him quiet. No worries, she said. Elegante y suave for you.

    He began to loosen the knot.

    No, you have all the work you do . . .

    She grabbed his hands, held them tightly. Don’t. Don’t, please don’t tell me what I can and can’t do. I think of them every day, am so alone here, but you have become my friend in ways I might never be able to speak. Tears formed in her eyes, green, blue, then silver in the cold. No, it is for you, Manuel.

    His lips burned from her touch, and as she started to shiver, he had a great desire to hold her close, for Rosita to feel the heat rising into a bloom on the place where the scarf touched his neck. But his feet felt like concrete, and he couldn’t overtake the brief space that separated them.

    Thank you, was all he could say.

    I’m going to go now, she said, I’ll see you tomorrow. She turned, took the first two steps towards the platform. She stopped, turned around, waved.

    Unless you want to ride with me?

    He closed his eyes for a moment. In the distance he heard train wheels grinding against steel, a horn honked, and a roar of wind filled him with the smell of warmed chocolate from the candy factory on the river. He pressed his hands against his chest, felt for a moment the purple rising in his fingers. Before words arose in his throat, as the wind seemed to die, he heard Rosita say, No worries, Manuel, we’ll ride together another day. Her eyes were of the saddest shapes—like split, sea battered almonds—he had ever seen on her face. He wanted to apologize.

    Okay, Rosita. Thank you, I’ll see you tomorrow—the only words he could utter.

    Alone again, filled with the loss that followed his indecision. He smiled, and waved. He turned and walked from underneath the El to meet the street and his walk home.

    On his walk home the cold did not bother him, as if he were filled with some great fire that shaped his every step. He made a decision: When they met in the evenings, he would wear the scarf with pride, and as they walked down the street, or sat at a table in the café, he would keep his hand close to her side, there on the table over the line that separated them. He would help to make a moment of accident, hopefully touching a space where they held hands, and in that moment of holding she would know his apology, his desire. He would make an effort to remind Rosita to save her money and bring her children to Chicago—only as friend, however, and never at the risk of telling her what to do. He stopped in a crosswalk, the streets seemingly deserted, and caught sight of the moon, a blue face looking down between two skyscrapers with delight at his decision. He continued to walk and imagined his upcoming meeting with the owner of Cassava, an East Asian who always took Boogaloo’s new recipes to his other locations, and who seemed to trust Boogaloo’s judgment. Boogaloo would tell him that in the new year he did not need a raise, but Tomás and Rosita needed one for sure. He could not run the restaurant without them; they kept Cassava spotless, and customers felt they were eating food from good people. They deserved a great amount of credit for that.

    When Rosita did not show up for work the next day, Boogaloo felt a rush of worry, for she had never missed a minute of work before. He thought that perhaps he had been too pushy; she had lived all those years without her husband, worked hard with the conviction she must provide for her children: What gave him the right—carajo—to tell her anything? Perhaps she was angry, didn’t understand why he couldn’t simply accept her gift, and didn’t want to see him today. Tomorrow, tomorrow, she will return he said under his breath, grating the pieces of ginger on his cutting board. She will return tomorrow, and you will apologize.

    That night Boogaloo’s sleep was restless, the wind off the lake rattling his window, and in each moment when he felt himself falling into the dark hole of sleep, he heard grains of sand striking the pane, saw a dune where Rosita stood naked, her hair rising in the wind, the purple scarf wrapped around her neck, her arms wide open, and then himself trying to run, stumbling in the sand, falling just before he reached her.

    The next morning he arrived earlier than usual, and he went to work lacing a pork shoulder with cumin, garlic, and olive oil. He placed it in the oven, and then after the long task of chopping a ten-pound bag of onions for a new batch of salsa, he realized he was sweating. He and Tomás looked up to the sudden tapping at the front door. 11:35. Thirty-five minutes past their daily opening.

    After you open the front door, Tomás, please put on a clean apron. Do you think you can run the register and wait tables today?

    Tomás nodded, set down his knife, wiped his hands on his red splattered apron, a pile of cubed tomatoes next to his knife. He moved towards the door. Boogaloo felt something was wrong, the deep pocket of his stomach awash with shame—he didn’t know for what—as he replayed in his mind that last day with Rosita. Because of some anger, some hurt, she has not returned, he thought. He saw himself in his room, the El rattling overhead outside his window, as he looked into a delicate glass box he held in the palm of his hand, the glass flecked with bright pieces of papier mâché, and in the bottom of the box a mirror capturing his face in tears. He had bought the box for Magdalene. He wanted to see her one day and give her the box, so she might forget all the years she did not know him—her father, not lost and not important, but instead, in that one instance, she could see how beautiful her face had become, how she could live with that face and with more than her memory. Rosita was hurt, yes, perhaps embarrassed, because on that night she gave him the scarf he couldn’t let it wrap them together, and when he didn’t speak she saw her own mirror: A reflection of exile and loneliness she couldn’t bear to continue looking at.

    He looked at the clock again, felt his heart jump a beat, and then the blood seeping from his thumb the moment he sliced off its edge. Shit, he yelled, grabbing a towel and wrapping it around his pulsing thumb. In one slice of time she had offered him an emotional life he had not felt in years. A train had stopped, a door had opened, and he couldn’t step across the threshold to where she stood waiting. Tomorrow, tomorrow, I will apologize, look for the slight opening, the thin slice where I can walk through, Rosita, where skin and blood exist on the other side of a wound.

    Two days later Rosita had still not returned. Thinking then, with almost a sense of glee, that she was sick and not angry, Boogaloo called Rosita only to discover that her number was for a shoe store on Armitage Avenue. He called the number once more. The Shoe Palace again.

    A week later Boogaloo took the El up to Bucktown, the whole swaying ride his stomach sinking with the feeling that the address on Rosita’s application did not exist. The sun was warm pouring through the train windows, sunlight glinting brightly off the tracks, on tin roofs, and at each stop the quickly melting snow from a station’s awning dripped like rain in the open door. Down on the street Boogaloo passed a Starbucks, a womens’ boutique, and then turned the corner and made his way down a block filled with discount furniture and vintage clothing stores. He unzipped the windbreaker he had chosen that morning, the afternoon beginning to turn hot, a warm spell arriving in late January. He loosened his scarf. Scraps of paper scraped in the wind along the sidewalk. A can clanked in the gutter.

    N. 1885 was a large vacant lot surrounded by a chain-link fence, the lot full of dead grass and weeds, a high pile of dirt in the middle littered with broken pieces of concrete and asphalt, jagged strips of black and silver shingles, a confetti of colored bottles, and what looked like a car fender partially buried under the debris. There was a small circle of gritty gray snow melting around the pile of dirt.

    Boogaloo stood with his fingers in the fence. He remembered Rosita bent over a table, her hand moving a warm cloth slowly over the top, a red tray of dirty plates and glasses balanced in the other. Her jeans dark and new, tight and smooth, and how her white and blue suede sneakers were always brushed and clean. He had only touched her once—really by accident, or perhaps on impulse. Thick wet snowflakes had fallen for a few minutes as they walked down Michigan Avenue, Rosita’s hands bundled in mittens as she stood on a corner, trying to move her hair away from her eyes. She was telling Boogaloo how she sometimes hated herself for liking the life of these streets, when back home her family lived on an empty red dirt road. He never wore gloves, his dark hands dry and cracked from the cold wind, and as she spoke he raised his hand and tucked her hair back along her ear, and then smudged away a snowflake that had landed just above her eye. They stared at each other, the world seeming to fall away, and they both laughed as the light changed and a surge of people pushed them out into the crosswalk.

    A mangy brown dog squeezed beneath the fence, circled the pile of debris with its nose slung low and its eyes on Boogaloo. After circling once, it stopped and stared at Boogaloo, raised its right leg, and then let out a long stream of piss on a green bottle, the deep yellow liquid running down and staining the snow.

    He looked at the number again, written in red on a three by five card. He tore the card into pieces, and then slowly pushed them through the fence, let them scatter on the ground. He knew then that Rosita had disappeared from his life as quickly as she had entered it.

    Four months passed. Tomás had a cousin, Javíer, who came to work at Cassava. He was young, handsome, with a bright smile and a strong command of English. The customers liked him waiting on tables and ringing up orders. Boogaloo would look out and see them smiling and laughing with Javíer, their menus open as they pointed at dishes, asked questions. Boogaloo still had his recipes, his Sunday walks in the park or along the lake. Possessions never became a necessity—what fit in a paper bag or suitcase was still all he needed.

    Or so he thought. All that winter he had contemplated throwing Rosita’s scarf away, yet each time he stood in front of a dumpster, felt the wind tugging it away, his fingers found the fine silk and caressed it with delicacy until his hand warmed with purple, and then he tightened the scarf with force as if he could hold Rosita near. Now, in May, it was folded and wrapped in butcher paper, up on the top shelf of his closet, awaiting the first cold winds of fall. The presence of purple filling his broken shell—that was all that had changed.

    Sitting at Café Intelligentsia one Sunday afternoon, he looked up from the newspaper, rubbed his eyes with his fisted hands, and then struck his forehead with his palms several times, a loud smacking sound rising in the air. A few people turned. He took a drink of his coffee, now cooled and somewhat bitter, little bits of the grounds trapped in the side of his mouth. He gagged, felt a great wave of nausea, and dug the grounds out with his tongue. The espresso machine hissed. A couple at a table in the corner laughed, then leaned in close, kissed. His knees shook with a knowledge he couldn’t quite comprehend, and although he had been frequenting this café for the last three years, it was the first time the conversation around him broke through the veil of his isolated existence, as if every conversation he had not noticed before now instantly translated into English, and these gallons of words drenched him with the sensation that he was a newly arrived migrant. He covered his ears, his knees shaking even more. The words in the Spanish weekly swam before his eyes. He held his legs still, focused hard, and read these paragraphs again:


ICE STEPS UP INITIATIVE

A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement superior, speaking with anonymity because of impending court cases that must not be compromised, discussed the current administration’s recent arrests at meat packing plants along the Iowa-Minnesota border. “These operations are in line with an established initiative to address the alarming number of illegal aliens flooding certain parts of the country,” the superior said.

“Individuals,” he continued, “who are breaking the law, and who are also victims of employers who knowingly break the law.”

When this reporter questioned the superior about the parameters of the “established” raids, the superior wanted to correct the misuse of the term “raid,” since “these are initiatives to arrest, detain, and prosecute individuals who are breaking the law.” He added that this is an initiative in progress, and that beyond the media’s focus on the Iowa-Minnesota events, “we have been engaged for some time now in smaller, less visible enforcement in Missouri, Georgia, and even in the larger urban areas of Seattle and Chicago. There are many industries—from meat production to agriculture to apparel—employing peoples living illegally in the US.”

When the superior was questioned about why arrested individuals are moved outside the region of their initial arrest, and why families have been separated, often to undisclosed areas, the ICE superior said, “It is a most painful case when families are separated. Of course, we sympathize, and yet our charge is to best serve the established laws.” The superior expressed his regret for this separation, and hoped family members would receive consolation in the fact that the ICE treats every detainee “fairly.”

In the end, however, the superior stated that it is “imperative for legally residing relations to think very hard about encouraging or supporting individuals who enter the US illegally.”

Various sources suggest that in the past six months between 5,000 and 25,000 individuals have been arrested by the ICE, and there may be as many as 2,000 children affected.


    Boogaloo looked up from the paper. The voices in the café now spoke in a quiet din. The young woman from behind the counter approached his table and asked if he was done, and if his coffee was good. Yes, very much so, he said, handing her the cup on the saucer, the small silver spoon on the side rattling with his shaking hand. Thank you, he said. Yes, he was done with the paper. He rose and made his way outside.

    The tables were crowded, spoons and cups and saucers clinking together, laughter, and too much bare skin for Boogaloo as everyone bathed in the late afternoon sun. At one table a young man had a cantaloupe on top of a Tribune, his wife sitting across from him, and the boy with long sandy brown hair and the girl with light blue ribbons in her curly black hair his children. He stabbed into the cantaloupe with a Swiss Army knife, followed the line of fruit around its skin, and when the two halves opened his children clapped, the newspaper becoming wet and dark, the print disappearing in the presence of juice and seeds and shredded pieces of flesh.

    Boogaloo headed south where he would turn east towards the freshwater sea.

    At one of the last café tables was a young woman wearing a sheer, peach colored dress, and on the table in front of her, next to her glistening tall glass of iced tea, lay a mortarboard. She pulled away the lemon yellow scarf from around her neck, letting it fall on the mortarboard. May, graduations, and Boogaloo continued on, thinking of how that young woman would leave the older couple sitting with her, how she would thank her parents for everything, her emotional life chaotic with nostalgia and fear, and then a new opening of joy appeared because she realized she had the whole world in front of her, and when looking at a map she imagined a shifting mass of possibilities moving across and within the colored borders, and she felt great power in placing her finger in that one region she would learn to control. Magdalene was maybe somewhere in a region like that; Changó, an old friend from Michigan, had told Boogaloo that Magdalene was graduating with a master’s degree in education. To think, most of his life working in fields, and here she, his daughter, becoming something much more. He wanted to smile but winced at the thought. She had been alone, far away, adrift in her own recipe of memory and desire, living for many years in a town he never heard off: Ann Arbor.

    A long red dirt road where two children played with an empty can, and Boogaloo tried to see the bend in the road where Rosita appeared and walked home.

    Two Latinos passed him on the sidewalk, one raising his chin in hello, both probably on their way to work given the white shirts and black ties they carried in clear laundry bags.

    The sidewalk seemed like a slice of the world he would learn to accept, a form of consolation no one could ever take away: one step in front of the other, one step in front of the other. Ann Arbor. A tree with its branches high and broad and filled with thick purple blossoms, the fragrance of the split cantaloupe, Boogaloo imagining slices of mango sprinkled with smoked Spanish paprika and wrapped in thin slices of Serrano jamón on the menu tomorrow. Perhaps on the plate a small pool of olive oil and a few almonds. Something suave, elegante, rich.

    Boogaloo turned east, one foot in front of the other, and he saw within the trees arching over the avenue infinite doorways opening and closing, some with and some without promise. He took each threshold encountered with surprise and wonder, crossing over without any sense of right or wrong. Tomorrow, Rosita, tomorrow if it’s warm like today I will slice fruit, wherever you are, wherever we won’t meet, Rosita, tomorrow please don’t be alone.






Fred Arroyo is the author of the novel The Region of Lost Names (U of Arizona P, 2008). A recipient of an Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, he has published short stories, poetry, and essays in various literary journals. He’s completing a collection of stories, Borders of the Heart, and is also working on a novel. Currently he is an assistant professor of English at Drake University, as well as a faculty mentor in the University of Nebraska MFA in Writing low-residency program.






Back to Freight Stories No. 6

 


Fred Arroyo

A Case of Consolation