Tuesday, January 31, 2012
A still coat of grey hung in the air even after the rain had stopped. The clouds roiled over the mountain rims like an ocean above her. It would have been a bad day for one of her father's experiments. "Today we drew a bye, Adara," he said on the most overcast days. Over her last steps to the compound, birds speckled the air with their chittering. It seemed like they were happy, but the interpretation, she knew, was two-sided. Happy and agitated were close cousins and it didn't take much to go from one to the other in either direction.
She swung open the heavy iron gate and it crunched into the wet ivy. The stones were topped off with little puddles. She let herself want her father to be there when she walked back to their apartment window. Where they had lived together last. As she came to the wide, thick window, Adara turned slowly and gradually. No false moves, he would say.
The altar she was building would not bring him back. Nothing could. But it might help to immerse her fully in this feeling. This feeling that he was home. That they were going to be together. That they could talk and laugh and argue the big ideas. She felt she was going soft, with no one to talk to but the boy.
She had decided when he died that she should not go to college. She had gotten substantial assistance for a program in English at the University of Chicago. The money had come from a local benefactor, probably the old man. She had known nothing about Chicago, except that it was very cold due to the fact that it was nearly at the Arctic Circle. Her father had wanted her to go. She wanted to study at University of Texas, but when he died, she had lost her direction. She postponed the acceptance to Chicago. She never activated it. She was sure it was too late now.
The lock turned grittily around the oversized key until it reached the contacts; inside the house, the vacuum jet fresheners did their work quickly, drawing up fresh heat from the minor floor and clearing out the cell of stagnant air from the afternoon. She smelled the hint of citrus as she put down her bags. He had thought of everything probably.
She put her bags down on the high table in the entry to hang up her wet coat and take off her shoes. Returning over the electro-magnetic guides in the floor, the door gently clicked shut. The warm floor had a cushioned feel, but the give under the heavy teak had a purpose. Fluctuation in the height of the floor caused by two people during a normal day—as well as side to side movements—were collected by the absorption mechanisms underneath it and translated into usable potential energy and electricity. Enough to power the enhanced simple machines like the door-closer and the phosphorous glow around the edge of the floor throughout the house. Walking wound the clocks. Opening doors pumped water. At the end of the night, the floor vibrated its own dust into traps, cleaning itself. Yet, as one person, and mostly at the old man's place with the boy, she didn't generate enough house-captured energy to do much more than shut the door.
There were five large plastic bags filled with dried, orange cempasúchil marigolds. She lifted out a long strand. Sra Mendez knew how her father wanted them to be: medium sized flowers with the petals bent backward toward the stem and dried. To Adara, they looked better that way, but her father knew that this treatment meant easier cleanup. The flowers stayed together longer. Would five bags be wasteful? She had wanted to make it lush for her father. To embarrass him slightly with modest accolades. Sra Mendez laughed when Adara placed her order. She had been making them for their altars to her mother since he came to San Cristobal, but had never delivered more than two bags.
She made a small meal of cheese and eggs and tortillas. There was a bit of aging tomatillo salsa. Small leftover glass of rioja. She plugged in the old radio and set it on the kitchen counter. It warmed up quickly and tuned well. The dial felt solid. A soft wave of noise gave way to an accordion and a trumpet. She sat and ate in the dim light of the stove and the warm glow of her father. It was good to meditate like this before building the altar, she thought.