Manuela has received no invitation to her sister Sofia’s funeral. Yet, here she is.
She sweeps past Fidel, who sputters like an unwatched pot, and reaches the point where the grass ends, and her sister begins. Fidel is quick. He presses his smooth nails into Manuela’s arm and commands her, in a low roar, to leave.
Fidel is unaware that restraining orders expire upon death and his authority ended two days ago, along with Sofia. Manuela takes a drag on her Esplendido and whispers to Fidel, on the exhale, that his luck has finally run out. She lets the smoke hang between them, slides her fingers over the smooth-something she keeps in her pocket, and considers the deep caves of Fidel’s ignorance.
Fidel doesn’t know Manuela lives an apartment with a balcony that hovers, like a restless hornet, fifty meters above the edge of his own backyard.
Fidel doesn’t know Manuela, her rocking chair, and her binoculars are the reason he associates summer evenings with the smell of Esplendido.
He must remember the stairwell. His voice had been the loudest of any as he had bellowed, through bloodied lips, that Sophia no longer had a sister; that any woman claiming to be that sister would be arrested on sight if she ever returned to his matrimonial home. He must remember the police and Sophia’s quiet weeping beneath the stairs. That much he knows.
But Fidel doesn’t know Manuela can see through words and walls and people; that when Sophia had begged her to stay away, Manuela had known she didn’t mean it, that when the judge had proclaimed Manuela a menace, she had seen Fidel’s pesos laughing behind those judicial eyes.
Fidel doesn’t know the fraying curtains of his bedroom window have been insufficient to conceal his secrets. That tears, although silent, can disturb the ears of sisters who know how to listen. That whole stories can be told through a set of binoculars by the way a sister rocks herself on her porch swing at the end of the day.
Fidel doesn’t know when Sofia got her own set of binoculars, the sisters were content to just stare at each other’s bruises – Sofia’s obvious, Manuela’ s less so- because, by then, there was nothing left to say. That they watched, and rocked, and waited.
Fidel doesn’t know when Sofia lost her finger in the lawnmower accident, she did eventually find it.
Fidel doesn’t know it was wedged between the agave plant and the shed.
Fidel doesn’t know after a three-hour search Sofia crossed to the middle of the yard and held the finger up against the dangling rays of the evening sun so Manuela could see it through her binoculars.
Fidel doesn’t know the next day Manuela received a package, the contents of which she carefully mummified in the dry heat of her kitchen window and then carried for 44 years in her coat pocket.
Fidel doesn’t know what is descending now, from Manuela’s unclenched fist, into the dry earth.
But he will, in a moment.
The gentle thing lands like a songbird atop Sofia’s casket.
Fidel’s eyes shift from fog to darkness as the finger comes into focus.
Manuela is glad she has come to the funeral, despite no invitation, despite everything. It means she is here to see, with her naked eyes, what Fidel now knows.
There were parts of herself that Sofia had managed to save.