It is clarity the soul sighs for. But who said that to her, anyway? She cannot remember. Claridad. Fragments of her Spanish keep elbowing in, jarring her thoughts. Not many things are clear and so she has to focus on the few that are. Basta. She closes her eyes. She is drawing up lists again, knowing it often leads to the loss of the first two or three on the list as she moves to number four. The first one, then. It is Margaret. Claro.

Claro is what Spaniards say when they agree with you. That she can recall, effortlessly. Claro. She has said it herself so many times. In Sevilla. To Sevillanos in the shops, in the narrow streets of the barrio de Juderia, up on her roof terrace, the one overlooking La Plaza de Dona Elvira. The terrace where Maribel, their servant, hung the laundry on a blue cord, two wooden pins in her mouth, fastening a shirt against the wind. A blue shirt, Robert’s, and that tower looming behind Maribel, the Cathedral tower. La Giralda, it was, something about a turning, the bronze statue on top, turning in the same breeze that pushed the blue shirt into Maribel’s face. And then?

Margaret is first. But what is second on the list? She narrows her eyes. The second one: each week in this place, watching the Venetian blinds slicing the afternoon sun into parallel bars that creep slowly up the walls, and hearing the thrashing of Canada geese taking off from Watkin’s Pond behind the building, she is growing smaller. This place. Where cars and geese send into her room flickerings of bird life, of the hidden lives of strangers driving by in their Hondas. The most stolen car in the U.S., she read somewhere, probably in Reader’s Digest, Large Print. Perhaps some of these strangers riding in their widely-coveted machines are distracted, thinking of the struggles of their pre-teen in middle school. Call her Molly, say, or of their next paycheck. They glance at the building on the right, then look away, not caring to reflect even for a few seconds on what might be in there. Inside the beige brick walls with windows that don’t let in enough light. Her window, for instance. And so the stranger behind the wheel looks away, drives forward while grimacing at the projected cost of Molly’s upcoming orthodontia program. Claro.

She is losing the thread again. It is unwise to enter the lives of strangers, she knows. Especially when these lives are based on the distant droning of automobiles. There is no Molly, she has to remind herself, and so how could there be a problem with Molly’s teeth?

This she does know. Each hour in her bed a thin hand silently pulls her skin a little tighter. Invisible tucks are sewn in her cheeks while she sleeps. And here it is again, the thought she is trying to hold onto. She is getting smaller.

Her arms already are a bit shorter than when she first came. Now these same arms, once sinewy and strong and tennis-tanned by the suns of three different continents, are more willing to rest at her side, fingertips pointed up, wrists relaxed. Her breathing a quiet suspiration. Less of her in the bed, she thinks. But more of something. Something she can’t put her finger on, perhaps more of these glimpses from her past waiting for her to rummage through, as if from an old shoe box in a dusty attic.
[Continued in Issue 123]