Her scars are visible; mine lay hidden beneath layers of self-loathing.
Doralice turns back and smiles until she sees my wedding ring. After several uncomfortable seconds, I fold my arms in an X across my chest; tilt my head back; and, close my eyes. Then, I open my cupped hands as though freeing a dove to fly away.
“Morta?” Doralice murmurs.
I nod. Sweat beads my forehead. I am suddenly uncomfortable, weak. Motioning I need air, I wave my hand in front of my face and pant.
Doralice disappears into another room, returning with a cane, its handle worn smooth. I limp outside and rest on a bench beneath that jacaranda. A bright green parrot clicks and clacks overhead, offering the only sound in the leafy canopy that veils the house. How different from Manhattan, where the incessant hum drowns out the plaintive song of the lone bird.
The air is thick as Doralice hands me a chilled bottle of coke, its surface damp. Sipping it, I realize how bizarre this all must be for her; opening her home to a man who does not speak her language, a man unknown to her but an hour ago, a man whose intentions remain unclear.
She is either very trusting or very naive. Either way, I mean her no harm. The throbbing in my ankle eases and my body begins to relax. I close my eyes and lean against the trunk of the tree. For the first time since that night no memories of New York stab at my conscience.
When I awaken from a nap of uncertain duration, I see Doralice standing in a shaft of afternoon sunlight. Gold gilds her hair. Her mocha skin shimmers. She is radiant, like those paintings of The Madonna that line the walls of St. Lucy’s.
Doralice helps me inside to the table on which she has placed another coke, a paper towel, and an orange, peeled and sectioned on a blue and white plate, its rim chipped but spotless.
I thank her and nibble the orange. With no common language, we sit like two old friends exchanging simple smiles and stolen glances. Blinking eyes and twitches of her misshapen mouth suggest she is trying to communicate.
Yet, the more I look at Doralice, the fewer scars and imperfections I see. It is as though the hand of some phantom sculptor smooths her skin; erasing the jagged lines until my eyes can no longer discern what my brain knows to exist. Gesturing if I want another coke, Doralice stands. I shake my head. She appears newly nervous as she walks to a frayed sofa and kneels with her back to me. The thin dress stretches tight across her hips while she pulls something from beneath the furniture. In a fleeting moment of carnal desire, I crave the touch of a woman.