I turn around on the little stool to face her instead of her reflection; I drop my hands from my hair and place them into my lap. “You’re wrong, Huevito,” I say softly. “The girl you knew all those years ago, is sitting right in front of you.”
She looks at me for a long moment, seeming in search of her own understanding of my words, or rather the ones I refuse to say, and then I turn around and go back to braiding my hair.
“We leave for Mexico in five hours,” I tell her. “Are your tubes tied?”
It takes her a second; perhaps she’s surprised by the question, but she answers, “Y-Yes.”
“Good,” I say. “Now, I’m gonna need you to hit me in the face.”
Snapping on the last tiny rubber band around the end of a braid, I get up from the stool and walk toward her.
“I need you to hit me in the face.”
“Because I’d rather it be you than Ray—he doesn’t seem the type to wash his hands after he takes a piss.”
After Naeva beats the shit out of me—she’s stronger than I expected—and I rip her clothes and rough her up a little myself, I spend the next five hours telling her everything she needs to know, and the role she needs to play. I admit, I was worried about her tagging along in the beginning, but after only a short time, I realize she needs no training. Naeva is, unfortunately, even more experienced than me when it comes to underground Mexico.
The stars will die before we do, Izabel…the stars will die before my love for you does. I am not good at these things; I am inexperienced. Romance. Gestures of affection. Words weaved together poetically to proclaim love. Gifts and smiles and laughter and conversation about the simple things in life—I know nothing of these things. They make me uncomfortable, the way that embracing my father would have made me feel if I had not killed him, or crying on my brother’s shoulder. I may never understand these rituals, these feelings. But we have an eternity to find out. It takes an eternity for a star to die.
Those were the words I wanted to say to Izabel the last time I saw her.
If she had come here tonight, I would have worked up the courage to say them. I thought that she…no, I had hoped that she would come to see me one last time before she left for Mexico. I called her, but she did not answer, and so I left a voicemail with cryptic details only she would understand about the hotel I am temporarily staying in. For the night, anyway. I wanted to remain in Boston tonight, close to the residence Izabel and I once called home. Just in case.
But I know she is gone.
I glance at my Rolex. Four a.m. I wonder where she is. I wonder if I will ever see her again. Or if the talons of her old life with sink into her, fatally this time.
Clenching my fists, I resist the desperate urge to go after her.
Instead, I picture her radiant smile, and the light in her eyes, and her laughter, and her warmth. I picture the first time I saw her, hiding in the backseat of my car, and I remember the first time I heard her play the piano. And I wonder what I could have possibly done to deserve her. All I have ever done is wicked. I am a monster in the shadows; the blood of many stains my gnarled hands; the souls of the innocent are forever caught in my blade-like teeth.
So how can this be, that even an ounce of light be given to a monster such as me?
I go to the window of my top floor hotel room and gaze out, not at the glittering city, but at the stars fully awake in the early morning sky. And I see her, Izabel, Sarai, in every single one of them. And this is how I know, that because of her, because I see her in everything, I am not only a monster, but a man.