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Friday, November 5, 2010

Elena Callahan's Very Big Day Part Three

Yes, I'm determined to finish. Here's part three of four. Part two is here.


Part 3: Dubuque

Mrs. Guzman was home alone. Her husband had left her a few days earlier, and she hadn't yet gotten the courage to tell her daughter. Her daughter was at a college in Dubuque, Iowa. Her daughter was studying for finals.

Mrs. Guzman did not want to burden her daughter with anything right now. Studying for finals was difficult enough without learning your father had abandoned his family, had gone off to an ashram with one of his students, had left his office at Fordham fully stocked with books and ungraded papers and a cheap bottle of booze in a desk drawer.

Mrs. Guzman was waiting. "Let her get through finals," she told herself, "and then she'll know."

Agatha, her daughter, called her the day after Mr. Guzman left her. Mrs. Guzman said as little as possible, and when Agatha asked to speak to him, Mrs. Guzman improvised. "He's walking the dog," she told Agatha.

"You got a dog?" Agatha responded. "When did that happen?"

"Last week. Your father went down to the ASPCA and brought home a dog."

"Daddy hates dogs."

"He hates not having you in your room at night too," Mrs. Guzman said. "Now the dog sleeps in there."

To make it less of a lie, Mrs. Guzman planned on going to the ASPCA, pick up a dog. Any dog--a furry anything to give credibility, to deflect, to distract both herself and Agatha from the fact that Mr. Guzman had gone to a goddamn ashram, cut off all contact, abandoned his family, moved on.

Mr. Guzman said this when he left: "Agatha is on her own. I never loved you, and Agatha's empty room reminds me of how little we have to keep us together."

And Mrs. Guzman said this: "Don't leave me." She later regretted the "don't" part of that statement. She revised it in her head. Hours after Mr. Guzman left, the statement became "Leave me." A day later, the statement was "Leave me. I don't love you either." But here's the facts Mrs. Guzman knew: Her husband left her without warning, and she had said, "Don't leave me."

Incontrovertible facts. Inarguable facts. He left. She asked him not to leave.

He left.

An ashram. Who goes to an ashram anymore?

For those who need answers, there are none.

There were no answers to the question, "Why does Mrs. Guzman want to rip out Elena's throat?" and there were no answers to the question, "Why is Cobble, Elena's grandson, currently driving along Dyckman Street towards Broadway on a bicycle?" Some things just are. Mrs. Guzman watched Mr. Guzman walk out the door of their apartment, a single suitcase hanging like a ripe fruit from his left hand, and there was no answer to the question pounding around in her head: "Why?"

"Why?" is an overrated question.

(Here's why Mr. Guzman walked out: he was horny for his TA, a young woman named Tenna Slowski. Here's why Cobble braved the burning streets of Inwood, on a bike: to save his grandmother from certain doom. Here's why Mrs. Guzman wanted to rip out Elena's throat: Elena's voice annoyed both Elena and Mrs. Guzman.)

Why. It's the most dangerous and annoying word in the English language.

So Mrs. Guzman didn't ask why she'd hidden herself the instant Elena entered her apartment. She didn't ask why she wanted to kill the old woman. She didn't ask why she'd stalked down the hallway as soon as Elena turned to go back to Elena's own apartment. 'Why' was not a word she bothered with anymore. There was only "Do."

Do creep up behind Elena.

Do reach out your hand.

Do take her by the throat.

Do sink your nails into her sagging flesh.

Do squeeze your thumb towards your fingers, ripping through Elena's flesh and closing around--what--closing around her voicebox, her larynx, blood pumping out of Elena's neck and coating your hand.

Do. Dubuque.

Mrs. Guzman stepped delicately across the obnoxious carpet of the floor of the fifth floor landing, her eyes on Elena's back as the old woman used blood-laced fingers to feel her way to her own apartment. Mrs. Guzman, why-free, was all about the doing.

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