|Chagrin River Review||
My Favorite Words in Spanish
I have forgotten my real name. At least that is what I told everyone in Lima. Everyone calls me Pancho now. And, poco a poco, I am forgetting English too.
Pecho. It means chest in Spanish. Whenever she sees me grab mine, as we make our way along the trail, as we make our way into the sky, she gives me the coca tea. I ask her again how high we are, but my mind has long lost the ability to do the conversion math, meters to feet. She only smiles, puts a cup in my hands, gives me a thumbs up. Her skin is a shade of red and brown and gold that I have never seen before, that perhaps does not exist anywhere else but on her. Sonrisa.
The spike-like peaks and the wind and then, of course, the unforgiving horror of gravity test my nerve, make me all too aware of the fragility of bones and blood, bringing death so close that I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I am actually still alive, as if my beating heart was some old memento that I have found in the couch cushions years after I have stopped looking for it. But I am not afraid. The tea is the antidote for that. She always smiles after giving me the tea. She knows about the tea.
Arriba, arriba. Like mules. Will I die here? Si Dios quiere. Dios. We are getting closer all the time, closer to God, closer to the top, closer to each other. On the third night she only prepares one tent. She says she’s in love. Te quiero, Pancho. Te quiero mucho, mucho, mucho. I think she means all of it, not just me. The Earth, the life, all of it, and me too. I don’t think these things can be separated anymore, and it is so impossible to think that it will all continue without me one day. Te quiero mucho. I believe her.
She offers up pieces of herself, one piece at a time, for me to burn into my mind forever. Mi lunar, she tells me, and she rolls over to show me the birth mark on her back. Mi lunar. A thing that she has never seen herself, a thing in the shape of a country. I stare at it until I’m sure, sure that I have it. Because I know what she knows—that someone, somewhere has gotten it all backwards, that life is the real heaven, but only for a moment.
Nicolas is finishing up his MFA at Oklahoma City University. His work has recently appeared in North American Review, Citron Review, Siren, Red Earth Review and is forthcoming in a few others. Additionally, he won the 2013 Vuong Short-Story Prize for Loma Prieta Blues, a story that will appear in the next edition of Florida English.