Falling asleep proved way harder than I thought, but at this point I was not surprised. I sat on the bed, going in and out of consciousness, too tired to be awake but unable to sleep; and also frankly scared of what my dreams might bring, even with the pills’ effects. After todays’ episode with Mr. Domínguez, I was sure now, I had to come clean, and I had no idea how I would explain all of it to Jacobo’s family, or to my own.
Not only was the wage I was promised at stake, but also my sanity, so perilously close to falling apart. In the middle of all these worries, I fell into a dreamless sleep, and I didn’t wake up until the morning.
It hadn’t been enough to restore my energy, but it had helped. I set about my chores, pushing everything else out of my mind, which was easier now that I had started taking my medicine again. A quick snack break, and then I was back to it, washing the windows again, doing my laundry, avoiding the garden. I even went back to the bookshelf and rearranged all the books in order, by author, topic and year. I didn’t know whether Mrs. Echeverría would like that, but I appreciated the distraction.
It was there, next to the bookshelf, that I had started hearing voices. “Wrong”, they said. “Wrong and misplaced”. I was sure they referred to me, that they were part of my —
— anxiety and self-deprecation exacerbated by —
— all that had been happening, the accident and the old man. The old man that had also said (wrong).
I paused. Were these voices really in my head? If so, what had been those steps I refused to acknowledge behind me, above me, just a few minutes ago. Why was I feeling like this even after taking my pills?
The worst part was that no matter how much I explained, no one would believe me. No one would understand that the reason why the garden was in such a state a few days into my house-sitting duties was because of some nightmare that had crossed over, and my terrible choice of burying roadkill in a house that didn’t belong to me. What had I been thinking. Guilt didn’t even begin to excuse all this shit.
Before I knew it, I was heading downstairs, towards the grave under the palm tree. I wanted to dig it up and burn the body, something I maybe should have done from the start, burned it along with my clothes (but what about the smell, what about the neighbors?); I wanted to yell at it and demand that it stopped torturing me. It was just not fair, after all I had done for its sake, for my sake.
I stood in front of the grave, my mouth open as I was about to start talking to it, and I stopped dead in my tracks because not only had the new grass on top of it died, but so had all the grass surrounding it, a circumference of three or four meters of dead grass.
And on top of the grave, as if mocking me, the cempasúchitl was in full bloom. I felt the urge to cut it down, to stomp on it, to ask it everything that I had been about to ask the grave itself. But I looked around once more and noticed that every single tree and plant in the garden was dying. I panicked, not sure whether to flood the garden in an effort to keep all the plants alive, or to just let them all die, to hell with this, and leave and never come back. I kept hearing the steps around me, but I was completely (crazy) alone.
I didn’t flood the garden. I didn’t leave and never come back. I went upstairs instead.
A call came in from Mrs. Echeverría, but I let it go to voicemail, unsure of what I could tell them. Unsure of how to explain that I had fucked everything up. Tiredness was my new normal. I was tired of the garden, and the lying and the anxiety, of the craziness that had become my head.
It was a shame I didn’t pick up Mrs. Echeverría’s call, I thought. She had always been a delight to talk to.
A field of cempasúchitl flowers surrounded me. Their poignant but refreshing smell filled my nostrils, and my disembodied consciousness hovered over the fields.
There was a house in the distance, far away. My curiosity was tickled by its presence, and I floated as fast as I could in that direction, smelling the flowers as I went, and the flowers’ smell was the richest and most real thing I had ever encountered. The closer I got, the more I realized that the house was in fact a hut: small, austere, shoddily built at the feet of a small hill, on top of a rock. The hill wasn’t there before, but now it was so evident that I could not believe I had missed it a second ago. All the fields I’d been flying above surrounded it.
Suddenly, I was aware of the storm forming behind me, and I rushed as fast as I could. I needed to get to that hut; there was nothing more important than that, but the distance seemed to increase the more I moved, and I started feeling like I would never arrive.
But I was there, now, at the door, and rain had started falling from the sky. I needed shelter, and the hut was perfect for that. Closing the door behind me, I noticed I was not just my consciousness anymore, but I was me. I looked around the place. There was a small oven with a fire burning, a makeshift table with some ceramic plates, a mat made of straw in a corner that looked so comfortable, a small chair, and sitting on it, my not-dad from another dream, from another life. And my not-dad was old. Old and familiar.
He looked less like my dad than he ever had, his face was older, his wrinkles carved deep into his face and gave him an air of wisdom and loneliness. His eyes were so deep that everything seemed to revolve around them. He was dressed humbly, and his hands (knotty from working his whole life) rested on his knees as he looked at me.
“Poor Bernardo, misplaced and wrong”, he said.
He raised his hand and pressed it against his forehead. His hand went through the skin, and out of his head he pulled his skull. How beautiful, I thought, and it truly was, with shapes and symbols carved all over it.
Holding his beautiful skull, he looked at me, and stood up. Making sure I was paying attention, he left the hut and walked under the rain, I followed him like in a trance. Behind the house and under a roof made of straw and sticks, there was a hole the size of a small man, and I realized without surprise that that was his grave. His empty grave. With care, lovingly, he put the skull in the hole, facing the cempasúchitl fields, and then he nodded at me.
And I understood.
My consciousness flew up, high above the hut, and the whole world moved around me in a flash, towards the north, and I landed on top of the house where I now slept. I crossed the roofs and the walls, and I entered my sleeping body.