Two crosses

María Alejandra Barrios

Every woman in our neighborhood knows that if you’re not sure if he’s going to marry you, you go to Valdivia, the woman of the two crosses. Stuck between two lovers? Valdivia. Confused about his hot and coldness? Valdivia. Wondering if you can get pregnant at all? Valdivia. She’ll see you in her house, say a muted prayer that only she can hear, and she will tell you what you need to know.

But you wonder if the question you have is asking for far too much. If she has the same clarity with spirits as she does with the living.

The word sticks to your tongue. Valdivia. Soft like the spring the countries below the equator don’t have. Soft like what you imagine spring is like: flowers that bloom and are softened by rainwater and flowers that when you touch them feel like cotton.

When you go to see her, you get scared that someone will see you entering her house and tell your deeply Catholic mother. You sit in front of her, and you wait for her to say her famous prayer that no one can really hear but that people think summons spirits. Your friends have described the process, and it makes you less nervous. You know she’ll take the black notebook and write your questions down with her neat little handwriting. That handwriting that resembles ants.

You tell her your questions. One. Two. Next to each question, she draws a little cross. Neat and black like the rest of her words that blend together in front of you. You put a hand on your stomach. Valdivia. You say the word in your head. The authority the name contains calms you. You only know what he had told you about pines and springs — new beginnings in other faraway places. You close your eyes wondering if you know anything else.

When you leave Valdivia’s house, you see the fresh rain on the streets. You smell it, the water on the pavement, and on the air. You walk home with a broken spirit and a rosary that Valdivia gave you as a souvenir.

“It’s palo de rosa,” she said. “Someone brought it to me from Rome. You take care of it.” You take the rosary to your nose, and you smell it, but it doesn’t smell like a rose, it has a faint smell of pines. But you wouldn’t know. You know the smell of Roble de Oro trees and Matarraton trees but you have never been inside a deep forest.

You open the door to your room, relieved not to see Mami or anyone else around. One of the questions was how Mami would react to the pregnancy. Would she kick you out? Valdivia wasn’t sure but she said that you would be okay, no matter what. “Pray. Listen,” she said. You closed your eyes and prayed that you had the strength to believe it was as easy as that.

You leave the rosary on the bed and you throw yourself next to it. You examine it.

Valdivia. The woman who said that she didn’t have answers about the dead. Only about the living.

A rosary, prayed beat by beat, was your best chance to talk to him.

Valdivia talked about the faraway land where the ones who are no longer with us go to. You close your eyes and you wonder in which puerto he’s arriving now. You touch your stomach, and you unfasten your tight skirt. In your insides: a new beginning. You place your palm looking up, following Valdivia’s advice, as if you were telling the universe you were ready to receive.


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