so it would be cold at dinner. Everyone knew what she had in the bag, but they learned that she was embarrassed to be seen with a beer. Out of respect, they stopped acknowledging having seen her, allowing her that three-quarter mile moment of privacy. Even children playing in the streets would quietly go inside to watch TV until she was safely inside her house. Sra. Puente had never been in love before she met Sr. Puente. And once she fell in love with him, the rest of the town seemed to recognize the truth of the relationship. As far as anyone could tell, no other man ever approached heror even considered approaching herto ask her out, much less anything else. Once she had decided on Sr. Puente, Sra. Puente belonged to him and with him. Even in a little town full of people who couldn’t read or write much beyond their own name, everyone could understand what had happened when Sr. and Sra. Puente met. Even the widow Flores, who was known to have looked at men with an unholy gaze more than once, never again looked at Sr. Puente, except with humility and respect. Sra. Puente liked to bake for Sr. Puente. And Sr. Puente liked cakes. They had grown slightly portlier over the years, though not so much as to be considered fat. The only visible consequence was that when Sra. Puente reached out and touched Sr. Puente’s face, she would sometimes take a pinch of his cheek, too. Sr. Puente again began to be embarrassed by his wife’s displays of affection. After some more years, he again gave up and accepted them as true signs of love. Whenever she touched his face, Sra. Puente would get tears in her eyes, as if she meant to tell him that life without him would be meaningless, and that even if he died, she would not let go of him. When Sra. Puente got pregnant, she was almost 32. No one knew why they had waited to have children, but in truth it was a miracle they had a child at all. Sra. Puente had a medical condition that, according to the visiting doctor, would prevent her from bearing a child. When she got pregnant, no one was more surprised than Sra. Puente, with Sr. Puente a close second. Since they were uncertain about the sex of the child, they would speak in general terms about its future. Sometimes they would talk about “him” helping Sr. Puente in the shop as soon ‘as he was old enough. At other times they would talk about “her” helping Sra. Puente prepare Sr. Puente’s lunch and then walking with her to take it to him. They talked about their plans for their child so much that before he was born, all the women who would watch Sra. Puente from their kitchen windows at noon had already started to imagine a little girl walking with her as she brought lunch to her husband. The little girl would be wearing a neatly ironed dress and red tennis shoes. The men had started seeing a little boy in the background in Sr. Puente’s shop, sitting on a stool. Sr. Puente himself had carried the baby to the doctor. He never asked for a ride; he just walked as fast as he could through the thigh-high, dry grass of the empty lots, cutting the distance by almost a mile. He arrived at the doctor’s office in 15 minutes. Sra. Puente walked quickly behind him, dirtying the hem of her dress on the grass as she tried to keep up with her husband. When the doctor came out to see Sr. Puente, he simply told him that the baby was dead, that there was nothing they could have done about it. Sr. Puente had not wanted to hand the baby over in the office, thinking that if he just held on to him for a few minutes, the baby would look up again and smile. After some 30 minutessome say it was more like an hourSra. Puente convinced her husband that the baby had only been on loan, and that it was time to give him back. In the parking lot, she had to stop Sr. Puente when he started to punch himself hard on the face for not saving Emilio. Days later, you could still see the bruises. The doctor’s young assistant, who many years later became a doctor herself, had been standing at a window watching. She could hear his cries. She saw Sra. Puente -hold down his arms and look at his face to stop him. He had kept repeating to himself through his sobs, “Yo no quiero dejar al nino aqui solo. Me lo quiero llevar pa’ la casa con nosotros.” “I don’t want to leave the baby here alone. I want to take him home with us.” After awhile, the assistant saw the couple walk away, holding hands as they crossed through the tall, dusty grass. On the morning of the funeral, the rain came gently from the west. Having been awake most of the night, they saw 30 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JULY 28, 2006
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