His mother took her usual seat on the recliner to read the newspaper. Agustin knew she would soon doze off before waking up again and resuming to read as if nothing had happened.
Her reading glasses slipped down the bridge of her nose.
“¿Que pasó con el libro que le compre?” Agustin asked as his eyes scanned the book shelf. There were books about Nostradamus, mathematics, Galileo, and Gabriel García Márquez.
None had Ramón López Velarde, a poet, written on the spine.
Briefly alert, María looked up from her newspaper and said, “Rico se lo robó.” Rico was María’s brother. At wedding parties, birthday parties, and quinceañeras Rico’s wife, Bertha carried a large, empty tote to fill with stolen tequila and wine bottles from the host’s home.
María shut off the television that had been showing her latest telenovela. Folding up the newspaper and taking off her glasses, she set them on the coffee table before saying goodnight to Agustin.
A poster-size photo of his daughter at two years old hung on the wall by the guest bedroom. The room was set up the way it always had been with a freshly made bed, a wardrobe with empty hangers and clean towels, and on the dresser sat a framed family photo of Agustin, his daughter, and Refugia. From his suitcase, Agustin pulled a pair of old gym shorts and a t-shirt. The t-shirt had once been as black as obsidian at a time when Mötley Crüe still dominated the airwaves. Shutting off the light, Agustin pulled back the covers and laid on his back. He had forgotten that the mattress was as stiff as an ironing board. The next day would surely include a parade through town greeting aunts and uncles. He would exchange tired jokes with cousins that he hadn’t seen since they were learning to count on an abacus. Despite the mausoleum he slept on, sleep enveloped him.
It was almost impossible to sleep in. At seven every morning a sweet-bread seller rode on his bicycle shouting “¡El pan!“ The zaguán creaked open and María bought a basketful of bread for thirty pesos. Other times she would haggle for twenty. Carlos, as usual, was up when the sun rose, tending to his borregos and the donkey that Agustin’s daughter had named Bonita. While there were no roosters, the sheep would bah most of the day. The house was small enough to hear dishes clink in the kitchen. Facing defeat, Agustin crawled out of bed. Swinging the kitchen door open, he said buenos días to his mother. From a glass cabinet, he grabbed a freshly washed mug. On the counter sat an open box of milk. After he had filled the mug, he took two tablespoons of ground coffee and mixed it in.
Just as he took his seat, his mother set the basket in the center of the table. She pulled back the white cloth revealing the soft and warm breads. Without even offering him one, she set a small breakfast plate in front of him and a piece of bread. Carlos came back inside. Washing his hands, he then grabbed a bowl from the dish drainer and served himself beans which he had every morning.
Agustin ate slowly. María peeled pomegranates as she questioned what his plans were for the day and if he would go to church with her.
“There are some rosary beads in your room. Did you already forget the Lord’s Prayer?”
“Mamá, can I borrow the car?” he asked.
After breakfast, María agreed he could take their car to go to downtown Tlaxcala. The drive was short. He drove past La Casa del Mojito and La Rola; these were places he remembered going to when he was young. Sometimes he had gone there instead of attending class.
When his mother had questioned his failing grades, he had brushed her off. She had outlined a plan for him after his high school graduation. He had dreamt of being a writer.
Growing up, he had watched his mother wear pages thin as she immersed herself in the town of Macondo. Later, she introduced him to Jorge Luis Borges while most of Tlaxcala worked in the fields harvesting maize and beans or raising livestock. His father, Carlos, raised sheep and occasionally rabbits. As a young boy, he had a helped his father kill a few rabbits to make mixiotes, a pit-barbecued dish. While he had never complained about working with his hands in the field, the pen was his machete. However, his mother argued that writing was not the profession of a husband. Teaching was a safe and professional career. A career with which he could comfortably support a family. “Me voy a tener que disfrazar de maestro?” He quipped as he held up a paisley tie like a theater prop.