Our Lady of Desire
In the afternoon, Dona Oliva found herself all but alone on deck, reclining in one of the loungers. Most of the passengers had retreated to their cabins, in order to recover from the party that had lasted until morning. Hans and Curto Chivito were asleep in an embrace on the floor. They slumbered so soundly no one dared wake them. Dona Oliva hadn’t slept a wink. She couldn’t bear her nieces running off like that. To make matters worse, as they approached the coast, the ship began to teem with mosquitos, and Dona Oliva couldn’t stand mosquitos. As soon as she’d closed her eyes, the buzz of the insects would wake her. She was about to burst into tears, such was her despair, when, out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of a woman a few feet away. When she turned to see who it was, all she found were Hans and Curto Chivito, lying on the floor, snoring. Dona Oliva looked around again, but still couldn’t see the woman. She shrugged and closed her eyes to try and take a nap. Then she felt something brush against her face, ever so gently. She thought it was a mosquito. Angry, she opened her eyes, ready to swat the cursed thing, and was now face-to-face with the woman, who was sitting in the chair beside her. She wore a floor-length white dress, with long sleeves and a high neck. It was made of lots of cloth, so much cloth that, when she settled into the chair, the dress draped in folds over her legs and down to the floor. She looked like she’d stepped out of a painting. On her head, the woman wore a white lace veil, airy and flowing. It must have been the veil that brushed across my face when she went past, thought Dona Oliva. The veil was secured atop the woman’s brown hair with a golden crown. Dona Oliva had never seen her on the ship and said so. The woman told her she was Our Lady of Desire, and that she was just passing through. She was quite pale, nearly the color of her dress, and Dona Oliva imagined the mosquitos must have a grand old time feasting on such fair skin.
To make matters worse, as they approached the coast, the ship began to teem with mosquitos, and Dona Oliva couldn’t stand mosquitos.
So she asked the woman if the veil was for the mosquitos. The woman laughed and said no, but it did work splendidly for that purpose, as it kept them at a more agreeable distance. Whenever there got to be too many, she told Dona Oliva, all she had to do was bring the two edges together to form a little mosquito-proof tent. It made for a divine mosquito net. The woman asked if Dona Oliva wanted to try on the veil. Dona Oliva nodded and the woman got up, removed the crown and veil and placed them on Dona Oliva’s head. She brought the two edges together and left her there inside. The mosquitos couldn’t touch her. It was delightful.
“Heaven,” Dona Oliva told the woman.
The woman smiled and, before she left Dona Oliva with the veil, said:
“That’s right, you’re absolutely correct. Heaven is just like this, only without the mosquitos.”