The Acentos Review

John Manuel Arias is the 22-year-old new kid on the block. Raised by a Costa Rican father and a Uruguayan mother in Southeast DC, he recently completed his Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature and Latin American Studies at Pace University. He has won several awards in Fiction and Poetry at Pace, and is slowly inching his way into the literary mainstream. He is currently working on his debut novel, Santa Teresa, a fictionalized account of his grandmother’s life in 20th century Costa Rica.
De Sangre 
         a chapter from Santa Teresa, a novel by John Arias
LA LORA LORCA was squawking his life story into the laughter of morning rain. The macaw, an expert storyteller, matched every syllable of his autobiography to the drumbeat of the storm. He yelped at lightning flashes and stretched his golden wings when the wind brought its own stories from the south. Thunderclaps ruffled his crown’s blue feathers. The mist brought new life to his beak. But like the unlucky leaf-cutter ants, his notes fell into the gutters and washed far away, parallel to the Guaria railroad’s tracks. 
Cristina Apezteguia’s house was filled with the crazed parrot’s noise. She would shut it up as soon as she finished cleaning. She did not know which racket pierced her skull more: the braying of the bird, or her husband’s silence. He hasn’t spoken since that day, she thought. And how torturous it’s been to live with a man who won’t compliment my hair or the way I throw parties for my friend. 
	Teresa’s party was just three days away. At this point, the soirée only existed in theory. Cristina had foolishly promised Teresa that she would throw a marvelous little fiesta for her and their friends—like a muse she had inspired fantastic images of a gallant evening, worthy of being called a petite presidential ball. She would buy the loveliest flowers and cook the most delicious lamb. But after weeks of refusing Teresa’s help, her walls were stilled covered in the years-old dust from pulverized statues. She had not reupholstered the furniture as planned. Dead roses lay all about the house.
Ay, what a mess this will be, she sighed. But I must make it special. Teresa has been down lately, and I must lift her spirits. 
Cristina imagined the smile of a woman who hasn’t smiled as long as her husband hasn’t spoken. 
They’ll both talk the way they used to. To me, to each other, to the guests. That is the type of party it will be. My, won’t they be happy. But now, I must clean as if my life depends on it. Coño, where will I find space for all this junk? How will I unclog the sink? And what will I use to bludgeon that psychotic pájaro?
	The Apezteguia home was the most beautiful in Barrio Ávila. A fine example of Spanish architecture: walls of white plaster decorated with Cristina’s many paintings; arches that reached to a Muslim heaven; blue tiles imported from Morocco. Cristina was a painter—celebrated as a genius in art school, her interpretations of El Greco and Diego Rivera had earned her a chance to complete a degree in the United States. But without a second thought she declined. Instead she fell in love with a sculptor—one whose talents were nationally renown. Before his refusal of speech, Congress had honored him in a ceremony that left her weeping in a brightly lit bathroom stall. Out of envy and overwhelming pride in the man who had sculpted her in the likes of Venus. But many years had passed since then. 
His love of molding my hips out of marble was so long ago. 
Desiderio had smashed every sculpture into dust. He had even tried to destroy his most famous statue as it stood in the center of el Parque Nacional. Like a lunatic, he roared and dug a knife into the knees of Juan Santamaria, attempted to hack off with a chisel the arm that held the torch. When Cristina arrived at the jail to take her husband home, he was sitting, eyes fixed to the shadows, soaking wet and aphasic. A psychiatrist from the asylum to which they had relinquished their own son recommended that Desiderio join him. They’ll keep each other company in there, he chuckled. 
Her daughter-in-law had disintegrated on the pavement. Her son would spend his future in la Iglesia. Her husband had been resurrected a mute. Three birds with one stone. And at times, against her will as she smoked long cigarettes outside, Cristina couldn’t help but blame Carmen for throwing herself out of that hospital window like a stone. A brilliant stone of opal. But that too became just another thought that Cristina would transmute into smoke and blow out into the rain.


	Cristina had invited them both to the play, but José María had yet to come home. It was already seven. The moon rose in a white veil. A clear night bloomed more humid than the night before. 
Teresa was afraid she would melt right through her new dress. Emerald-green silk; ruffles around her waist and shoulders; the hemline tastefully below her knees. She had set out her father’s black suit for José María on the bed. The audience at one of Lorca’s plays should be dressed as elegantly as possible. Especially since they would be seeing Bodas de sangre at the old French-style theater. Such intensity demands class. But he hadn’t returned from work, and Teresa impatiently drank glass after glass of ice-cold water that both stung her teeth and cooled her chest. She craned her head to the ceiling fan. 
“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro…” 
Her father used to say that counting distracted him from the heat. Teresa tallied the seconds, the budding wrinkles around her eyes in the mirror, the chirps of the displaced forest parakeets outside her window. 
Carmen exploded into the room like a rocket. She grabbed both of Teresa’s shins and began wiping her tears on her stockings. 
“Golondrina, ¿qué te pasa? Let go of me please. I have to go out soon and if you keep your face on my shin as your tears dry, you will get stuck, and we’ll both have to go to the theater.”
The child wiped her eyes with the ends of her hair.
“Mamá, I heard Lyra talking in her head. She called me annoying and said I couldn’t possibly be her sister.” 
“Mijita, of course you’re her sister. And my daughter. You must stop with these silly ideas. You know your father hates them.”
Carmen lifted her head from Teresa’s legs. Her eyes were as wide as sun disks. Such a beautiful little girl, Teresa thought. 
“You’re beautiful too, mamá.”
“Qué divina que sos. Alright, go on. Let your mother finish getting ready before you turn her into a puddle.”
“Mamá, ¿where’s papá?”
“I don’t know, Golondrina. But I hope we’ll see him tonight.”

It took only fifteen minutes for Teresa to regret wearing heels. She, Cristina and Desiderio trekked from Barrio Ávila all the way to the theater. A permanent cloud of wet dust threatened to ruin the ladies’ dresses and the gentleman’s open chest.
“Desi, someone is going to say something. ¿What if one of your benefactors saw you? ¿Parading around with your chest out like Errol Flynn?”
To Cristina’s nagging Desiderio answered, “a sculptor does not button the top of his shirt or wear black ties. He does the opposite of what bureaucrats do, my dears. And I am sure the actors and flamenco dancers will not mind it one bit.”
The sunset painted the dirt roads orange. Traversing the river of stones strained Teresa’s ankles. On their way, Cristina whispered gossip about every woman who waved hello to them. To drown her out, Desiderio cawed out scores of poems by Federico García Lorca at the top of his voice. 
“The doomed poet,” he coughed between recitations. “But a genius. ¡A genius!”
Verde que te quiero verde
Que te quiero verde
Te quiero verde
Te quiero

I can’t say I’m not relieved that José María didn’t come. But in front of my wife, I’ll feign disappointment. There is something in that man that makes me uneasy—the pure, threatening blackness of his eyes. Like blades of volcanic glass. They devour light and refuse it escape. That is what he does to Teresa. His jealousy is as famous as my sculptures—their similarity lies in their subject, and how completely her beauty conjures them both like magic. We are two men caught on opposite sides of her. But he is closer. 
¿How does one dispel the gravity of marriage? 
¿How does one change the mind of the god who makes it law? 
¿How does one deafen this country that obeys it like a blind mind does the lies of the wind? 
But I am not blind, and I see that he has imprisoned her. Except I myself am imprisoned. With a cellmate who loves me unconditionally, and whose love I cannot requite because my stare stays fixed on a crescent moon trapped behind bars of adamantine branches. 
The theater’s new lights are too bright. They give everyone a pale glow. It unflatters the wrinkles around women’s eyes. It fades the black of the men’s suits. And I cannot stand the tacky red carpeting. But the mural on the ceiling. The scene of traders with bananas and coffee on their backs, trudging through a crowd of donkeys and handsome men, making their way to the docks. Where giant ships of wood and white cloth rest on the sea. I must find out who painted that. If he is still alive, I will congratulate him.
I wait for them both outside the powder room: mi compañera de celda, y la luna bella en su propia carcel. The play will begin soon. I can hear the guitarists tuning the strings of their fingers, the sinews of their instruments. Carajo, I have run out of cigarettes.

Cristina offered her husband one of her skinny, brown-papered cigarettes. 
“English garbage,” he huffed, unbuttoning yet another button. “The tobacco is dry and bitter. A woman’s tongue should be more refined.”
Cristina laughed at his surliness. My, how attractive an artist is when he is unable to smoke, she mused. It makes his chest broader, his jaws sharper. She anticipated the passion of vexed palms on her nalgas late at night. But her instinct to please him overpowered her fantasies. She went to the open bar, batted her eyelashes at the tender who gave her a pack for free. 
Teresa watched as Cristina commanded the boy behind the bar. She could see the young heart pumping out of his chest. She admired that about Cristina—she was a woman of the world, a traveler, a seductress of too-willing men. If only I could be as confident as she is. If only I could entrance a room like she does. Si sólo, si sólo. I have never seen her sweat through her dress, or light her own cigarette. She is like a movie star…a María Félix at every occasion. 
Teresa abstained from the familiar bubbling of jealousy with pinches of how well Cristina treated her and her family. She was both her girls’ madrina, and she invited Teresa to wherever she and Desiderio went: galas, concerts, evenings at the American embassy—phenomena Teresa had not experienced since she had married José María. He hated it all. The people. Their noses held high like he was a pile of steaming mierda. Just like your mother, he would snort offhandedly. Banana workers can’t attend functions as fancy as the likes of those Cristina Apezteguia prefers. Unless they’re busboys with bananas for fingers. 

	This theater is too crowded. I can’t tell who I know, and if I can’t see anyone, I’ll have nothing to gossip about. The last time we were here, I saw Gloria Lopez’s husband eyeing a young man. ¡Oh, what a scandal that would be! Oh my, it’s so dark too. ¿Why was Lorca so dark? I have to find my way to the door, but it looks as though there is no floor. Like I’ll fall through and keep falling until the end of time. What a funny thought… the end of time. I’ll have to remember to ask Desi his opinion on the subject. 
Ever since I was a little girl, when things become too intense, I get the sudden urge to urinate. I cannot help it—I never could. So when Desi and I go to the movies or the theater, I must occupy the aisle seat. I’ve already scurried to the bathroom four times. The audience must think I’m mad. Once chills slither down the length of my bones, my bladder reacts like a gunshot. Ay, madre. I’ve missed so much of this play. Gracias a Dios that Desi and I have seen it six times already. I sat next to Teresa so I could explain any parts that might have confused her. Desi is sitting on the other side of her. He is bewitched by this play. His heart must have it memorized by now. It must have. Sometimes when I return to my seat, I see him looking at Teresa in the darkness. He seems to be studying her reactions. We are both very fond of her. I love her as if she were my only sister. I’m sure Desi feels the same. 

Teresa has not noticed my gazes. Her attention is probably harassed by Cristina’s incessant spells of urination. She has jumped from her seat four times already. That woman has ruined so many plays for me. But Teresa has stayed so calm. Her eyes are transfixed, her trance so lovely. I want to touch her hand so badly. My forearms are scalding. My fingers are screaming out for her skin. The shoes of the Spanish dancers hit the wood like my heart hits my chest. 

Whenever Cristina leaves, I can feel Desiderio’s eyes and the flames of his arm. It begs to touch my flesh. The thew beneath his shirtsleeve must feel so warm. The cologne from his wrists distracts me from the actors’ lyrics. I must not look. I must not let him touch my palm. I wish Cristina would return. She will stop his stare. His stare. His fingers. Por favor, Señor. Señor, Señor.

The young man who is the Moon steps out onto the stage. The Woodcutters’ chanting has faded along with the violins. Blue light drowns the theater. The Moon is naked, his skin dyed silvery white. His speech begins. Sweat escapes through the carefully applied paint on his chest. The Moon is wet, brilliant in the blue light that reflects off the white gloss on his penis. The young man is naked. His lines are naked through his bared teeth. He begs the rivals to open their chests so that he might crawl in. 

¡Dejadme entrar! ¡Vengo helada por paredes y cristales!
¡Abrid tejadeos y pechos donde pueda calentarme!
¡Tengo frío! 

He shivers as he begs for blood on stage. He believes that he craves it. The room is so cold. His body is shaven and painted. His penis shrinks as chills replace his veins. He begs for the warmth of another’s chest, the foamy tissue of his heart. La dulce sangre. He pauses. That same woman disorients him again. She takes her seat. He has seen her four times. And she is next to a brown woman who is black in the darkness. He can only see the reflections of her eyes. The tears he has inspired. He must continue his lines. But he is mystified by the man next to her. Never has he seen eyes so possessed. The blue light makes them sapphires in the blackness. Glowing. Flickering. He must continue his lines. But the two sets of eyes. One of water, the other fire. Parpadeando como ojos de amantes. Llamas azules en la oscuridad. Unos de agua, los otros de fuego. 
A Woodcutter pokes his back with his axe. The Moon resumes his monologue.

¡Que quiero entrar en un pecho para poder calentarme!
¡Un corazón para mí!
¡Caliente!, que se derrame por los montes de mi pecho;
dejadme entrar, ¡ay, dejadme!

High above the theater, in the pitch of the sky, the moon recites the young man’s lines. Each plea set lovingly ablaze. But its insides are not cold. They burn. 

A subtle breeze ran its breath over the leaves of low-lying bushes. Like she had thought, Teresa was sweating right through her dress, which was now two shades darker, even in the resplendent moonlight. An evil static clung to the heat and the trees. Brugmansia blossoms dared not to open tonight.
“So, ¿what did you think of the play, Tere?” Cristina asked, hoping to sever the consistent thread of silence as they walked down the familiar dirt road back to Barrio Ávila. “The boy who played the moon was odd tonight, ¿don’t you think, Desi? Probably an understudy.”
A finger of smoke tickled Teresa’s nose, and she let out a faint sneeze before answering, “I couldn’t stop crying. I wish I could have stopped myself. ¿Didn’t you notice? That moon must have noticed—he must have been wondering what kind of silly woman would be crying at a time like that.”
“Ay, Tere, don’t be so self-deprecating. I cried the first time I saw it too,” she lied. “Lorca does that to you. My, what a man he must have been. The poor thing. Such a genius… a sad, sad genius. ¿Right, Desi?”
“Tortured… like a man caught behind bars that he himself did not create. Those he was forced behind.”
“I wish you wouldn’t be so metaphorical—it’s much too late in the night to be so somber and metaphorical, Desi.”
“Infierno. Carajo. Fuego invisible…” Desiderio whispered under his breath. Each word dripped off of his tongue like moisture, leaving his whole mouth as dry as the air. “¿What the Hell kind of heat is this?”
“Hell is right. I’m sure Dante couldn’t have imagined such a heat.”
“¿Which circle do you think would have this kind of heat?” Teresa mused. But she immediately regretted voicing the thought. She knew which circle she would belong in—only the second would be fitting for her. If she continued indulging in her feelings, God would fling her right alongside the others who had been strangled by the puppet strings of Lust. She could feel Desiderio’s gaze on her intensify like a gust of sharp wind. Had he had the same thought?
“You girls and your fantasies,” Desiderio scoffed. “We are all pure of heart and intentions. It’s true that God seems to be preheating the earth like an oven. But I’m sure He plans to cook other sinners.”
“¡Ay!” Teresa yelped.
“Coño, ¿qué te pasa, Tere?” Cristina turned around and hissed. “You scared me half to death.”
“My bottom lip cracked,” she mumbled, touching her fingers to the cut across her lip. “And it’s bleeding.”

They arrived, exhausted, to the intersection of the dirt road and the Guaria railroad. Teresa’s house lay right across the tracks, perpendicular to Cristina and Desiderio’s front door. The Apetzeguia household’s white shell shone brilliantly in the moonlight. It had served as a beacon as they trudged through the dust and heat. 
“Buenas noches, Tere,” Cristina sighed as she kissed her best friend on both cheeks. She could not make the short trip across the tracks to drop Teresa at her door. A pulsing blister was swelling twice its size, and she would pop it with a sewing needle as soon as she stepped through the door. “Desi, ¿will you walk her to her door?”
“Of course I will. Vamos, Santa Teresa. We don’t want you getting lost along the way.”
“And my mother said that I didn’t marry a gentleman. Amorcito, I’ll wait for you inside. I’ll pour us something to drink too. Ice cold and strong like you like it.” Cristina ran her fingers through her husband’s graying hair. He was an old man when I met him, she thought. I wonder how he’ll look when his outside catches up to his soul.
When the door was shut and lights were on, Desiderio offered Teresa his arm. She hesitated for only a moment before she loosely clutched his bicep. It was strong. Not as strong a José María’s, but more loving in someway. 
It was ten meters to the tracks. Desiderio purposefully walked slowly, wanting to savor Teresa’s touch. In a way she was thankful; her heels ached as they traversed the unpaved ground. 
“Santa Teresa,” Desiderio began, “¿why were you crying in the theater?”
Teresa pretended to trip over a stone so that they could stop. How could he be so direct? 
“I told you both already,” she said as she turned to him. “It was the boy who played the Moon. His lines were so beautiful that I couldn’t help myself.” She wanted to tell him the truth, but she would never admit it. Never to herself. And certainly never to her best friend’s husband. 
“¿I thought saints never lie? You don’t think anyone can, but I can see you blushing. And in the theater, I could see why you were really crying. It had nothing to do with the moon,” he said sweetly, seriously. 
“Desiderio,” she said as her voice broke. “I don’t know what you mean. It’s really very late, and I’d like to get home to check on my girls. And José María should already be home. I want to ask him what happened.”
He would not push her. He was not an impatient man, as artists usually are. He was fine with waiting. For him, there was comfort in the wrenching of his stomach when their gazes met. The perfume from her skin, the quiet flare of her nostrils when she was angered—they would satisfy him for now… they would continue to be enough. For now, he would love them in her stead.
“You’re right. Cristina has probably already had two drinks by now. I bet if we listen closely, we can hear her snoring.”
 Before Teresa could laugh, a horrible sound erupted in front of them. In the middle of the tracks sat a cane toad, a meter tall, inflating its body and releasing an awful croaking so loudly that it replaced the air.