Falling by Bonard Molina García



Bonard Molina García is a writer and attorney based in Washington D.C. Connect with him via Twitter @bonardmolina

There is no way of knowing just how old Mary was when the angel appeared to her, inviting her to bear the God incarnate, but Beatriz knew that it would have been somewhere around her age. She was coming up on fifteen now, and it was strange to think that she would have been considered a woman, hecha y derecha, once upon a time.

She looked in the mirror at her small breasts. These appendages, causing so much trouble, needing to be hidden away for the sake of protecting her virtue, all while other torsos, having thrown in the towel in the battle for honor, placed theirs prominently out on display, strange amulets that exuded powers of influence across time and space. So much trouble for these, she thought, and hefted them. And she remembered the portraits she had seen of the Madonna with child, the baby Jesus suckling on Mary’s young breast.

She poked at her puffy areolas. She pressed the palms of her hands against them and pushed up gently, trying to create some cleavage. Her quince was just around the corner, and her aunts and cousins were abuzz around her, each with her own (strong) opinion about the dress Beatriz should choose. Her response was a conspicuous lack of enthusiasm.

Don’t be such a wet rag, Beatriz!

But she would look at them and shake her head. What was there to be excited about? They were planning an event given the weight of a wedding. But it was not a wedding, and the symbology was not lost on her. There was a special mass to kick things off at church, usually some homily about the Virgin Mary and chastity and the perils of the modern world. Then the reception. Young ladies in princess ball gowns. Young men in vested tuxedos. She would then be expected to dance with her father and chambelanes, selected from her brothers and cousins, presumptive chaperones for the strange new world of interaction between the sexes.

Primitive, she thought. All of it. Girls like lambs, led to the slaughter. Getting dolled up to be paraded around like something to be sold. And she probably would have been, had she been born at the wrong time. Her classmates were all delighted to finally be quinceañeras. They walked around the school in bunches, as they always had, but now they tittered more, about makeup, about undergarments, about boys. They had a funny look in their eyes, as if now privy—or about to be privy—to a great secret of humanity. Now fifteen, now women, a new dawn had broken and the world of childhood would forever be behind them. Or something along those lines. Beatriz did not really know because she did not really understand, and she certainly did not care. The best she could do was make her peace with the unavoidable tradition and allow her deputies to take the helm in planning the event.


The day had finally arrived, and Beatriz looked at herself one last time in the rearview mirror before walking into church. Her dress barely fit through the door of her family’s car, but the awkward movement went unseen. Beatriz had asked to be dropped off an hour before anyone else would be in church, insisting on caring herself for all the mass preparations.

The vestibule was dim, lit only by oblique light through stained glass windows in the nave. It took her eyes a moment to adjust. She wet the pads of her middle and ring fingers in the stone font, made the sign of the cross over herself, and began to walk down the aisle toward the sanctuary. She was lost in thought, looking at the pews as she passed them, when the sound of movement by the altar jarred her.

Alejandro was standing there, adjusting the altar cloth. Their eyes met and he walked around, down the three steps, and waited for her at the foot of the altar.

The claps of Beatriz’s heels on the stone floor reverberated in the church’s silence. She could hear her steps quicken as she proceeded down the aisle.

Hi, she said, more enthusiastically than she intended. I’m Beatriz. Welcome to San Dionisio.

Alejandro was a seminarian, sent to the church for a while, there to help with pastoral life as part of his formation. He was some four years Beatriz’s senior, and the mass for her quince was the first event in his new capacity. Alejandro had caused quite a stir when he first visited the church some weeks earlier, introduced to the community at a welcome reception, and San Dionisio had been abuzz in anticipation of his arrival ever since. Beatriz had been in attendance, and she had to admit that the excitement was somewhat deserved. Alejandro was something special. Beatriz had been to other receptions for other seminarians, and she knew the type by now: some arrogant, some timid, all stiff. But not Alejandro. The crowd parted before him like water wherever he went, and he would stop often to greet and chat. He spoke plainly, laughed easily. Kids loved him, old ladies more.

Of course! We met at reception, Alejandro said. Happy birthday!

Beatriz’ heart leapt higher than she liked at the thought that he remembered her.

The night of Alejandro’s reception, after observing from a distance for a bit, Beatriz had caught up to him at the food line, managing discretely to push herself just behind him, just out of view beyond the halo of people flowing in and out to introduce themselves and give their welcome. Once it was his turn, two old ladies hurriedly set to fixing him competing plates of food, and he saw Beatriz out of the corner of his eye. He smiled and asked her to go on ahead of him. She was taken aback for a second and absently extended her plate to the server, receiving steaming piles of shredded lamb, three warm tortillas on top.

So what do you think? Alejandro had asked her as they stepped away from the food tables. They stood facing each other, close to the church’s large wooden doors permanently shut, in a brief moment of relative peace from the busy throngs. Alejandro took a bite of food and looked at her as he chewed.

Of this? Beatriz had answered. Oh, it’s lovely. Very nice. I’m happy everyone came to meet you.

The plate was big for Beatriz’s hands, too big to hold in one hand and eat with the other, so Alejandro had reached over, taken one of the tortillas from her plate, pinched off some of the meat into it, and handed it to her. He balanced the remainder of her plate on his forearm as he ate from his own. She took a bite. Dark, moist, delicate flesh fell apart in her mouth. She watched Alejandro eat. He smiled and nodded as he chewed, and he mumbled a happy Thank you to her. He didn’t seem to mind the juices dripping down his hand, Beatriz noticed, juices that touched the white cuffs of his shirt and ran down his arm into the unknown recesses of his sleeve. And she too had smiled as she chewed. And as Beatriz swallowed that first bite and observed Alejandro excuse himself to go flirt with a pair of old ladies fawning over him, she had known that all others before him had been shadows. She had known that he alone was real.

You must have been given the wrong time for the quince mass, Beatriz said. You don’t need to be here for another hour!

Not at all, Alejandro explained. I figured I would get here early and see if I could be of help.

They stood facing one another, in that empty church and before the altar. And in that briefest of pauses, which disclosed that neither knew quite what should follow, Beatriz smiled and said: Well good, because there’s a lot to do.

Alejandro laughed and nodded. Let’s get to it then, he said.


Beatriz and Alejandro loitered in the vestibule with Padre Santiago, the pastor, welcoming guests and urging them to take their seats. Once a critical mass had assembled in the pews, Alejandro handed Beatriz the censer. They began, and as she walked down the aisle, elegantly swinging the contraption, the golden light of the setting sun pouring in through the stained-glass windows ignited the dancing smoke. Alejandro grinned broadly as he followed behind her, walking through the ribbons of fire.

Faith has hands and feet, Beatriz firmly believed, and she had wanted her mass to demonstrate as much. This is why, instead of being planted on a kneeler at the base of the altar for the duration of the mass, in front of the whole church, as quinceañeras are supposed to do, she chose to be an acolyte, assisting with mass, now alongside Alejandro. They sat next to one another, beside Padre Santiago, to the side of the altar. And as she sat in her seat, her armrest touching Alejandro’s, her arm touching his, he did not pull away, and she felt a power course through her, up and out and in and down and into him and back into her.

Of course, the party afterward was what everyone had really come for. And it was lovely. Unorthodox in venue, the reception was held in the church’s own courtyard. Padre Santiago had agreed to the peculiar request, both because Beatriz was as pious a girl as he had seen, and because he figured it was a decent symbol to project to the youth of San Dionisio: what better place to celebrate your nascent adulthood than in God’s own backyard?

And the guests loved it. Live music. Food. Drinks and conversation and much merriment. Beatriz danced the traditional (obligatory) waltz with her father and her chambelanes, followed by Padre Santiago being pushed onto the dance floor to much laughter. Padre Santiago hung his head and shook it as he walked to Beatriz. He shrugged, preemptively apologizing for his terrible dancing, and she laughed happily as he mechanically led her through the triangle steps he had obviously practiced over many years of being subject to this kind of communal humiliation. Beatriz’s heart began to race again, and she was afraid her hands would be cold to Padre Santiago’s touch, for as they moved through the music, her dress swaying back and forth, she caught Alejandro’s eyes. He looked away and joined in the communal laughter. But Beatriz could not unsee what she had seen in that moment, flames behind that smile.

When Padre Santiago had had enough, he danced them over to Alejandro and pulled him by the hand, placing Beatriz’s in his.

But Padre, Alejandro began to protest and look around and held up his plate of food as his pitiful excuse.

Thank you! Padre Santiago said, taking Alejandro’s plate and eating from it as he melted into the circle of people now cheering for Beatriz and Alejandro.

At that moment, when Alejandro’s left hand closed around her right, when her left hand found its resting place on his shoulder, and when his right hand held her firmly by her fitted satin waist, all could have been undone. The light of the fire could have glowed so bright that Beatriz’s skin would have become translucent and the circle of guests would have had to turn away from the unbearable brightness of that sun. But there is a special kindness which at times blesses the perils of young love, a guardian angel, a fairy godmother of sorts who dives in just in time to catch that naked fledgling, to leave it gently in the safety of its nest for just a bit longer, to save it from the shattering death of reality prematurely seen.

The waltz ended, Padre Santiago having bailed with just a handful of seconds remaining, and the musicians began a lively banda piece. With hoots from the crowd, the dance floor flooded with people. Beatriz and Alejandro were pulled apart energetically by an older couple, she eager to dance with Alejandro, and he eager to dance with Beatriz. 


Parallel lines intersect in infinity. How this happens is a mystery. But it is not the type of mystery we can solve by putting on our deerstalkers, taking a few puffs from our pipes, and hiking along the railroad tracks, looking at them through our magnifying glass until we figure out just how it is that the rails will one day touch. Instead, this is the type of mystery where we stand here, looking out there, scratching the tops of our heads, and we understand without knowing that somewhere, somehow, those rails will come together. The unseeable somewhere is infinity. The unseeable somehow is a mystery.

Beatriz knew all about mysteries. And after the party, late that night, so late that night had become indistinguishable from morning, she undressed and thought of the greatest mystery she knew: how unimaginable and omnipotent Love once became as tangible and delicate as a baby. Beatriz looked at her bare torso in the mirror. Mary had been her age, Joseph significantly older. A good man, a modest man. Hard working. Faithful. What had gone through his mind when she and he were engaged? What had gone through hers? Had Mary similarly sat before her own reflection, perhaps moments before the Annunciation, wondering what it would be like to have Joseph’s coarse carpenter hands glide across her skin?

Now, sex is not love. It is but a terrain love occupies. And if he had been around for Beatriz to consult, Milan Kundera could have advised her as much. But while I believe his assessment is correct, the distinction gets tricky when it comes to matters of first love. Listen to Juliet’s lament: Would not a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Certainly. But is knowing that a rose smells sweet as sweet as smelling its sweetness? Hardly. Romeo Gutierrez may well have wooed Juliet as effectively as Romeo Montague, but would Juliet have slain herself for losing an unconsummated love? Unlikely. To love is to know, says the proverb, and it makes as much sense to separate the two as it does to separate the sweetness of the rose from the sweetness of smelling it.

In truth, the distinction between love and sex is something you recognize only if your sex life has slowed down enough to allow you the time to think about your sex life. That is to say, the distinction between love and sex is something you recognize only if you are old and have lost credibility in the eyes of youth, and so your brilliant observation is as useless as the time between your coitions.

This is why, instead of listening for any advice prudence or Kundera might have offered, Beatriz instead focused on what she knew: that she loved Alejandro and that love is a mystery. She knew that she and Alejandro were living parallel lives, and she also knew, therefore, that somehow, somewhere, their lives were bound to touch.


­Alejandro became Padre Alejandro as Beatriz was wrapping up her first year at the local college. Beatriz found herself being terribly worried that he would be transferred to another parish once ordained, but in the end he was stationed in San Dionisio. Padre Santiago was retiring soon, and he wanted a say in the new blood that would come to replace him. Alejandro was the logical choice. Young, pious, charismatic. In a time when churches were fighting for parishioners around the country, attendance at San Dionisio was strong, especially among the youth, and it was no secret that this was largely Alejandro’s doing. Nonetheless, in her heart of hearts, Beatriz knew that more than logic and reason were at play in keeping Alejandro in San Dionisio. She knew it was her. She knew it was them. What they had was special, and more importantly, it was good.

That year, during the annual call to ministry, Beatriz asked for a change. She had for years been a volunteer with religious education. And, to people’s surprise, Beatriz volunteered instead to become the new sacristan. As such, Beatriz would be responsible for all manner of practical things related to the church: floral arrangements, changing decorations to make sure colors corresponded with the liturgical calendar, scheduling weddings and baptisms, ordering wine and wafers, and myriad other mundane tasks. It was solitary, invisible work, the thankless work of keeping house. And for this reason the role usually required several rounds of begging before anyone could be suckered into taking it on. But Beatriz had asked for it willingly, explaining to the curious that she loved the small tangible things like flowers and incense, and, besides, after so much time with children, it would be a nice change of pace to spend so much time in a quiet church.

The answer made sense, and people accepted it, but whenever such an exchange unfolded her heart would flutter with the secret answer hiding beneath the one she put on display. For as sacristan, Beatriz was also responsible for assisting the priest in celebrating mass, and in this role, for a few moments, just about every day, Beatriz got to be Alejandro’s partner. A mass is nothing more than a highly stylized dinner party, after all, and Beatriz would set the table while Alejandro prepared the meal. She would place the bread in the paten. She would pour the wine into the chalice. She would hand him the vial containing the water, and he would mix it in with the wine. And she would smile. Water and wine, humanity and divinity, miscible, inseparable. Alejandro would then perform that beautiful magic by which the bread and wine mysteriously became more than bread and wine, and Beatriz and Alejandro would then be united in the holy communion of feeding the church. She and he, preparing this sacred meal, inviting the world to eat at their table, inviting weary hearts to rest a while in the glowing warmth of their loving home. And when all had been fed, it was her turn to receive. She would open her mouth and present her tongue for Alejandro to touch with Christ’s body. She would drink from the chalice, handing the remainder back to Alejandro, and she saw how he would turn the chalice a bit, just enough so that as he imbibed the elixir of life, his lips touched Beatriz’s by proxy.

To Beatriz’s mind, those days of serving in the church were, without a doubt, the best in her life. Beatriz and Alejandro would spend many hours just talking, as they set up for mass and as they cleaned up afterward; as they changed the colors between lent and Easter, between advent and Christmas; as they prepared the church for weddings and baptisms and funerals. They would speak of things related to the church: the youth group, the upcoming festivals, the various ministries and all manner of pious and practical things. Rarely, if ever, did the conversation turn to matters of one another. But it did not matter. If the Blessed Body could taste just like bread, and mediocre bread at that, then it was okay if the words of their intimacy sounded ordinary, inconsequential, and bland.


Beatriz’s cousin from Zacatecas was turning fifteen. Her parents were excited to have an excuse to go spend a few days with the rest of the family, getting all dressed up, preparing for the massive social affair. But Beatriz had to study for her exams, so she opted to stay home.

But we can’t leave you here alone, her mother protested.

Mamá, I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m an adult now—in college and everything. Don’t worry. My books will keep me company.

Her mother was loath to leave Beatriz home alone for two days, but missing the quince while arguing with her pig-headed daughter would be the greater sin.

Beatriz’s Father was harder to convince.

You love Zacatecas, he said.

I do, Papá, and I really wish I could go, but you’ve seen how much I’m studying, and you’ve seen what my exam schedule is like.

He nodded. Maybe I should stay too? he asked, though the question felt more like a light probe with his paternal antennae.

Beatriz sighed. You do remember the conversation we had about living at home right?

Don’t start.

Don’t start what? Papá, you know it’s normal to live by yourself when you’re in college. Beti and I have been talking about getting an apartment together—

Enough. Fine. It worked, her father said. I’ll leave you alone. But I better see that notebook full of notes and the tequila bottle still full of tequila when I return.

Beatriz squeezed her father tightly. You don’t need to worry about me, she said.

He squeezed her back.

Her mother kissed her and made the sign of the cross over her.


Alejandro was in the market, buying flowers to bring on his weekly visit to the hospital. He enjoyed that stand in particular, the smile of its attendant, the beauty of the flowers, and the sweet smell of unavoidable decay that accompanied all organic matter. The flowers stood in bloom, in vibrant defiance of their execution days before.

His phone rang. Alejandro answered absentmindedly.

Good morning, Padre Alejandro speaking.

Where are you? It’s so noisy!


She would call Alejandro from time to time, but not usually in the middle of the day.

Yes, I’m here in the market. What’s going on?

I’m sorry. Am I interrupting?

No. Not at all, just picking up some flowers.


Alejandro laughed. Well, you know how the ladies at the hospital like their flowers!

They do if they’re from you!

They both laughed.

So, Beatriz continued, as it turns out, my cousin from Zacatecas is celebrating her quince this weekend.

That’s great! Enjoy it. It’s a beautiful city. Don’t worry about it. We’ll manage without you at church.

Actually, I’m not going.

That’s a shame. Why not?

Well—she said slowly, as if choosing her words carefully—I have a lot of studying to do.

Alejandro laughed. Oh Beatriz, you have to go! You can’t miss it for that. Let me guess—your mother made you call me so I would talk some sense into you because she doesn’t want to miss it.

Actually, she said, taking pauses of increasing duration between her words, she’s not going to miss it. I convinced them to go without me.

Alejandro was silent.

So I’ll be here, studying, alone, this whole weekend.

The ground moved beneath him. He was dizzy. His heart fluttered. It wanted to break whatever previously unknown enclosure had been holding it in. It wanted to spread its wings.


What were you thinking?

I remember looking at the ground as my mother scolded me, on more than one occasion. Well obviously I wasn’t, I wanted to say, in explanation, if not excuse. But I wonder now whether thinking would have honestly come to my rescue. After all, I clearly remember various instances of lamentable judgment when my mental faculties had been quite complicit. In fact, I’m even willing to bet that Adam and Eve actually reasoned themselves into eating the fateful fruit.

Temptation, my grade-school nuns would remind me, only works if it is tempting. And the pictures of temptation I grew up with, as amply provided by churrigueresque churches, were very fleshy. Lust. Avarice. Pride. Etc. Etc. Orgies of pleasure. A litany of delectable experiences. Satan’s false promises must have large breasts and taste like candy, I concluded early on.

Oh but what a terrible devil the devil would be if he wore a nametag to the party! And so what the churches hid from me, what all those sculptures of the gored Christ and martyrs failed to disclose, was that the devil, far from being a carnival barker selling cheap tickets to the nudy show, was actually infinitely subtler, and approached me daily with the impeccable taste and unassailable reason of my own damned self.


On Friday evening, after Doña Matilda, the gentle soul who dedicated herself to cooking and cleaning up after the hapless priests, had gone, Beatriz knocked on Alejandro’s door. She stepped inside and walked straight to the kitchen table. She sat down and opened up her backpack.

Alejandro, I’m really going to need your help, she said. This stuff is so boring. If you don’t keep me awake, I’m going to fall asleep right here and drool all over the table.

She spread her books, took out notebooks, pens, and highlighters, put on her glasses, and got to work.

Alejandro made coffee and sat down beside her. He had been planning on asking her to help him plan a retreat, but she had brought her own work to occupy her. Like everything else in her life, Beatriz took her studying very seriously, so Alejandro read one of his books as she worked.  He glanced in her direction on occasion, sometimes to see her pull her hair back behind her ear, sometimes to see her bite her lip as she scribbled some note. She never once turned to meet his eyes.

After an hour or so, it dawned on him that food was in order, but he had little to offer. He customarily went out to eat on Fridays, so Doña Matilda had not cooked.

Quesadillas? he asked.

Beatriz smiled at him and nodded. She went back to her work.

Alejandro walked over to the refrigerator, opened it, and stared. He retrieved a pack of flour tortillas, some braided melting cheese, and the bit of beef stew left over from the night before. He heated a nonstick pan on the gas range and peeled a tortilla from the top of the stack. He placed it neatly in the middle.

You know, he told himself, this is the point when normal people go out for a bite.

He stared at the warming circle of bread.

Yes, well, we are not normal people, are we?

Perhaps not the best retort he could have mustered, but it rang true. He separated strands of cheese and placed them in the center of the tortilla, then spooned a bit of stew on the strings that were melting together, losing their form. Yes, their special friendship was hardly conventional, but it was equally true that the deep intimacy that had developed between them was borne of a genuine love deeply shared. In fact, if he were being honest, theirs was an intimacy unseen in any of the countless relationships he had come to know in his line of work. The fruit is good, he reminded himself as he folded the tortilla over the melting cheese and warming stew, so the tree is good.

Having prepared the meal, he set the table on the half Beatriz wasn’t using. The quesadillas lay in a plate for them to share. He poured them each a glass of pomegranate-colored agua de Jamaica.

Beatriz rubbed her eyes and put away her books. She moved over one seat.

Shall we?

She extended her hands to Alejandro. He took them in his.

Her touch was electrifying. Their hands were glowing. She closed her eyes. He closed his.

Lord, thank you for this meal.

Her voice was earnest and confident. Her hands burned. He wanted to open his eyes, to see her mouth as she spoke, but he didn’t.

Thank you for this time together, she continued. Thank you for the blessing of love. Even if it is mysterious.




I had a teacher once who said that reading Nietzsche should be forbidden for people younger than thirty-five and required of people older. I imagine Daedalus felt much the same way about human flight. If we feel wary about letting youth behind the wheel of an automobile, how much greater our concern if they wanted to simply fly off?

Daedalus didn’t really have much of a choice, I suppose. Flight had come at an inopportune moment. It had arrived as an untimely need.

There he was, the greatest craftsman the world had ever known, drawing up the plans for the wings that would give him flight—give his son flight—for the first time in human history. Flight for the gods alone? Oh no. Not any longer. Here it was, the ability to leave our weight behind, the power to transform ourselves into pure possibility. Fire? Why thanks but no thanks, Prometheus, with these we can ascend Olympus and get it ourselves.

Or so the temptation beckoned. Daedalus, prudent man that he was, knew as much, and this is why he trembled as he crafted the wings. This is why he wiped cold sweat from his brow as his son danced around the workshop.

Are we really going to fly, father?

Yes, yes we are, Daedalus said to himself. Much too soon, but yes, Son, we will be flying. Sadly, the time has come.

They could have remained in Crete, of course. Sure, they were prisoners, forbidden to leave lest Daedalus divulge the secrets of the labyrinth he had designed for the Minotaur, but we all know what white-collar prisons are really like. Daedalus knew something Icarus could not yet know: life, life even in the lap of luxury, is no life at all if you are bound to it. Was he, the greatest creative mind of his age, going to allow his most beloved creation to be imprisoned by his most fearsome? No. Icarus was now a young man, and he had reached the point of no return. Daedalus would either give him a shot at the life he was meant to have, or doom him to get by, safe until dead.

Standing on the edge of the cliffs, wind making it difficult to hear, Daedalus went over the rules for the hundredth time. Too high, your wings burn and melt; too low, they get wet and heavy. Stay the course, Icarus. Keep your head, Icarus. Avoid the extremes, Icarus. Follow me, Icarus. Please, Icarus. Please.

Icarus, of course, could not help himself. He really intended to listen to his father, whom he respected so much and whom he knew had nothing but his best interests in mind. He really did intend to follow all the rules.

But when the warmth of the wind lifted him, when his curls and his feathers (his feathers!) were tussled in unison, when the gold of the light hit him just so, well, then the world was perfect. More particularly, he was perfect. He was weightless. This was perfection. This was bliss.

And the sun called him.

Moral of the story? Hubris is bad, children. Going it alone because you believe you are omnipotent or immortal or the functional equivalent leads you to bad places. You discard the wisdom of your elders at your peril.


This is at least what I learned from my father, as he learned from his father, as he learned from his. But the older I get, the closer I get to the edge where I will see someone looking up to learn from me, the less it all rings true.

There is no possible alternative ending, you see. Just as Daedalus could not sit there and let them rot, so too was Icarus powerless before the sun. Replay the story a thousand times in a thousand different ways and they all end the same way. They all end on falling. This is not exactly uplifting. This gives us nothing to hold on to, nothing to learn from Icarus’ mistakes. It smacks too much of life is shit and then you die.

And Ovid understood this, even all those years ago. He knew that the story was not about sons and fathers, and not even about obedience’s tempering power over hubris. The story was quite simply about Daedalus’ power over weight in flight and about Icarus’ powerlessness before weight in falling. It was not a position paper, it was not simply one more lesson among all the others in the tired old repertoire of humanity’s cautionary tales. The story was instead an inquiry, an honest look into indissoluble human paradoxes. Power and weight. Magic and mystery. Flight and falling.

This is why it is fitting that Ovid should open Book II of his handbook on love, the Ars Amatoria, with the story of Icarus, the story of the unavoidable tragedy that is falling in love.


After their meal, Beatriz insisted on helping Alejandro wash the dishes. Washing the dishes turned into a splash fight. The splash fight turned into a wrestling match. And the wrestling match turned into Beatriz and Alejandro finding themselves on the kitchen floor, wet and entangled.

She lay beside him, motionless, watching him wipe off water and suds, his smiling gaze aimed at her, traveling up and down as he cleaned her. Then his gaze rested on hers. She closed her eyes. His fingers brushed her hair behind her ear.

And he kissed her.

Tiny little kisses. Her forehead. Her cheekbones. Her cheeks. The corner of her mouth. And the kisses remained there for a moment, his hand caressing her hair. She turned toward him, ever so slightly. And her lips were on his. She opened her mouth. And she opened her eyes, ever so slightly. And their mouths smiled as they danced and explored and finally knew one another.


The problem with love is that it makes extreme demands but brings no useful proposals to the table. We are left to make do with what we have. We are left to love with our own devices, and if our devices are crude and blunt, well, we have no choice, and the art reflects it.

Beatriz was a smart girl, and we are justified in imputing on her the knowledge that she was asking for trouble by believing in mysteries instead of listening to the voice of reason. No le busques tres pies al gato, my grandmother would have advised her, sabiendo que tiene cuatro. Perhaps. She knew she loved Alejandro. And she knew he loved her. Period. What that would translate into in concrete terms she did not know, and it did not matter. She was happy to punt that question down the tracks. Her life was unconventional, she herself recognized, but it was also true that convention never got anybody anywhere, at least not anybody worth emulating. Know a tree by its fruits, Jesus himself had said, and their fruit was good.

Of course, the thing with that love, first love, is that it displaces all other knowledge, imputed or not. First love is illuminating and all-consuming, and by its same light becomes completely blinding. It is its own sun, around which all else orbits—or burns, if you get too close.

And we always get too close.


Alejandro, I’m pregnant.

Beatriz fell into him, crying.

What are we going to do?

She kept repeating that one question through her tears. But he couldn’t hear her. A vacuum inside him was making everything implode into a sick void. The world, sounds and all, was falling straight into his chest, bypassing his ears altogether. So he said nothing. He just held her, and she cried in his arms without him intervening.


An old joke worth retelling:

Adam asks Eve, Do you love me?

Eve answers, Who else?

But did Eve really love Adam by default? Or worse yet, by necessity? Adam and Eve were without a doubt everything to one another. And since God, we might posit, would not stand for persons created in his image and likeness being ugly or unpleasant, we seem to be in general agreement that love between the two would sooner or later have taken root. But it is difficult to really say whether and how it did. After all, Adam and Eve were naked and beautiful and alone, and love may well have been a solution to a problem they did not have.

Until the serpent, that is. Whatever it was that happened in the garden that day, we know one thing for certain: they did not simultaneously take a bite from the forbidden fruit. According to sources, Eve bit first; Adam followed.

This is the paradox of the unity of a couple. You plan together, make decisions together, live together, but in the end your death is just yours. You are presented at the pearly gates by yourself. No waiting room for your beloved. Just you.

And so they talked about it, I am sure. And, knowing what I know about marriage, Adam was likely on the fence and at some point Eve decided it was time to shit or get off the pot.

This is why I don’t buy the story that hers was an act of weakness. It was the first act of courage. This is something they had already decided to do together. It was a voyage they would take hand in hand. But even as they stood at the edge of the cliff, side by side, one needed to jump first.

And jump she did.

Those moments between her bite and his must have been interminable. For the duration of that lapse, an entire eternity existed between them. If Adam were to back out, if he were to decide he would rather remain in Eden, her world would end. He would continue on in the promises of paradise, and she would face the wrath of God alone.

So she coaxed him to take a bite.

An act of manipulation? Undoubtedly. Evidence of evil? Hardly. Tempting Adam with the delectable fruit in her outstretched hand was simply the first evidence of her new humanity. She was vulnerable. She was afraid. She was asking for his hand, for solidity and support the way only a mortal would need it. And Adam did. Whatever was going on inside him during the eschatological lapse, in the end took his own bite. In the end, Adam kept his word.

Whatever love meant before the bite, it meant something different during and after. Love, after all, is fairly ethereal without fear to make the heart quicken and take a stand. Love, in the real world, demands sacrifice for the beloved. Eve sacrificed much in biting first. Adam sacrificed much in biting second. This is why I used to muse romantically about the first act of love consummated in Eden, and now I know the truth. Sex in the innocence of ignorance is not love, not really. Choosing death for your beloved, even if that choice is completely misguided and predicated on a serpent’s faulty premises and false promises, that is love. Misguided, beautiful love.

That is the love that begat us.

That is the love from which we came.

The Acentos Review 2019