7

In the evenings, some months into the pregnancy, poor Concha at last put the children in their beds, Nofrito and Nelson last, and the most noisy—though they had not put up a fight; they had merely begun trying to reason with her that to be put to bed, at their age—by now both were eleven—seemed ridiculous. She could tell, however, that this was a plan, some kind of scheme in order to raise mischief, and she would not be fooled. So she listened to them very carefully—or pretended to listen—then closed her eyes slowly, with a gracious nod and a closed-lip smile, an indication that her patience was still with her, that she would not be swayed, and she asked the boys once again to go back to their bedroom, that sleep would come sooner than they thought it would, with the reminder that they would not mind to be in bed once they were asleep.

Sr. Moreno, deeply asleep by now, dreaming a drunkard’s dreams, still, heavy, would not wake, she was sure. She lit candles all throughout the dining room before the back wall where in the center the enormous wooden crucifix had been hung, two or three feet long, the body of the Son limp and peaceful, his ribs and veins visible under his skin, large drops of blood stuck to his face, full of the grace the Scriptures promised. She knelt down, moving a couple of dining-room chairs as she did. This took a little time, since her belly had expanded, her balance now in need of the support of the backs of those chairs. When she reached the floor she closed her eyes and folded her hands, finger over finger, in front of her face. She had gotten into this habit over the last few weeks, waiting first for everyone to sleep, and in addition to her time in the backyard among the flowers in silent meditation she now had taken to praying to the Savior Himself, asking Him directly to protect her and her unborn child, every night muffling the sounds of her words and tears and what would have been her wailing, for fear of waking up the children, especially Anita, who blamed loud noises on any number of monsters her brothers had lied to her about. Concha, as she knelt, prayed in her heart as Hannah the mother of Samuel had prayed, the woman Eli took to be drunk, moving her lips silently but praying these words in her heart, in bitterness of soul, weeping and praying to the Lord, as it is written, O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, do not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life. Concha thought also of the mother of Samson to whom God spoke, hoping also to hear these same words, this blessing from the Lord, You will bear a son but take much care and he will be set apart, this for the work of the Lord. She thought of these women and begged that she might be among them, her prayers each night rising up from this dining room lighted only by these candles, these small flickers of light in the dark, which themselves resembled this insane hope in improbability. She gave in to her longing, to her desire to love and nurture the baby inside her, and she prayed each night for hours, for months, O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out before you, turn your ear to my cry, O Lord, my eyes are dim with grief and I call to you, every day I spread out my hands but your wrath is upon me, it is heavy upon me, and you, O Lord, are heavy upon me, you have taken my loved ones from me, my children, my little babies, and all day long your wrath and terrors destroy me, they surround me like a flood, and darkness is my closest friend.

On one of these evenings little Nofrito had for some reason been stirred, his eyes hardly open, maybe catching light from underneath the door, and he came out of the bedroom he and Nelson shared, making his way down into the family dining room where he saw his mother bent down, her back curving and her head pointing sweetly into her own swollen belly. He stood and watched her. He heard her hushed sounds and he saw her cry. He thought he heard the children’s tune, Papito, Papito, chiquita yo soy ¡pero grande…grande es por ti mi amor!—stifling her own voice, part whisper, part scream, part song, over and over.

Mami, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?

Without a word the woman spread out her hands to him, compelling him with her arms and hands to move into her embrace, and so he approached her, and he let himself be surrounded, her arms covering him like a blanket, and he took on her crying, for how can a boy see his mother weeping and not himself be moved to fear and tears? But she calmed him. She held onto him, whispering into his ears, Mijo, niño, fall to your knees with me, put your hands on my belly, on the baby, yes, here, put your hands here around the baby, bring to this child through the hope in your fingers all the strength of the Lord, and call out to Him, mijo, ask Him to protect this child, and He will hear us, He will hear us, bend your knees now, my darling, and pray with me.

Afraid, filled with pity, filled with the pleading of his mother’s voice, Nofrito, next to his mother, kneeling at her side, below the enormous body of the dying Son, came into his mother’s prayer, repeating the words she spoke for him, May the Lord spare this child, May the Lord spare this child, May He give us a new brother, May He give us a new brother, May the Lord’s delight surround him, May the Lord’s delight surround him, and in return I give my efforts and strength to the glory of the Lord, that the name of the Lord may be glorified forever. And for who knows how long they sat and prayed and cried together gently. Can you see it? Can you see them praying and mumbling and whispering and crying, his hands moving gently across the tight stretch of her skin? And who knows what He heard, if He heard, and who knows if He will answer—but see for yourself how full of love and hope, like two angels filled with light, this river is flowing out of them, this hope to God for good things to come.

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Full Text

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