La Presencia (Rudy)

Rudy walked into the cool, dark bodega, up to the counter where Nacho opened the hinged top. Nacho's square, brown face broke into a huge grin. "One day you had to get lucky! Un dia tenia que pasar!" Rudy smoothed his guayabera over his rounding belly and walked into the back. He waited for Dona Dora to look up from the columns of numbers in her worn and stained marble notebook. She shook her head and pushed her glasses high on her long nose. "Esta vez a ver si me quiebras. You almost broke me this time but that's the way it goes, first your money then your clothes." She let out her high, loud laugh. She handed him an envelope. He didn't count it but by his calculations the fifty pesos he'd bet on 39 would now be close to 10,000. He wondered if maybe now that he was almost rich Mayra might take him back. Money was one of the main things they fought about and now he had some.

Three nights before, after Rudy's fight on the phone with Mayra, he lay on his back for hours on his narrow bed in the small room toward the back of the long hallway of Casa Rocio, staring at the ceiling. He pictured Mayra far away on their big king sized bed in Arrecife. Sometimes he saw her alone, lying on her side the way she slept, crying, her black hair with its white lunar in the front covering her lovely, long, brown face. Other times he saw her mounted on Rolo like a warrior woman. In his vision her hands clutched Rolo's long dreadlocks for stirrups. Her muscular back and buttocks bounced up and down clamped by Rolo's powerful blue black legs. "There's nothing left of me." He spoke the words out loud. "This time Mayra's going to leave me." After the phone call he'd trembled from rage and despair. But hours later lying on his bed he felt nothing. "No me queda nada."
He took in a slow, deep breath and he felt it. La Presencia. He'd felt that presence since he was a boy. Ever since his Mami went to the City a buscar ambiente when he was six and people said she'd gotten herself killed la Presencia would sometimes emanate from the ceiling beams of whatever room he was in. "La Presencia existe para cuidarme. I know you're here to take care of me." Held by la Presencia he was able to fall asleep. In his dream he was fifteen, playing soccer on a bright green field, scoring goal after goal. Invincible. Mayra was watching him, calling out his name. His shirt had the number 39. The ball, up close, was a coil of snakes. He woke up, dressed as fast as he could and walked to the bodega where he bet his last fifty pesos on number 39.

The first thing Rudy bought with his winnings was a one pound bar of chocolate. The next thing he planned to do was call Mayra. But first he unwrapped the bar as he stepped out of the bodega into the portal and chewed one of the squares slowly as he crossed the street and strode into the plaza. He didn't have to worry about Mayra poking his belly and saying, "enough dulces." He sat on his favorite bench and broke off another piece of chocolate. Long ago Mayra had told him that chocolate had chemicals that made you feel as if you were in love.
Whenever his traveling sales brought him to Coral he made sure to spend some time on this bench looking at El Pico in the far distance beyond the church. He liked to watch the plume of clouds going up forever from the very top of the mountain into the blue sky. You could see El Pico, and its plume, from almost every town in Karaya. As a boy he believed the plume was la Presencia. When he and Mayra le dieron la vuelta a Karaya on their honeymoon he'd taken her to all the towns on his quincalla sales route. She'd wanted to know everything about him. They'd sat here on this bench, holding hands, looking at the plume, and he had prayed to it then, prayed to La Presencia, to make sure that he and Mayra were together forever. He felt for his flip phone in his right hand guayabera pocket. A couple more pieces of chocolate and he'd feel ready to call Mayra.
He broke off another square of his chocolate bar. He let the sweet, bitter flavor fill his mouth. He tasted canela.