Now He Knew (Rudy y Mayra)

Rudy's guayabera was limp. He'd sweated out all the starch Mayra had ironed into it, or that obviously someone else, had ironed into it. He actually didn't know the name of the lady who picked up his dirty clothes once a week, the same day she cleaned the house. Of course he knew Mayra was gone. She had left him. His ability to not know what he knew didn't go that far. These words he heard inside his head in Mayra's voice. He imagined his almuerzo at Casa Rocio. Fridays it was usually bacalao. His mouth watered. He patted his rounded belly. All I've got left is food. He turned the corner from the Calle Flor Beltran by the plaza, onto the Calle de los Escolares. That morning when he first arrived in Coral to make his rounds of quincallas and farmacias he'd found a spot for his truck almost by the Rio Guacabon. Trucks weren't allowed in the center of Coral anymore. The City had decided to ramp up tourism in Coral.
Today lots of City blue and red flags were waving, as always set higher on the poles than Karaya's green and black flag. The new City president was being inaugurated. The illegitimate one. He'd stolen the votes and confused City people who were very easy to confuse. Here in Coral it was well known hardly anybody turned out to vote. On top of everything there'd been a big storm the day of the election. No cabe duda, the world was going to shit. And not just his world.
The noon sun was burning the top of his head through his thinning black hair. He walked very fast although he felt he could barely move and might pass out from hunger, or hungers; so many different hungers were eating him away and at the same time making him fatter. He was able to keep moving even when he had no body or too much body. When he was in her, thrusting as hard as he could, Mayra used to say she could not feel him even though he was not a small man, not in his body, and not there, either.
He arrived at the area by the river designated for commercial parking with a picture in his mind of his old faithful truck. It was now a faded brownish red but in his heart it was still the bright red used truck he'd bought with his first profits from Almacen de Quincalleria Mayra, the business he'd started not long before he'd convinced Mayra to marry him.
The truck wasn't there. He was sure exactly where he'd parked it. He had a system for remembering his parking spots. If he was in a lot he counted the number of parking spaces to his own from walls or fences he identified by the cardinal points. The truck was in Norte 3, Este 7. Except the truck was not. There was no way the truck would be towed from inside the lot. There was no other explanation. Someone had stolen his ancient truck.
He walked two blocks from Escolares to Calle Lucero and then set off uphill as fast as he could. He was desbocao when he walked into Casa Rocio, breathless. He locked himself in the shared bathroom closest to his bedroom, the one with only one shower stall. He stared at his brown face. His puffy skin worried him. Mayra said it showed everything in his body was inflamed. She said she didn't understand how Rudy could see and yet did not see. He splashed water on his face and on his thin black hair. He smoothed the strands against his scalp. He washed his hands. He was the only huesped who'd shown up for lunch. Rocio saw him looking at Abi's usual chair at the far end of the long table. "He's in la Playa at the demonstration at Palenque against the inauguration." Rudy nodded. He didn't feel like telling Rocio that his truck was gone. She served him bacalao over white rice. He ate and as he ate he didn't remember that the truck was gone. He had seconds and then thirds. He heard Dona Zoila call out from the kitchen. "Rocio, don't let Rudy keep eating. No vaya a ser que se lo coma todo."
Most Fridays he took a nap but this time he was afraid to sleep. He needed to walk outside. He heard Mayra's voice in his head saying, "Go out into the world. Find out if you're alive or you're dead." He retraced his steps down calle Lucero all the way to the fields by the River and sat on a bench, close to the water, watching the river move. Clouds were beginning to gather close to El Pico but he could still see the plume of mist rising into the sky from the top of the mountain. Birds he didn't recognize were swooping. Mayra would have known their names. Was there a place for him among the living? Even with Mayra disappeared she was the coordinating and stabilizing presence in his life.
Next thing he was in a fist fight with Rolo, head butting him as hard as he could. Mayra insisted she and Rolo, who worked for them at the Almacen and was 20 years younger than both of them, wasn't her lover. But here he was. Rolo pinned him to the ground and crushed him, so hard Rudy could not breathe. He was one breath away from dying and unable to scream for help because he had no voice. The effort of trying to scream woke him up. He looked around. The sky was gray and the cool afternoon breeze was rising from the Guacabon into Coral.
He woke up with the scream stuck in his throat. He stared at the Guacabon so long he saw the remolino Mayra was always trying to get him to see. There it was. Now that he saw the whirlpool he could not understand how it was he had never been able to see it before. He couldn't tear his gaze away.
The day he'd bought the truck ten years ago he'd persuaded Mayra to take a ride with him, into Palenque, where he'd heard from his friends there was a new bar. Mayra was una muchacha independiente, atrevida. That is what she called herself, independent and bold. Not too long before he'd started courting her she'd moved into her own place with another young woman, also independent and bold. They were artists. Mayra was a writer and Rocio was a dancer. They were metidas con los rebeldes. They went to the bars where anglo artists and counter culturals went. Rudy had met her de casualidad at the Quincalla de Coral on Lucero one block from the Plaza. She'd admired the aretes de carey he was showing, hoping for a sale, and on impulse he had given her a pair. That same day, and he liked to believe it was destiny, they ran into each other a second time crossing the plaza and she'd agreed to join him at Migajas across the street for the evening plato fijo.
She told him about a new bar, La Barraquita. She said it was in one of the tiny vacation cottages at the Playa Coral Eco Preserve which had been occupied by protesters for a couple of years, demanding that their prisoners be released from the City's base. He'd driven to Palenque, that's what the occupiers called their encampment. They'd sat together in the narrow dark room at a small square table. They drank and danced and drank and danced. Mayra let him hold her close. He could feel himself get hard against her belly. She must have felt it too. She hadn't pulled away. He didn't remember how they decided to leave or how he ended up in her apartment in one of the buildings overlooking the Plaza. They stood on the balcony watching the moon rise over El Pico in the distance. Her friend Rocio was at her mother's, helping her with the guests in the very rooming house she now ran and where Rudy now stayed when he was in Coral for business. He and Mayra had moved to Pueblo Nuevo right after the wedding.
Mayra's living room was almost empty. She and Rocio had an unpainted wooden couch and two chairs, actually built for patios, and a length of fabric woven by El Pico artisans on one wall. Her bedroom had a double mattress on the floor. It was carefully made with a sheet, one pillow, and a woven pink and purple blanket. She had a low stool and on it she had a notebook and a fountain pen.
He was on top of her. Then he was in her. She lay motionless beneath him. He thrust and thrust until he came. Next thing he knew he was in his truck driving home to his parents' newly built house in Pueblo Nuevo. They'd let him build his Almacen in the yard and it was understood that when they died he would get the house and keep living there. And that was just the way it had been.
Mayra hadn't wanted to have anything to do with him after that, not for several months.
They'd never again talked about their first time.
He watched the remolino. Was it an optical illusion or had the water started spinning in the opposite direction?
He didn't know what he knew, but now he did. He didn't see, but now he saw.
He had raped her. He had raped Mayra and for more than ten years he had believed that she consented, or he had forgotten it altogether.
The sun was sinking behind El Pico. Within minutes it would be dark. Tomorrow he would go to the truck dealer and buy a new truck, now he had the means. If he ever found out where Mayra had gone, if he ever had the chance to speak with her again, he would tell her that now he knew. It was no wonder she never loved him. And now he knew.