A cloud of onion fumes rose into my eyes (I write this here and can still feel the sting of the tears). I set three red peppers on the wooden cutting board, and prepared to slice them along their length, Teresa appeared, carrying a pile of plump green chiles in her garden basket. She added a couple green chiles to my pepper pile, turned and disappeared into the garden again.
A second cloud of onion rose up, and this one got my tears flooding, and at first I tried mopping them on the sleeve of my habit, but finally, as the tears wouldn’t stop, I pulled my long white apron up to cover my face. Holding the cotton apron in two hands, I began laughing, thinking, here I am crying over one large onion in a frying pan. But when I dropped the apron, my laughter vanished, because there filling the small window in the pantry behind the kitchen was Antonie’s wilted face. As he was pressed up close against the wavy glass, his features were distorted. He looked more ghastly than I had ever seen him look before.
Suddenly he lifted his hand and he bit hard, desperately, into his own knuckles. His eyes shone large and empty and glossy. He raised one hand up, and he braced his open palm against the doorframe, and he gasped for breath. Looming there, his arm arched over me, he scared me. He trembled, and those eyes of his bored into me.
His heavy boots clattered on the kitchen floor. And he filled the room with his height, and with his foul smell. I caught another glance of those pained, brooding eyes. He was, to my way of seeing, a swarm of dark clouds hovering, threatening a downpour – or more—over my calm morning sky.
“He insists…you go.”
With this, Antonie swiveled and sank to the floor. Here was the man who once commanded whatever he willed, who thrilled in his own power, who delighted in satisfying his every desire, who dictated even to the likes of our own priest and master .
I cried out to see him so pathetic.
At that moment, Senora’s face appeared at the pantry window, and seeing Antonie, she rushed in. Her face. Lined. And worn.
And behind her. Father Ruby. Giving me a look that I will never forget: something I can only call primitive, he motioned to the two of us to help him lift Antonie up. And as the onions turned to blackened wisps on the stove, and then to char, the three of us dragged Antonie to the grey wagon. And lifted him to a pile of blankets on the back.
As we set off, I turned to see Father Ruby pivot and retreat into the rectory. Rage flooded me and so too, did utter hatred, and then I reigned in both emotions: this was no way to feel toward the priest. God was almost certain to punish me for my despicable thoughts. But in my heart, I could see. He was simply a despicable old man.
My eyes filled and I closed my hands around my face. Senora murmured something to try to comfort me. But I would not be comforted. For there I was, still in my apron, and with the odor of the kitchen onions still clinging to my hair. I had not a stitch of extra clothing with me, not even a cape or my shawl, and I was off for who knew how long to God knew where.
But no sooner did I feel a chill than Senora patted my hand and I saw that she carried for me the blue silk shawl, all covered in flowers, and dripping in long fringe. “Un rebozo,” she murmured wrapping my shoulders and that just made me cry harder.
She began to hum something. Ah. But it was the same lament that Antonie liked to strum on his guitar. That music just played more cruelly on my mind and I cried harder.
“No más,” I said. And so she stopped. But the tune kept up for hours in my head as we drove over the bumpy roads. The music coiled and coiled there, reminding me of my poor mother, and her untimely death, and the childhood that I never had.