VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Anibal Perez Longhi

The Girl Who Watched the River

He saw him every day from his window. He was sitting on a bench in the plaza, and perhaps to forget his loneliness, he was feeding the pigeons with the scraps of food that the charity volunteers usually distributed. Elio, it was the beggar’s observer name, opened the window, called him and received him in the house where he lived with his wife. –What is your name? –Asked Elio –Elmer –answered the beggar. – Where’ll you spend the night?” – I’ll go to a Charity Shelter. –Well, you’ll stay here tonight. Elio’s wife served him hot food, sitting him at her table, while she looked for her husband’s clothes to give him. Elmer felt overwhelmed by so much generosity, he had been on that bench in the plaza for a long time, he knew the couple by sight, and he didn’t know why they were being so generous towards him … But, between the meal, the wine and a kindness that he usually didn’t receive, his thoughts soon disappeared, giving way to a soft comfort, in which he allowed himself. After dinner, and clothes changing, he wanted to go away, he didn’t want to bother, he knew that if he was discreet, those actions could be repeated, and give relief to his unbearable life. -No and no. You’ll stay here tonight. Elio said, pointing to the door of a room. His room. –You are very kind, but I prefer to go to the shelter like every night… I could come back tomorrow… If you want… –said Elmer. –Of course not –answered the couple like one –Tonight you’ll sleep here. Elmer no longer refused, he entered his room, undressed, got into bed, and felt the peace of being able to sleep without worrying about keeping an eye on his few belongings, which in the shelter used to disappear if he slept deeply. Elio, when he heard Elmer’s snoring, left the house with his wife, who got into the car and started the engine, while her husband made a little gasoline path, started it, and got into the car … walking they felt the terrible explosion, and saw the flames grow through the rearview mirror. The plan was simple. Ana, the woman, would collect her husband’s life insurance and also that of the house. No one would doubt that the burned body was that of her husband, she would drive to the border and settle in Mexico. Elio would travel with false documents, and she, a widow, would have no impediment to remarry. They would start a new life. After a routine investigation, Ana collected the insurance, whattaspped her husband, and asked him to wait for her in a bar, so she gave him the money to get new documents to travel. Elio waited. Ana’s cell phone was off. She wouldn’t come back for him … Desperately, he walked to the appointment of the “cartoonist”, to give him the documents. Do you have the documents? Elio asked anxiously. –Do you have the money? –Asked the Cartoonist–No, but I’ll pay you later, I need them… –First the money. I don’t have it here …

Well, come back when you have it. He stopped a taxi and disappeared. Elio wandered aimlessly, tired, sat on the bench in a square, and when he looked up, he saw someone looking at him from a window.

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