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Mornings in Barranquilla

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Aurelio woke up late that morning, later than he had since before his son was born. Dressed in his olive green flannel pajamas, he tried to flatten his disobedient hair in front of the cloudy, oval mirror that had been passed down to him from his grandmother. Today, he couldn’t bring himself to open up shop. Sighing, he stumbled over to his small kitchen. The doorway was sagging inward, and a crack the size of the Nile ran from the rusty stovetop to the ceiling. Today, he registered a total of twenty cobwebs. Nothing was the same since his wife had died. As he reached for the copper pot that was hanging on a nail above the stove, Aurelio heard gunshots that rent the air like lightning in a storm. The sound reverberated so violently in his ear that it blotted out everything in his mind. Trembling, he crept over to the windowsill facing the dusty, barren main street of his pueblo. A balmy breeze slammed someone’s door shut in the distance.



As Aurelio looked out through the window, he saw ten bodies laying in the street like dominos, side by side. His neck was craned and his back stiff, but he hardly noticed. Suddenly came the wailing. He had heard this sound before, not too long ago. This time, though, it did not come not from his mouth, but from the mouths of five women dressed in their long, patterned skirts and brightly colored shawls. Aurelio watched, wordlessly, as the women’s agony was laid bare for everyone to see, hiding behind their windows. He knew who must have killed these men. He knew nobody would dare step outside and comfort these women. At this, tears cascaded down Aurelio’s face and dropped, one by one, onto the dirt floor. He glanced over to the next room, where his son lay breathing slow and steady breaths. He was thankful his son had not woken. Seeing his son relive an experience like his mother’s death would bring Aurelio to a place that would leave him as alive as the men in the street.



Knowing he must tear himself away eventually, Aurelio opened the double doors that led into his office. Reaching up to his display case, he pulled down his prized dental models and placed them on the white table, striated with chipped paint. Pumping the drill with his left foot, he mechanically and thoughtlessly cleaned every crevice and polished every facet of the teeth for hours. Finally, when he could pump no more and sit no longer, Aurelio glanced down between his knees, where his tears had been falling onto the ground. There was no sign of moisture at all anymore; his despair had been soaked up again by the harsh, unyielding ground.





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