Now, fifteen months after Aura's death, coming home without her again - no one to meet me at the airport this time - I found the apartment exactly as I'd left it in July. The bed was unmade. The first thing I did was open all the windows, letting in the cool, damp October air.
Aura's Mac Book was still there, on her desk. I'd be able to pick up where I'd left off, working on, organizing, trying to piece together her stories, essays, poems, her just begun novel, and her unfinished writings, the thousands of fragments, really, that she left in her computer, in her labyrinthine and scattered manner of storing files and documents. I thought I felt ready to immerse myself in that task.
In the bedroom there were old dead rose petals, darker than blood, on the floor around the vase in front of the altar, but the vase was empty. In the kitchen, Aura's plants, despite not having been watered in three months, were still alive. I stuck my finger in the soil of one pot and found it moist.
Then I remembered that I'd left a key with the upstairs neighbors, asking them to water Aura's plants while I was away. I'd only intended to go to Mexico for the first anniversary and stay a month, but I'd stayed three, and they'd kept it up all that time. They'd thrown out the dead roses, which must have begun to rot and smell. And they'd collected my mail in a shopping bag that they had put next to the couch, just inside the apartment door.
On the beach we - I and some of the swimmers who saw or heard my cries for help - pulled Aura out of the water and set her down in the almost ditch-like incline gouged by the waves, and then we picked her up again and carried her to where it was level and laid her on the hot sand. As she fought for air, closing and opening her mouth, whispering only the word "aire" when she needed me to press my lips to hers again, Aura said something that I don't actually remember hearing, just as I remember so little of what happened, but her cousin Fabiola, before she took off looking for an ambulance, heard it and later told me. What Aura said, one of the last things she ever said to me, was: Quiéreme mucho, mi amor. Love me a lot, my love. No quiero morir. I don't want to die.
That may have been the last full sentence she ever spoke, maybe her very last words.
Did that sound self-exculpating? Is this the kind of statement I should prohibit myself from making? Sure, Aura's plea and invocation of love would play well on any jury's emotions and sympathies, but I'm not in a courtroom. I need to stand nakedly before the facts; there's no way to fool this jury that I am facing. It all matters, and it's all evidence.
Excerpted from Say Her Name by Francisco Goldman. Copyright © 2011 by Francisco Goldman. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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