The engine died, she wanted so badly to kick the car and curse, but that would not have been a very lady-like thing to do. Intead, frustration piled up in her eyes in the form of tears.
“Why?” she mumbled to herself with her forehead low, touching the wheel. Not that she was putting in doubt the wisdom of God but honestly, he hadn’t been nice to her in recent months. If she was going to question the creator for his actions, she’d better do it for the death of her husband, not for the mundane problem of a car malfunction. Yet, it seemed the latter had, at least for a moment, surpassed the former in level of importance.
What was she going to do stranded on the roadside, in the middle of the night, somewhere in the desert? She should have listened to Gloria and moved back to their parents’ house now that she has been widowed at age thirty. But she couldn’t bear her mother’s constant attempts to present her new suitors.
It was heartbreaking how her family was so eager to forget the fifteen years of marriage that Mercedes had enjoyed with Mauricio. Sure he had an odd demeanor, lack of empathy and strong scent, but honestly who was perfect?
She couldn’t hold it back anymore. The car still smelled like the cologne she gave him; and despite the bad posture, she had refused to adjust the chair to her short height. In the quietness of the desert, she wept her grief like a small child. Every breath reminded her of his awkward smiles, his funny manias, his dreams for the future.
He had promised to take a vacation one day. She had reassured him many times that she understood that he was not a man of adventure, that she was alright with their daily routines, him in the lab and her in the kitchen. Deep down, she dreamed secretly for him to take the initiative.
That day never arrived.
He, who talked sweet plans about packing everything without notice, drive to the shore and travel all around the country from that point onward, one night walked off bed and left without notice. The police found his ragged pj’s on the gutter near home.
With a dry mouth and an itchy face, Mercedes checked the engine while holding the lantern with her chin. The smoke coming from the car was no doubt a bad sign, that was all she could assess. Otherwise, she had no idea what she was looking at.
She closed the hood with a resigned sigh. Now she was exhausted from crying, and she realized it hadn’t been a wise idea to start driving at the fall of the afternoon. There’s a reason why Mauricio hated to drive at night. During the twenty minutes since she’d broken down, not a single car had passed by that God’s forgotten road.
The first few hours after sunset, the car was still an oven, but once it went dark, the temperature dropped at an alarming speed. So when coldness pierced through her floral dress, the sweaty damp fabric suddenly chilled.
She quenched her jaw, tears threatening to pour again.
Instead, she forced a resolving mindset. The map said the town of Amatepec was about three kilometers from her location. That walk was barely four rounds to the park, her reassuring optimistic side put her at ease. Moreover, by putting her body in motion she would avoid freezing in the car.
Mercedes grabbed the lantern and started walking. Her positivity died less than half the way. To the point wished any driver, even a shady one, passed by to give her a lift. Because if during the day in the desert it was blazing hot, and the sun had no mercy, the night became the realm of frost.
She had stopped feeling her toes about a hundred meters behind, and her features were so stiff she no longer noticed she was rattling her teeth. Her breath still created clouds of steam coming from her mouth, and the stillness around her made the scene a bit more magical.
“That is your best quirk, you always find the brighter side of the worst situation.” Mauricio used to say this.
Yet, the voice seemed too real to be a memory. Mercedes foolishly looked around, half expecting to discover the desert can create mirages even at night time.
Mauricio was standing into the distance.
Mercedes didn’t questioned God this time, she thanked him for the miracle without hesitation. She abandoned the safety of the roadside, dashing towards the desert to the arms of her late husband. Her sandals weren’t fit for the eroded ground, she tripped more than once. But she immediately went back on her feet to reach him, despite the numb pain coming from her rashes.
She hugged him, burying her face in his warm jacket. It was him, all him! His essence, his temperature, his rough hands. Only his lips were different, they burnt with coldness, breaking apart the delicate skin on hers. Like acid, they scorched.
But Mercedes didn’t care, she loved melting on her husband’s embrace anyway. Nothing else mattered as long as he was there again.
If the sun finally raised over the desert, Mercedes could never seen it. She would never know of the drivers who passed by her abandoned car. She couldn’t care if the police eventually call a tow service, or how her family sold her husband’s car for pieces, finding a secret compartment in the trunk full of alien devices.
The sun raised over a land where she no longer belonged. Only her floral dress and her broken sandals laid on the cracked ground, on the spot where she had been abducted by her late husband.