Saturday 18 June 2022

'Ni Una Más' by María Alejandra Barrios Vélez

In our village, we solve our own mysteries. We come together after midnight–after our husbands and babies are sleeping and we organize. It's always a girl, always alone, last seen wearing her best clothes and on her face a smile her parents wish they could keep seeing forever. We talk about usual suspects: the boyfriend, the lover, the panadero whose eyes have been lingering on other things that are not bread, we talk about the way she had changed recently. No longer chatty and loud but quieter and more contrived. We trace her dutiful steps. From her house, to her school where she was always brilliant, to then help at home taking care of her siblings—and at night? What did she do at night? her friends are quiet, we light a fire and chase the night with aguardiente, hoping to loosen them up. But no one says a word. We urge them to speak. One of them, after staying quiet for a while, tells us a tale of the girl who waits. Around the crackling of the fire, we all nod, we know this one: There was once a girl, a girl that wanted a lot and gave to the world plenty but by midnight, she was always waiting for the shadow. She wanted to see it. The mom always said: don’t get too close, her friends begged her to turn on the light. But she wouldn’t listen, she had to see it for herself. Stop! we tell her. The ending was imprinted in our memories, our hearts. Someone brings out a board so we can put pictures of the suspects. The last time we needed to solve a murder, we solved it in one night.

In our village, we eat the shadow so we don’t disappear.

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