She waits outside my door as she does every morning. As soon as I let her in, she hands me a bunch of muddied limp carrots she had stolen the night before. I am always impressed that she brings a gift, even if it's a stolen one. Now she stands still in my kitchen, waiting. She waits as if waiting comes naturally, almost perfectly still, a small statue with flickering eyes.
Mud stains her rumpled and unbuttoned clothes, giving the impression that she slept outside last night in the milpa, the corn field. Her baby pink sweatpants are wet with urine, her sky blue blouse printed with faded stars, her hair crawling with lice. She seems unaware of her clothes, her smell, her dirtiness. Blank, expectant of nothing, her diamond face pinches itself into practiced resignation.
I offer her a hard boiled egg, and she moves towards it nonchalantly, feet gliding on the peeling linoleum floor. Taking the egg, she gently cups it into her hands before it disappears into her pocket, tonight's meal.
Glancing around the room her eyes settle on the new fruit bowl, full of orange and green mangoes. As her body moves forward her hands flutter towards the fruit, hovering in the air, circling like vultures. She inhales deeply as her fingers dance over the mangoes, eyes closed, face unguarded for one brief moment.
My kitchen is still except for the sound of her hard breathing. The smell of mangoes fills the room. Sweet. Sticky. Sickening.
I leave Elke to her private moment and turn away, ashamed to have a an entire bowl of fruit while she sleeps outside each night. I stare out the window at the trash on the hillside, children sorting through garbage, thin dogs leaning in.
The kitchen is now quiet and I turn to look for her. She's gone. The fruit bowl is empty.
Amy Gigi Alexander
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