Wood and tile. It was all she knew. Wood and tile, stucco and stone. The night had pulsed long past late dusk, revelers waving their limbs about in heightened, feigned ecstasies they hoped might escalate and consume them, like dry brush waiting for fire. So many nights like this one over the years, evenings where cologne mixed with spilled beer and smoked tobacco blossomed in pockets around doorways into the clear, dry air. She always took a moment to herself shortly before festivities petered out and had begun to wonder if her mini wedding-siestas were like drought to a river, somehow draining the evening of its nourishing tempo. Behind her, Francisco called over the throbbing beat of another dance song but she pretended not to hear him and instead moved gracefully into evening, her heels finding the tile of the patio with a clack counter to the fading beat. Boom, clack, boom, boom, clack. That smooth tile, she wanted to press her hot face to it and allow the coolness to leach into her skin. She didn’t, of course, but instead kept walking until she found a quiet spot around the far side of the reception hall where a breeze stroked her skin like a lover she’d never meet. All this stucco and stone, that wood and tile, and living within it all those same intentions and predictable desires. Good people living good lives, but all of them colored by long days in the sun and the watchful eye of a God demanding routine, safety.
She sighed, thinking about the bride and her resignation, a mirror of herself twenty-two years ago when she sat at the head table next to Francisco, then thin and handsome, and endured the chants of their friends and family to kiss again and again, the clanging of forks to crystal beckoning like clarion warnings of the dullness to come. She knew then what she knew now; how do you find true love among this stucco and stone, wood and tile? You don’t. It’s simply a matter of taking a hand that’s good enough to last the long years of life without making it all more intolerable.
And it wasn’t bad, but it was devoid of passion and took so much distraction, little obsessions with propriety and decisions made by cousins, families, parents, youth that should have been smarter, better, more in line with God, faith and what everyone else was doing. It was ok, though. The bride would find happiness in the slow pace of married life, the conviviality of sunset get togethers with family and friends, the cooking of lavish dinners for her husband and sips of wine before bed while reading of lives far more fantastic than hers. She would raise children as she was raised, among this wood and tile, stucco and stone, and she might steal moments of pause for herself, where the chill of the firmament blanketed the plains, and would dream of climbing into a car and driving to cities crafted only for visiting, never for living. She might even convince her husband someday to leave, but that would be later, after the children and when she’d already lost her comeliness like children do their favorite toys; one day there, the next forgotten.
She lifted her long, floral print dress to check on a blister the strap of her high heels was urging on her Achille’s and noticed how smooth her legs looked in the dim light. Youth was escaping her, no doubt, but slower than compared to others her age, a drip instead of a flood. She still had her the tight skin and vitality she remembered her mother having, there was still time for… A voice cracked her thought, low and gruff like a phlegm-choked cough.
She turned and saw Francisco stepping from the envelope of night into the flickering orange glow of the overhead streetlight, his thick shoulders and neck and rotund belly unmistakeable even in the dimmest light. “You ok?” he asked as if he wanted to know the time or what the weather might be tomorrow. She nodded and stepped his way with a smile, wanting to thread her arm into his own but instead letting him turn and walk in front of her a few paces as she always did.