Heat rises from the streets into the night air, carrying with it the tales of the barrio and the secrets of its inhabitants. It wafts on the breeze that sweeps against the cement valley made by the houses and the street. Dark and muted, the homes on either side of the street cradle the wind, thick with the joy and sorrow of the people.
Sandra could feel this on her skin, in her bones. Through her clothing she could sense the warmth of the waning day and the gentle air of the night. She pulled back her dark hair and smiled into the evening. The moon was a vague sliver in the hazy sky. Close by, the neighbor children were chasing each other on bare feet as their mothers chatted, gossiping from their battered metal rocking chairs. Their husbands sat indoors, smoking and drinking, the light from the television flickering across their faces as the evening futbol match drew to a close. At her feet, Sandra’s own daughter Lourdes sat quietly, combing her plastic doll’s hair. Her older son, Santiago was at the park, playing futbol with some friends.
Her gentle musings were cut short as a crash resounded from the inside of her home. Emerging from the darkness of the house, smashing the mesh door against the wall, her husband Pedro raged into view. The neighbors nudged the little ones indoors and the comadres peered out through the windows.
“We’re out of beer, Sandra. I thought I had few more beers in there. Do you know what happened to them?” he breathed at her, his eyes bloodshot and his lips moist.
“I- I had one or two with Mariana when she came down for lunch, that’s all,” she stammered.
“Don’t lie to me, Sandra. You drank those damn beers all by yourself, you drunk.”
It was true. Even when he was smashed he could see through her habits. But she’d just had three beers… How many did he drink? Besides, beer was only the beginning for him. Sandra supposed that the loud crash she’d heard was a bottle of tequila.
Pedro’s eyes were loveless behind their watery film. The red veins seemed to encroach upon the dazzling green of his irises. Sandra backed away, almost stumbling over her daughter. Heat was rising in her throat, poisoning her thoughts. This had to stop. She was leaving.