As soon as the engine cuts, we hear a sound like a distant siren. That’s weird, I say. You say nothing. We walk up to the apartment and the all the neighbors are out on the porch. That siren sound, their wailing. A woeful, haunting dirge. The children, the aunts and uncles, cousins, grandmother, all together in a chorus of loss like I’ve never heard. A thousand stratums of lamentation in their throats, a million ancestors conjured up and joining in their grief. You’ve heard it before. You look in their eyes and meet their pain. I walk past, aloof observer, catching the boy’s eyes and the little girl’s. Broken worlds in each, falling stars.
I ask Sergio if everything is all right. No, he says, muy malo. It is the only time I’ve seen him without a smile in his eyes. We ascend the stairs to our apartment, wanting to help, to touch, to listen. But instead we close the door. You go to the window and wait, and watch. I can still smell their dinner, peppery, greasy, pungent somethings that always make my mouth water.
The fire engines and then the ambulances arrive; the street becomes a throbbing, stinging light show. Paramedics exit and enter in no hurry. They’re bringing out a stretcher, you say. Come away from the window, I say, it’s creepy. But you don’t, you can’t. I know you are looking for him. He held my hand, you say, we talked just today. He talked, I mean, I never know what he’s saying, but he just talks and holds my hand. He liked me, you say, I think he confused me with his family. You stay at the window for an hour. I brush my teeth, floss, and get in bed with a book.
They’re coming out, you say. If someone didn’t know you, they’d say you were a morbid voyeur. I know you, and I want to pull you away from the window for other reasons. He’s in a body bag, you say. Your fears are confirmed. I remember when they took my dad, you say, and you watch on. I come to hold you close. Looking at you as you look for him.