By Maxwell Radwin
It was the broken glass that took my husband’s life.That was all it was, just a little piece of broken glass from an old syringe, slicing through his palm during our morning search through the recyclables. We lived by the basurero, the garbage dump in Zone 3. It was where all the waste of Guatemala City went, although it was not waste to us. Like everyone else in the neighborhood, we turned in the plastic for a good price, collected the food scraps, and burned the newspaper and boxes on cool nights. We were happy.
But suddenly came this broken glass, and the blood spilled onto the pants of my husband, and the white tendons stuck out from his flesh like loose cables. We wrapped the wound in strips of a pillowcase, but the infection grew; it got into his blood. By the end of the week, I think it had spread down his chest and all over the organs.
I read to him from our Bible, the Spanish one from our wedding, but he told me I should take up the English one instead, which the missionary had given us. The English meant nothing to us, and many of the names in it are changed—from María to Mary, José to Joseph—it was confusing. It did not seem like the true word of God. And so we started crying together, feeling like sinners. I hugged my husband. It ended up being for the last time. Later that night, he passed in a cold sweat.
This was late January 2016. Feriado. So almost no one was working, and the people who did answer my calls said they would call me back but never did. I lay by the body for two days before a government person arrived in gloves and a mask to take it away. Then I lay beside the imprint of the body for a long time. It must have been weeks. As the imprint faded, I lay beside empty air. I would look over, telling myself it was the space of his memory, but it was really just what I have said. Air.
When the coyote asked me where I eventually wanted to go—Boulder, New Orleans, Detroit, New York, Los Angeles—I remember scoffing. If they were all truly sanctuaries, I said, then what difference did it make? Just take me there, please. Take me away.