By Nelly Geraldine García-Rosas
Translated by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
She trembled. Nothing existed beyond his face. She dreamt of him. She heard him scream. Even awake she ceaselessly dreamed of him.
She’d gone to Puebla because she longed to walk down old streets, to lose herself. Puebla of the Angels. Divine providence, what else, had conducted Lucia to a city with a celestial name.
She walked aimlessly. It was midday and the sun, in the height of the sky, burnt her nose. Everything else, including her ideas, melted slowly over the sidewalk. That is why the church at the corner of 16 of September and 9 Orient was more than a promise of shadows: salvation painted in a shade of bilious yellow. The angels of Puebla had erected it only for her, for whom else?
I beg you not to leave me alone.
Lucia entered the Temple of the Capuchinas like one enters heaven. She introduced her fingers in the holy water font, which she later spread across her forehead, but did not draw a cross. Why? Lucia only wished to refresh herself, and, had she been alone, she would have dipped her entire head in the sacred liquid, but a few paces away the sexton meticulously shook the dust out of the images of the saints.
The saints. She had never believed in them. She did not recognize who the statues of white bodies, svelte like teenagers, were supposed to be. The smaller figures appeared to her disproportionate: thin midgets with their gaze lost, who seemed to be suffering intensely or committed to a deep pleasure.
“If you look at me like that it doesn’t matter if you are a midget,” Lucia said, speaking in a very low voice, to a virgin in a dark mantle.
Later she stood in front of an urn. There lay a man of medium stature, bathed in blood, bruised skin, eyes blank, mouth half open. Lucia arched with disgust before the grotesque Christ in his crystal coffin. She turned her gaze to distance herself from the exhibition of pain and death. Her nose, nevertheless, held on to the aroma of putrefaction from the roses rotting in the vases. It was then that she saw a place that did not seem to belong to the universe of sacred horrors she had entered. To the side of the altar there was a glass niche surrounded by flowers and colorful balloons. Lucia thought it seemed like a children’s party which had been placed next to terrible oddities. She approached it without hesitation.
Balloons half deflated, artificial flowers, blurry photographs, yellow pages, deformed toys. Dust. Lucia laughed, artificial flowers with drops of glue simulating dew had always seemed ridiculous to her. But her laughter disappeared before the wooden board covered with velvet and ‘miracles’: medals in the shape of eyes, legs, arms, heads, hearts on fire, dismembered bodies attired with red ribbons. Blood.
“The saint who receives these offerings must be very miraculous… or very terrible,” she said out loud and turned to look at the niche.
She felt all the heat escaped her body.
The Child Jesus sat in a golden throne. He wore a crown above a blond wig of matted hair and held a golden sceptre in his left hand. He wore a sort of skirt which left his chest uncovered. Over his shoulder hung a crimson cape. To top off the image of monarchical terror, his empty eye sockets bled over his cheeks. It was a horrible child. Despite everything, Lucia could not stop looking at him.
Two abysses arose from the holes where there should have been eyes. To look at them was to lose oneself in eternal darkness, it was like going blind.
Little blind child, who goes back and forth,
Today I visit you and need you
“There they are,” said a voice which reeked just like the roses of the moribund Christ. The sexton spoke as though he were alone. “The little eyes, lookey. Sure you must’ve been lookin’ for ‘em. Pasted right on the scepter. Our Little Blind Child suffered much, that’s why he’s so miraculous. C’mon, you don’t know the story of the holy child?” and he made the sign of the holy cross.
He told Lucia about colonial Morelia, the church of the Mercedarian fathers and the jewels of their Virgin. Then he referred to the theft of the jewelry, the sobbing from the statue of the Child Jesus and, with great detail, the “dismemberment” in a nearby hill. Then came the tale of the miracle, the process of restoration and how the statue refused to have the eyes placed inside its head again.
“Go figure how evil he was, miss. Because one thing is to steal and another is to grab the Child and then to top it off, take out his eyes with a knife. The good thing is the thief never stopped hearing the cries of the Child. That fucker, pardon the word, went directly to hell.” Again the sign of the cross.
“This is the child they stole?” Lucia asked.
“No. The real one stayed in Morelia, but the nun who fixed it made us one for here. This one is as miraculous or maybe even more. I’ve heard of people who cured themselves of the cancer thanks to praying to the Holy Blind Child. What have you come to ask him?”
What could anyone ask a monster other than death. The eternal suffering.
(the petition is asked)
Lucia said nothing. She had no answer for someone who told stupidities just so people would believe in the power of a dreadful image. She left the church with the idea that she would never return. Outside the flames of midday embraced her and etched in her pupils, like scars from a fire, the very pale face of the bleeding Blind Child. The searing sun of the streets of Puebla of the Angels did not evoke more than demons, and, for some reason, also the Child.
She dreamed about him. She saw him, sitting on his golden throne as though he was a tyrant. With a movement of his scepter there came a group of cherubs willing to crown him and place upon his shoulders the cape dyed in blood. The winged creatures emitted terrifying sounds as they praised the Child. Some went mad with death rattles when he allowed them to lick the fluid that flowed from his empty eye sockets: those abysses which left Lucia unconscious even in dreams.
Lucia felt that her hands, burnt as if by ice, caressed the body of the midget Virgin. “This is my son,” the statue said, showing her a shapeless mass of flesh which dripped between her fingers. Then she smiled with two rows of blackened teeth. She reeked. “This is my son. Praise him.”
She imagined herself running down the streets of Morelia. Lucia was the thief. She fled from the screams of the Child who dragged himself towards her. Then, she tripped on a stone and she saw no more.
She dreamed also of a banquet. On the table there were entrails and dismembered corpses. The Child devoured it all with a fury and tossed to the floor the remains of that atrocious meal. The cherubs came to eat the scraps, like dogs, and entered into a terrible frenzy that the Child celebrated by asking for cups overflowing with blood to be brought forth, along with other fetid liquids. The Child laughed, he wet his chest with spoiled milk, struck Lucia with a stick and forced her to look at the bottomless eternity of his eye sockets so she would not be able to wake no more.
Look at this sorrow which condemns me.
When she went out into the street, Lucia felt that the heat marked her deeply, more deeply than the image of the Holy Child. She felt her body dissolving into pained ashes. The burning air, agitated as if by the wings of the cherubs, traced furrows upon her skin. The light blinded her.
She trembled. Sweated cold sweat. She was nobody, she was nothing. She burnt with fever. Nothing existed but his eyes with two infinite abysses, black holes, awaiting offerings.
(three Lord’s prayers)