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       Unspeakable, p.9

           Erika Rummel
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THE SUN IS coming up when I get to the cabin. The rays feel warm on my face, but inside the cabin, it’s still cold. There is a small electric heater by the window. I turn it on, undress and wash up at the sink. Then I wash all my clothes because my head is oddly crowded with ideas. I keep thinking sniffer dogs will discover Luis’ DNA on my clothes. I drape the wet clothes over the chairs. My teeth are chattering even though I’ve put on a sweat shirt I found in the closet, and an old pilled sweater that goes down to my knees. I can’t stop shivering. I am exhausted, and my throat feels sore. I lie down on the sofa bed and pull up the duvet over my head. I feel abandoned. The tears are running down my cheeks. I miss talking to Luis, whose real name is Tito, I know, but he’ll always be Luis to me. With him every word went home. With Ernie I don’t know. With Tony it was like moving along parallel lines, side by side, but never touching, a long path of non-encounters.

  I drift off, into a dream of Luis crawling under a barbed wire fence, and the Migra waiting for him on the other side. I hear a voice saying they’ve found him. I wake up with a jolt. The room comes into view, then the duvet, which has moulded itself to the shape of my body, then a woman’s face close to mine. She is bending over me. At first I think she is my mother. She is motherly. She makes me feel safe, but she is a stranger.

  “How are you, love?” she asks in a patient voice, keeping it to the minimum volume that will suffice, unlike the man who is with her and whose voice is like a sonic boom.

  “We’ve found her,” he shouts into his phone. “She’s right here. In our cabin. I’ll give you the GPS coordinates.”

  I open my mouth. It’s like an escape hatch. The words shoot out before I can stop them. “I’m fine,” I say to the woman.

  She looks at me oddly. “Did you hear that, John?” she says turning to the man. He comes over and stares at me. I want to get away from his staring eyes, but I can’t move. Shooting out the words has sapped my energy. I want to lift my arms. I make no progress. It’s like having the tide against me. I’m up against huge waves.

  “They told us you can’t speak,” the woman says.

  “The words are coming to me now,” I say. At least my mouth is still working. My tongue is moving even if the rest of my body is paralyzed. I keep my sentences simple and sparse. I don’t want anyone to think it’s a religious miracle, with heaven opening up and angels pouring down words. I just want it to be a medical thing. I want them to think it was stress that brought it on, the stress of being marooned in the desert. Just as well that my throat hurts and my voice is hoarse. It makes the whole thing more convincing.

  “Well, that’s a surprise!” John bellows.

  The woman, who says her name is Dana, puts a hand on my forehead and says: “I think you are running a temperature, dear.”

  “The ambulance will be here in ten minutes,” John says. “They’ll take care of her.”

  I close my eyes. I need to concentrate on the next phase, talking to the medics, but I keep drifting off. I wake up as they lift me onto a gurney and wheel me to a waiting ambulance. My mother’s face appears out of the fog. She is riding with me in the van. She cries and blubbers. She wants me to say something, anything, please.

  “The people who found you said you talked.” Why would I talk to strangers and not to her? She grabs my hand and squeezes it. “Talk to me, Melo. Please talk to me.”

  The medic, a sturdy black woman, says in her commanding official voice:

  “Ma’am? Ma’am! She needs rest. You’re upsetting her, ma’am.”

  My mother looks hurt, but she shuts her mouth, and I fall asleep again.

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