Thank You Note
It is 1992. My father is having surgery at the University Hospital in Zaragoza where he will die, weeks later, from complications of prostate cancer. He is seventy five.
Many nights I stay with him in the hospital.
My shift is from eight p.m to eight a.m.;
until my sister comes to replace me.
One Friday my sister comes earlier,
around six thirty in the morning.
I cannot sleep, she says. We are a family of bad sleepers.
Before going to my apartment I stop in a café.
They are just opening. I sit at the counter.
There is a young man next to me. He is going home
after a night out with his friends.
That’s what he tells me, and I believe him.
He looks calm, shy, sober, almost embarrassed.
I don’t tell him about my father.
I don’t want pity; just some company, some beauty
to bring to my eyes.
We don’t need much negotiation.
I finish my croissant, he finishes his coffee.
We go to his apartment.
It’s around the block.
I just moved in, he says.
There are unopened boxes and piles of clothing
on the floor but the place feels organized,
welcoming. It’s a one bedroom apartment but
still, he shows me around.
He gives me water. Inside the fridge I see
glass containers with food. My mother
has given me this, he says. Are you hungry?
He takes a shower, leaves the door open
and talks to me. Do you want to take a shower?
Sit wherever you can, it will take me a minute.
He comes to bed with his short hair still wet.
He is thin, has long legs, narrow hips.
He has a tan line, I touch it with the tip
of my fingers. Childhood is not too far away.
The days at the pool, the thirst, the first time
naked in front of other boys.
He holds my head with both hands as if he wants
to drink from it. As if he could swallow my thoughts.
I don’t sleep much.
When we wake up I take a shower. He gives me
an orange towel. The towel is inside a transparent
plastic bag. The day is almost over.
I have to go home and change
and go back to the hospital.
He writes his number on a piece of paper
but I never call. I don’t remember his name.
He tells me that his wife is pregnant,
he just learned about it.
He is the taxi driver,
I am the passenger.
This happens at 5:00 in the morning,
in a taxi, on my way to the Madrid airport.
The taxi driver is young, handsome,
probably as handsome as he will ever be.
He is going home after this ride, he says.
He cannot wait.
Everything has a higher purpose now,
the way he stops at traffic lights,
the way he rolls up the window.
He drives through the city—
Cibeles, Recoletos, Castellana—
and the city turns and collects cells, tissue,
cartilage, bones, lungs for this child.
Madrid is the big spinning wheel
of embryos and invagination.
It happened so fast, he says.
We did not know it was going to be so fast.
I want to ask him if he knew when it happened.
Exactly when the conception happened.
If he felt anything different,
a stronger pulse, almost painful,
in that region between anus and
scrotum, in that equinox of flesh.
. . .
I don’t ask him anything,
I don’t think those are appropriate questions.
So I say the things you say in these cases:
Congratulations, all the best to you and your wife.
I watch him driving his smooth drive,
the one I will never drive.
When we arrive to the airport
he helps me with my luggage and I thank him.
I pay, give him a tip. Suddenly he hugs me.
Have a good trip, he says.
I can’t tell if he knows what I am thinking,
what I want from him.