The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez

A strand of black hair blew across Gomez Gomez’s face and he pushed it away with a rough hand. Hands that hadn’t known the indoors for what, two years now? A strange pair they must have made. Father Jake, the wind whipping his black cassock against his legs, and Gomez Gomez—the outcast. Unclean.
            Gomez Gomez knew what they thought of him. And why shouldn’t they? They lived their lives offices and churches. Went to schools and picnics and shopped at Harlan’s Market. They went home at night to houses made of solid things like wood and brick and the warm smell of cooking food.
            Not him. Nothing solid made up the walls of Gomez Gomez’s camp beneath the Palos Verdes tree in Johnson’s vacant lot. His walls were made of nothing but ghosts that flickered and shimmered around him through the long days and nights. His house smelled like lizards and diesel fumes from the highway.
            But here they were. Gomez Gomez and Father Jake. The unclean and the priest, standing on top of Apache Drop—the very edge of the world—with a hundred miles of Arizona desert stretching out beneath them in three directions.
            “It’s a nice evening for it,” Gomez Gomez said.
            “Would have been good for it two years ago.”
            “I wasn’t ready then, I told you.”
            “And you are now?”
            “No.” Gomez Gomez held up the Folgers can. His hands trembled. From the whiskey, not nerves. “I wish I had something better than this.”
            Father Jake put a hand on his shoulder. “We do what we can with what we’ve got. She wouldn’t have minded.”
            “That’s just it. She wouldn’t have. That’s why she deserved better.” He grunted a laugh—a foreign sound. “She liked Yuban. Always told me to get Yuban when I went to Harlan’s.”
            “Let’s do it, amigo. Whenever you’re ready.”
            The lid came off too easy, even with trembling fingers. He’d hoped it would take longer. “Okay. Goodbye then.” She always liked to keep things simple.
            A tip of a Folgers can. A life, dreams, all of it—into the updraft. Air rushing from the warm desert floor to coolness of the deep blue. The ashes swirled and dipped, rising high into the air, falling, then climbing again. They whipped around Gomez Gomez and peppered his clothes. Small white specks of her.
            He didn’t brush them off. “They were beautiful ashes, don’t you think?”
            “Prettiest I ever saw.”
            “She really knew how to die, you know?”
            “I do.”
            “I don’t just mean at the end. I mean from the first day I met her. She knew how to die. I never did.”
            “I know what you meant. Most of us don’t know how. Not like her.”
            Tears came but Gomez Gomez blinked them away. She wouldn’t want them.
            Father Jake bent and picked up a rock. He threw it over the edge. Even when they were kids he’d had the best arm. “She touched us all. Everybody. You should have seen the memorial, man. The whole town…”
            “I couldn’t. You know? See… I never bought her Yuban.”
            “She loved you. You were the world to her. She didn’t care about Yuban.”
            “Exactly. That’s why I couldn’t go.”
            Gomez Gomez pulled the bottle out of the inside pocket of his coat—Dewar’s White Label. He removed the cap and took two steps forward. The whiskey didn’t pour as much as spray in the stiff wind. He wound up and threw the bottle as far out toward the dropping sun as he could—not far. A strong gust drowned out the sound of it breaking below.
            “We can go now,” Gomez Gomez said.
            “I want to learn how to die.”
            “I’m glad. We all need to die more.”  
            “Maybe I could come inside now.”
            “We have a room for you at the Mission can till you get back on your feet.”
            “Thanks for driving me up here, Jake.”
            “You got it, amigo.”
Fair winds,

1 comment

  • Ernie Storm

    Ernie Storm Phoenix, AZ

    A great picture!

    A great picture!

Add comment