by Yamanashi Moe (山梨もえ)
Today Rafael leaves the city to go home for the weekend. He can only afford to do this every month or two. It takes three hours by chicken bus, over pockmarked gravel roads, up and down countless mountains. He carries nothing with him but some tortillas. The bus is jammed with people and it makes him half-crazy by the time he gets off at the crossroad nearest San Paulo. Then he has to walk for an hour more, but that part’s better: he’s been down this road so many times it’s easy even in the dark.
By the time he gets to the house it’s after midnight. Marina is scrubbing laundry in the yard. When she sees Rafael, she drops her washing and runs over to wrap him in a hug. “Rafita! How’s the city?”
“Disgusting,” replies Rafael, as always. He pulls his boot off, shakes it out, and hands her a wad of cash – half of what he’s made this month. “A little something for the lovely lady.”
Marina makes a point of sniffing the money and waving her hand in front of her nose. “Ack. Terrible.” She looks to the house. “Are you hungry?”
“No, no,” Rafael waves his hands gratefully, “just tired.”
“You know where your pillow is.” Marina hugs him once more for good measure. “See you in the morning.”
Rafael kisses her on the cheek and creeps into the house. The three youngest kids are asleep on the couch. Careful not to wake them, he passes the door to Marina and Javier’s room, to stop at the entrance of the other bedroom.
The twin bed on the right is Miguel’s. He is lying curled up on his side, facing the wall, with one arm pillowing his head. His hair is a little bit longer. For a moment Rafael contemplates waking him, and he’s just decided not to when Miguel opens one eye just a sliver to look at him.
“Hey,” he whispers.
“Hey,” replies Rafael. “I’m home.”
“I missed you.”
“I missed you too,” Rafael replies, and leaving his pillow at the side of the bed, he climbs onto Miguel’s bed and curls up beside him. He can always wake up in time to hit the floor before anyone sees them.
In the morning Marina fries eggs and plantains and serves hot tortillas in a woven basket while the kids crowd him, begging for gifts from the city, or stories that will fill them even more with the desire to go there. Rafael never indulges these requests. “It’s no better than here,” he says, ruffling Marisol’s hair lightly. “You’ll find out soon enough.”
Miguel nods his assent from across the table. “Give him some peace so he can eat his breakfast,” he says, and then proceeds to barrage Rafael with just as many questions about how he’s doing at work, the plants on his windowsill, his landlady’s descent into alchoholism, and whether he’s getting three square meals a day. These questions Rafael is happy to answer.
Since the weekends when Rafael is home become impromtu holidays, only Javier goes out to work, after giving Rafael a hug. The kids and Flor and Miguel all get to stay in the house. Even Marina’s load is lighter, as Rafael insists on helping with the dishes, and if a guest is doing work, nobody else feels comfortable relaxing.
“Here,” Miguel says, as they carry their plates out to the sink, “Munyeca gave birth while you were gone. I’ll show you.”
He takes him to a corner of the yard far away from the noisy chickens. Munyeca lies on her belly under a bush. Five tiny puppies suckle at her side, no longer blind but still almost hairless. One finishes drinking and toddles away. Miguel picks it up by the scruff of its neck and returns it to Munyeca.
“The runt died a few days ago,” says Miguel wistfully. He scratches Munyeca behind her ears. “Good girl, good girl,” he says, and his face is so lit up with tenderness it nearly breaks Rafael’s heart. The only thing he can do is pull Miguel forward and kiss him.
When they come back to the house, Flor has brought her boyfriend over, and several of someone’s cousins visiting from Atitlan. They sit around in the main room, sprawled across every available surface, catching up with one another. There is no alcohol – Javier doesn’t like to have it in the house – but there is Coke for everyone, and for lunch Marina makes tamales and chicken soup and everyone eats their fill.
Mostly they talk about work: who has bought land, who has been unable to pay their debts, who is working at a finca for the season. Javier makes overtures to convince one man to start farming organic coffee. Marisol engages her little brothers in a game of hide and go seek. Flor and her boyfriend are teased non-stop.
“So,” one of the cousins finally says, “Rafa, what do you do in that city of yours, anyhow?”
Rafael laughs. “Nothing much,” he says, and leaves it at that. He doesn’t usually talk about politics in large groups of people; he’s said the wrong thing before, and it makes people nervous.
But the topic comes up again, after all the kids have gone to sleep, and the cousins have had to go home, and Flor has gone off to spend the night with her boyfriend. With only Javier, Marina and Miguel around, Rafael feels a little more comfortable. He tells them about the protest last week and how a friend got beat up on the way home.
“It’s a good thing that you’re doing, Rafa,” says Javier quietly.
Miguel says nothing, but the tension in his face tells Rafael everything going on in his mind.
“You guys, you don’t have to worry about me,” he says, and under the table he squeezes Miguel’s hand. “I’m going to be fine.”
Soon Javier and Marina finish their coffee and decide to call it a night. Rafael and Miguel wait until they are in bed and sneak out to the yard. The insects are buzzing like crazy and somewhere frogs are calling to one another; the night is an ocean of sound. Rafael kisses Miguel, gently at first and then with his mouth open, and almost immediately afterward they fall to the ground in a tangle of arms and legs.
This is the first time they have been really alone together in what seems like eternity, and Miguel shudders against him, not able to undo his belt fast enough. “Rafa…”
“Hey, take it easy,” says Rafael quietly, but doesn’t really mean it, and soon the ability to speak leaves him altogether. He straddles Miguel; unzips his jeans and pulls down his pants to grasp his cock. Soon enough they are both half naked and jerking each other off with almost frantic intensity.
It is not a warm night, but Rafael begins to sweat uncontrollably. His hand fists in Miguel’s hair. Below him Miguel scrapes his thumbnail against the head of Rafael’s cock, and that’s all he needs to come.
He is so distracted he loosens his grip on Miguel, who starts to writhe against him, searching for friction. Before Rafael resumes stroking him, he has already come against his leg, biting his lip to stifle a groan.
Then they lie there for a moment.
“I wish I could go with you,” says Miguel finally, in between heavy breaths.
“I know.” Raphael rolls off of him, looks up at the sky. The ground is dry enough that their clothes won’t get muddy, and though they may be slightly dirty in the morning, no one will ask any questions. “I do too. But you know you’ve got to stay here for now and help your parents.”
“They’re your parents too.”
“I hate to break it to you, man, but that makes you my brother.”
Miguel laughs. “Creepy.”
They lie there in silence for a little while. “Maybe when Marisol’s a little older,” says Rafael, tentatively. “And she can help out more with the harvest. It won’t be too long.”
“Yeah.” Miguel squeezes Rafael’s hand. “…I can wait.”
Sunday morning they attend Mass in the little church. The priest is visiting, and he preaches, although Rafael pays little attention. After they drop the kids off at home Javier drives him to the bus stop. Marina and Miguel stay in the back to see him off. Along the way Javier points out the properties of their neighbors and tells him what’s going on in San Paulo – not much.
They reach the bus stop too soon. Rafael hops down out of the truck, and Marina and Miguel do the same. “…Just don’t get robbed or anything, okay, man?” says Miguel, too embarrased to say more in front of his mother. “I’ll see you soon.”
“Yeah,” replies Rafael with an awkward little smile.
“Your parents would be so proud of you,” says Marina, hugging him. And, as always, she presses the money he gave her yesterday into his hand, then steps back before he can protest.
There are times when Rafael wants to just take her aside and say: Marina, I have been in love with your son since we were boys, please give us your blessing. But other times he is sure they must already have it.
“See you soon,” he says, and looking one last time at Miguel, gets on the bus.
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