photo by Matt Walker
Note: This story features multiple unattributed citations from Mark Musa’s translation of La Vita Nuova by Dante. The hope is not that the quotes merge so seamlessly into the body of the text to be undetectable, but, on the contrary, that the “original” quotes become so mutilated and unsightly (as in a botched cosmetic procedure; as one discovers fresh mold in an ancient vase) that the courtesy of any gentle reader would favor aversion over citation.
I first saw the girl on the ninth day of the ninth year or something or something it was a special day is what I am trying to say a special day in the celestial sense, numerically speaking the date was exceptional. She is nine years old and I too am nine years old although in spirit only if I were before God I could not say I am nine years old but rather that I am twenty four years old but we are not before God or at the very least not right now (later I will tell you how you can tell). So it was when I was nine years old in spirit and nearly thrice that in body that I first laid eyes upon the fair Beatriz de los Santos. BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS! Shall we not be grateful to the Spaniards who gave us the possibility of such naming arts? Beatriz de los Santos had been in this life long enough to allow the starry heavens to move a twelfth of a degree to the east in her time. BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS daughter of a just-murdered Basilan province mayor BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS not yet a fifth grader BEATRIZ DE LOS SANTOS garlanded in sampaguitas!
Carried away again I return. When I first saw Beatriz de los Santos she was dressed in the most noble of colors a subdued and decorous crimson, girded and adorned in a style suitable to her years featuring with an ingenious gesture towards her natural androgyny and in fact near virility which was not distasteful in the least but only augmented her allure the words BULLS 23 and with this I rejoice for the number’s nearness to my own age although I know too that 23 here will refer to the basketball player Michael Jordan but this too is a most excellent and wise choice as a model for anyone in youth even a girl. Indeed I have found Beatriz de los Santos lacking in none of the qualities desirable in a young girl whose destiny is greatness for even when we lifted her off the ground shrouded her head and taped her mouth—her mouth her mouth but that is for later—her motions of protest still refused all recourse to the crude. Seeing her thus one of the most secret chambers of my heart for I have multiple but I will say one of the truly deep and deep chambers began to tremble so violently that even the least pulses of my body were strangely affected. Strange for though I am sensitively-souled I have never been one to quiver before beauty yet now I realize this signifies that I had never before known the splendor of true and the trembling the violent trembling in that deep and deep of chambers spoke these words Here is a god stronger than I who shall come to rule over me.
Elaine Castillo was born in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives in England. She has recently completed a novel called POSTCARD, about Sappho, migrants and detention centers in Europe. More information not available here.