Changed (29)

I wake to cat screams in the courtyard. I clap and yell, still half asleep, kneejerk. The cat fight stops, low growls outside my sliding glass door. I go outside to break them up, a huge gray cat I don’t know, long hair all fluffed from the fight, his backside disappearing over the wooden gate. My neighbor’s cat, who I love, escapes behind the shed. I talk to her through the gaps between the wooden fence. She sits cleaning herself on the hood of her fathers’ car, all twitchy from the fight. I go back to bed, take her shock with me, sadness welling. I ache for both cats. I hurt for the gray, hope he isn’t feral, isn’t lonely. And then I cry for my own two little ones, four years dead. Later I sweep the courtyard. I hear a kestral calling, looping about a nearby palm. I can’t tell if something has disturbed her, or if she’s just having fun. She widens her arc and flies over the edge of my yard. I stand still, holding the broom before me, watching. And then I see the waning moon is watching, too, big half moon still bright in the morning sky. It’s one of those moments when everything feels all of a piece. I stand there until the kestrel flies away, and it is just the moon and me, and some subliminal sense of all of us right now. The sparrows across the road and the hedges they roost in. The fan palms jutting into the blue in all directions. The mountains and their close, steady, silent presence. After, I cut a dozen branches from my laden tecoma. I apologize to the bush, to the bees. I sweep my part of the little road, a big pile of loose tecoma and bougainvillea blooms, some dried and crinkly and some still soft and fresh, all those shades of yellow and magenta, from pale to vivid. I scoop them up, and it feels wrong to throw them away, this rich and layered art. When I go back inside, I leave the gray trashcan tucked near the tecoma on the street, the cut branches of still-fresh blooms sticking up and out, a big bouquet for the bees.

Scorpions and Besoconas (24)

I am watering the palm trees and the bougainvillea in the side yard when I think I see a small scorpion curled up against the faded red cement. Even as the possibility takes shape in my mind I have already washed it away. I stand barefoot on the wet stepping stone and point my nearsighted eyes around the edges, hunting for that familiar form. I don’t see the scorpion, but there are dried blossoms everywhere, evidence of my careless gardening. It would be easy to blend in. I bend close to the ground, afraid of spotting it, my wet toes curling at the thought. The scorpions I removed, again and again and again, from our blue house in Todos Santos come back to me now. I can’t remember my exact method, only the stiffness of my arms extended in front of me as I carried the scorpion out to the back patio and with each slow step the stifling of my urge to shriek and fling it violently away.

There were spiders in that home, too. I remember one black body crawling up the orange kitchen wall. It was bigger than my hand, my fingers spread wide. I left it alone, managed not to scream, not go running down the dirt road, gibbering in horror. I shudder even now, make another quick check around the circumference of my feet. All clear. I hose down my knees, my shins, wriggle my toes against the glistening cement. Did I really see a scorpion just now? And if I did, was it dead or alive? I shiver, go back to my watering. There are some things I don’t miss about living in Mexico, I think, as I turn to retrace my steps along the walkway. I wonder if some things, like spiders the size of plates, might even make me hesitate to live there again.

Close-up of Mexican birds of paradise blossoms and buds

I shake my head, as if I could dislodge the thought, and walk through the cool wet to water my tecoma and my Mexican birds of paradise. They are both spilling out of their ceramic pots, encroaching on the path, lush and stunning in their messy late summer opulence. I see the painted gecko peeking out behind them, and I remember the high-pitched kissing sounds of the besoconas who lived in the palapa roof of our first Todos Santos rental. I liked their company, and I miss their cheerful noise. I remember, too, they are great eaters of bugs.