From the novel, The Book of Want
By Daniel A. Olivas
En un país muy lejano, there lived a woman of a certain age who owned a camera shop with her husband. She had two healthy sons (identical twins, in fact), who attended a local university. She enjoyed the company of her sister who lived nearby but missed her other sister who still lived in the old country, across the southern border. All in all, the woman believed that she lived a perfectly fine life. But concerns did weigh on her mind. She still could not forget the horror of planes crashing into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and that faraway field in Pennsylvania. She became obsessed with the mothers who died or who lost husbands, children and siblings that day. She always worried about the mothers. And the war in Iraq confused and angered this woman; no matter how hard she reviewed the facts as she knew them, the woman could not see the connection between 9/11 and the war her country waged. The woman kept all of this to herself believing that no one wanted to know this side of her.
One morning, as the woman and her husband tended to their camera shop, a man walked into the store. The woman looked up from what she was doing and smiled. The man smiled back and for a moment simply stared into the woman’s eyes. This made her uncomfortable for but a moment, and then she blushed and felt as silly as a young girl. This is an old man, she thought. Trim and well-dressed, but old...he must be at least seventy—probably older—the woman concluded.
The woman’s husband offered a hello and asked how he could be of help. The new customer held up a solid, shiny camera. Can you fix this? he asked as he pointed to it. The husband’s eyes widened as did his smile. I haven’t seen one of those in many years! he exclaimed.
As her husband happily attended to the customer, the woman watched the two men lose themselves in admiring and discussing the old camera. For reasons she could not understand, the woman wondered at that moment if her husband had ever been unfaithful to her. This thought made a chill go down the woman’s spine and she shuddered. In truth, she had nothing to worry about: her husband had been faithful throughout their marriage despite a temptation or two. But he did keep several secrets from his wife including the existence of a daughter.
The woman also wondered why she found this stranger so intriguing. She thought that perhaps it was hunger; her breakfast had been too small even for her diet. The woman then thought about the mothers of 9/11 and how they felt each time the images of that horrible day flashed on TV or appeared on the cover of magazines or when President Bush mentioned it in a speech. How could these mothers live with such pain? And she wondered why God let it happen. If everything had a reason, what was the reason for 9/11?
Suddenly, her husband came close and pecked the woman’s cheek. Nice old man, he said. And what a wonderful camera, he added.
The woman looked around the shop and realized that the customer had left while she’d been lost in thought. But she knew that she would see him again. The woman knew this as certainly as she knew her own name.