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    很可能我会去地狱,很可能我该去那里。妈妈说我出生的日子不吉利,并为我祈祷。露西和拉切尔也祈祷。为我们自己也为相互之间……为我们对卢佩婶婶做的事情。

    她的全名叫瓜达卢佩<span class="" data-note="Guadalupe,也是墨西哥圣母的名字。每年12月12日的瓜达卢佩圣母节(Guadalupe Day)是墨西哥最重要的宗教节日。"></span>。她像我妈妈一样漂亮。暗色皮肤。十分耐看。穿着琼·克劳馥式的裙子,长着游泳者的腿。那是照片上的卢佩婶婶。

    可我知道她生病了,疾病缠绵不去。她的腿绑束在黄色的床单下面,骨头变得和蠕虫一样软弱。黄色的枕头,黄色的气味,瓶子勺子。她像一个口渴的女人一样向后仰着头。我的婶婶,那个游泳者。

    很难想像她的腿曾经强健。坚韧的骨,劈波分浪,动作干净爽利,没有像婴儿的腿那样蜷曲皱缩,也没有淹滞在黏浊的黄光灯下。二层楼背面的公寓。光秃的电灯泡。高高的天花板,灯泡一直在燃烧。

    我不知道是谁来决定谁该遭受厄运。她出生的日子没有不吉利。没有邪恶的诅咒。头一天我想她还在游泳,第二天她就病了。可能是拍下那张灰色照片的那天。也可能是她抱着表弟托奇和宝宝弗兰克的那天。也可bbr></abbr>能是她指着照相机让小孩们看可他们不看的那一刻。

    也许天空在她摔倒的那天没有看向人间。也许上帝很忙。也许那天她入水没入好伤了脊椎是真的,也许托奇说的是真的,她从高高的梯凳上重重地摔了下来。

    我想疾病没有眼睛。它们昏乱的指头会挑到任何人,任何人。比如我的婶婶,那天正好走在街上的婶婶,穿着琼·克劳馥式裙子,戴着缀有黑羽毛的、滑稽的毡帽,一只手里是表弟托奇,一只手里是宝宝弗兰克。

    有时你会习惯病人,有时你会习惯疾病,如果病得太久,也就习以为常了。她的情况就是这样。或者这就是我们选择她的原因。

    那是一个游戏。仅此而已。我们每天下午都玩的游戏,自从某天我们中的一个发明了它。我不记得是谁,我想那是我。

    你得挑选一个人。你得想出大家都知道的一个人,一个你可以模仿,而别人都能猜出来的人。先是那些名人:神奇女侠<span class="" data-note="上世纪七十年代非常流行的一部由漫画改编的电影《神奇女侠》中的主人公,是美国漫画史上第一位漫画女英雄。"></span>、披头士、玛丽莲·梦露……后来有人认为我们稍稍改变一下,如果我们假装自己是宾尼先生,或者他的妻子布兰卡,或者鹭鸶儿,或者别的我们认识的人,游戏会好玩点。

    我不知道我们为什么挑选了她。也许那天我们很无聊,也许我们累了。我们喜欢我们的婶婶。她会听我们讲故事。她经常求我们再来。露西、我和拉切尔。我讨厌一个人去那里。走六个街区才到那昏暗的公寓,阳光从不会照射到的二层楼背面的房子,可那有什么关系?我婶婶那时已经瞎了。她从来看不见水池里的脏碗碟。她看不到落满灰尘和苍蝇的天花板。难看的酱色墙壁,瓶瓶罐罐和黏腻的茶勺。我无法忘记那里的气味。就像黏黏的胶囊注满了冻糊糊。我婶婶,一瓣小牡蛎,一团小肉,躺在打开的壳上,供我们观看。喂,喂。她好像掉在一口深井里。

    我把从图书馆借的书带到她家里。我给她读故事。我喜欢《水孩子》<span class="" data-note="《水孩子》(The Water Babies),查理·金斯莱(1819—1875)的一部童话经典,讲述小烟囱工汤姆在仙女的帮助下,逃离危险的苦役,去到一处安宁清洁的水下世界,做了个水孩子。后来,经过一连串的奇遇,他习得了各种美德,完成了自己的成长之路,回到陆地,成为一个仁爱正直的人。国内早有周煦良的译本。作者金斯莱是牛津、剑桥的历史学教授,还曾做过维多利亚女王的牧师。学识渊博的他,写出的童话却清新优美,寄寓着对所有稚嫩心灵的爱惜与期望。"></span>这本<s>.99lib?</s>书。她也喜欢。我从来不知道她病得有多重,直到那天我想要指给她看书里的一幅画,美丽的画,水孩子在大海中游泳。我把书举到她眼前。我看不到。她说。我瞎了。我心里便很愧疚。

    她会听我念给她听的每一本书,每一首诗。一天我读了一首自己写的给她听。我凑得很近。我对着枕头轻轻耳语:

    <small>我想成为</small>

    <small>海里的浪,风中的云,</small>

    <small>但我还只是小小的我。</small>

    <small>有一天我要</small>

    <small>跳出自己的身躯,</small>

    <small>我要摇晃天空,</small>

    <small>像一百把小提琴。</small>

    很好。非常好。她用有气无力的声音说。记住你要写下去,埃斯佩朗莎。你一定要写下去。那会让你自由,我说好的,只是那时我还不懂她的意思。

    那天我们玩了同样的游戏。我们不知道她要死了。我们装做头往后仰,四肢软弱无力,像死人的一样垂挂着。我们学她的样子笑。学她的样子说话,那种盲人说话的时候不转动头部的样子。我们模仿她必须被人托起头颈才能喝水的样子。她从一个绿色的锡杯里把水慢慢地吮出来喝掉。水是热的,味道像金属。露西笑起来,拉切尔也笑了。我们轮流扮演她。我们像鹦鹉学舌一样,用微弱的声音呼喊托奇过来洗碗。那很容易做到。

    可我们不懂。她等待死亡很长时间了。我们忘了。也许她很愧疚。也许她很窘迫:死亡花了这么多年时间。孩子们想要当回孩子,而不是在那里洗碗涮碟,给爸爸熨衬衫。丈夫也想再要一个妻子。

    于是她死了。听我念诗的婶婶。

    于是我们开始做起了那些梦。

    <h3 class="ter">Born Bad</h3>

    Most likely I will go to hell and most likely I deserve to be there. My mother says I was born on an evil day and prays for me. Lud Rachel pray too. For ourselves and for each other……because of what we did to Aunt Lupe.

    Her name was Guadalupe and she retty like my mother. Dark. Good to look at. In her Joan Crawford dress and swimmer's legs. Aunt Lupe of the photographs.

    But I knew her sick from the disease that would not go, her legs bunched uhe yellow sheets, the bones gone limp as worms. The yellow pillow, the yellow smell, the bottles and spoons. Her head thrown back like a thirsty lady. My aunt, the swimmer.

    Hard to imagine her legs orong, the bones hard and parting water,  sharp strokes, not bent and wrinkled like a baby, not drowning uhe sticky yellow light. Sed-floor rear apartment. The naked light bulb. The high ceilings. ></a>The light bulb always burning.

    I don't know who decides who deserves to go bad. There was no evil in her birth. No wicked curse. One day I believe she was swimming, and the  day she was sick. It might have been the day that gray photograph was taken. It might have been the day she was holding cousin Totchy and baby Frank. It might have been the moment she poio the camera for the kids to look and they wouldn't.

    Maybe the sky didn't look the day she fell down. Maybe God was busy. It could be true she didn't dive right one day and hurt her spine. Or maybe the story that she fell very hard from a high step stool, like Totchy said, is true.

    But I think diseases have no eyes. They pick with a dizzy finger anyone, just anyone. Like my aunt who happeo be walking dowreet one day in her Joan Crawford dress, in her fun hat with the black feather, cousin Totchy in one hand, baby Frank iher.

    Sometimes you get used to the sid sometimes the siess, if it is there too long, gets to seem normal. This is how it was with her, and maybe this is why we chose her.

    It was a game, that's all. It was the game we played every afternoon ever sihat day one of us ied it——I 't remember who——I think it was me.

    You had to piebody. You had to think of someone everybody knew. Someone you could imitate and everyone else would have to guess who it was. It started out with famous people:Wonder Woman, the Beatles, Marilyn Monroe……But then somebody thought it'd be better if we ged the game a little, if we pretended we were Mr. Benny, or his wife Blanca, or Ruthie, or anybody we knew.

    I don't knoe picked her. Maybe we were bored that day. Maybe we got tired. We liked my aunt. She listeo our stories. She always asked us to e back. Lucy, me, Rachel. I hated to go there alohe six blocks to the dark apartment, sed-floor rear building where sunlight never came, and what did it matter? My aunt was blind by then. She never saw the dirty dishes in the sink. She couldn't see the ceilings dusty with flies, the ugly maroon walls, the bottles and sticky spoons. I 't fet the smell. Like sticky capsules filled with jelly. My aunt, a little oyster, a little pieeat on an open shell for us to look at. Hello, hello. As if she had fallen into a well.

    I took my library books to her house. I read her stories. I liked the book The Waterbabies. She liked it too. I never knew how sick she was until that day I tried to show her one of the pictures in the book, a beautiful color picture of the water babies swimming in the sea. I held the book up to her face. I 't see it, she said, I'm blind. And then I was ashamed.

    She listeo every book, every poem I read her. One day I read her one of my own. I came very close. I whispered it into the pillow:

    I want to be

    like the waves on the sea,

    like the clouds in the wind,

    but I'm me.

    One day I'll jump

    out of my skin.

    I'll shake the sky

    like a hundred violins.

    That's hat's very good, she said iired voice. You just remember to keep writing, Esperanza. You must keep writing. It will keep you free, and I said yes, but at that time I didn't know what she meant.

    The day we played the game, we didn't know she was going to die. We pretended with our heads thrown back, our arms limp and useless, dangling like the dead. We laughed the way she did. We talked the way she talked, the way blind people talk without moving their head. We imitated the way you had to lift her head a little so she could drink water, she sucked it up slow out of a green tin cup. The water was warm and tasted like metal. Lucy laughed. Rachel too. We took turns being her. We screamed in the weak voice of a parrot for Totchy to e and wash those dishes. It was easy.

    We didn't know. She had been dying such a long time, we fot. Maybe she was ashamed. Maybe she was embarrassed it took so many years. The kids who wao be kids instead of washing dishes and ironing their papa's shirts, and the husband who wanted a wife again.

    And then she died, my aunt who listeo my poems.

    And then we began to dream the dreams.

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