“Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.”

—Pablo Neruda

It is after 8, and it has been a long goodbye with valleys of silence. They want to see a photo of you and your mother and sister, what your father used to look like, the garden in your yard in Sacramento. They have no idea where the United States is only that it is a lifetime away and that you won’t return for many months or a year. Cecelia touches your light hair and then hers and laments that yours is so much softer. She wants a ring like yours. She wants a life like yours. She’s only thirteen.

She wants to know how to avoid having children. Her mother has six. She’s not sure the five-year-old will be the last. Her brother, only fourteen, has a son named Alex. You tell her as much as you can about birth control, answering her questions just as you answered her brother’s questions about the crowned man hanging from crosses everywhere, about the radiant, angelic mother and her gold baby as ubiquitous in the city as the summer rain.

You listen to a trio playing guitar and accordion music, and your shoulders begin to dance. They wear the gravity of your leaving; not even the little girl shoulder dancing now can lighten their mood.

So you take a page from M’s favorite movie and have them make a dream Christmas list. Agostino whispers, the Day of the Magi, reminding you there is no Santa Claus. They say phones, they say toy cars, Cecelia wants sandals like yours, Julio wants a bicycle. Agostino says someday he’ll drive a car.

They want most of all for you not to leave, but you do. The relief of a breeze carries you home.

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