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fl fl fl CarlosandPera Were Lovers One Saturday afternoon, in a corner at the food bank, while a dozen families lined up, nodding hello and talking about the snow-flurried roads that led east across the river into winter sagebrush, where clutches of trailers huddled, Pera and Carlos bagged masa. Scraps of onion skin scattered on the floor. A limp cardboard box that once held frozen turkey quarters lay underfoot; Carlos and Pera were trying very hard to find something to talk about. Scoop and tie, scoop and tie. When their knuckles brushed, and a fine white cloud formed over the mouth of the sack, they sneezed and grinned. Did she come from Guerrero? Acapulco, yes. He thought so because of her accent. Oh, a smile, and where was he from? He cleared his throat and looked her in the eye. He tried to think of something unforgettable. He was the love child, he wanted to say, of a runaway jipiteca taken in by a childless Kíkapu couple living under the Piedras Negras bridge. All of that with a straight face. But no, all he said was, from Michoacán. She took a long look at him. The guy had possibilities. When he broke out in a grin, she smiled and looked away, but only for the moment it took to reply that she was happy to make his acquaintance, etc. Then Carlos wondered, very cautiously, would she like to go window shopping downtown, sure, and after that they went for coffee in a MacDonald’s. They sat against a window overlooking large plastic tubes kids slid through and came out of howling. They talked about the food bank, about jobs, about stuff she couldn’t recall a moment later because it felt so good that someone was asking her questions and nodding at what she said. Her own thoughts leaping clear, wiggling off in she didn’t care what direction. Watch out, she told herself that night. She repeated 76 the permit that never expires his name and told herself to watch out for those large calm eyes. He made her think of somebody steering through fog. He made her think of telenovelas written to draw in people like Carlos and her, even if the characters in them were stereotypes of Carlos and her. It wasn’t that you identified with the singsong housemaid in braids, after all, especially not when she was pregnant by her employer’s smooth-talking brother-in-law, but the hassle she went through did sound familiar. And for that matter, so did the brother-in-law. The first lovemaking Pera and Carlos enjoyed was certainly nothing out of a telenovela. They got it out of the way in almost business-like fashion one afternoon in her aunt’s trailer before the nieces got home from school. Pera had just got back from the supermarket when Carlos came by and helped carry in the grocery bags, and one thing led to another, not so much out of passion as because it was what people did, this curious, sweaty, grinding, clumsy dance that left them with nothing to say, kind of embarrassed, but closer, she knew, to each other than before. Their love affair made quite a hit with the neighbors, it turned out, as Pera in her hurry to get indoors had left the headlights on, so in a couple of hours, when Carlos came out, he had to borrow jumper cables from the grinning guy next door, and, well, so much for discretion. There never was a public or ceremonial moment to celebrate what now existed between Pera and Carlos. Though the family acknowledged it in ways as inconspicuous as rearranging the contents of her aunt’s crowded medicine cabinet to include Carlos’s toothbrush and razor, and the sleeping arrangements became fluid, with one of the twins spending nights with a cousin across the street, and the other announcing she needed to sleep on the living room couch because she was studying late. That was how the lovers settled into the bedroom that Pera not long before had shared with the twins. For each, it was a relatively stable routine of working, sleeping, and small talk, though anyone less used to impermanence would have felt it truly chaotic. Neither had a steady job nor a place to live. But neither was quite ready to let go of a certain independence, the rush that came with wholesale impermanence , the guilty relief there...

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