By Carljoe Javier
He was still warm. Elena could not feel the cold asphalt chilling her legs haphazardly strewn out on the street. Her duster was a mess and it was soaking moisture from the asphalt. The night air that had gone from warm to cool bit at her arms and the nape of her neck. But she was focused on warmth.
Bernard had never been the warmest of husbands. There was, of course, the fire of young love that had driven them together. Bernard who was on fire on the basketball court. She made her own heat with her hip-hop dance troupe at the fiestas. When they could find time to be alone, they were ablaze for each other.
They hadn’t planned on all that fire leading to the spark of life, and to an end to the games and the dancing as they would have to struggle to keep the baby fed and the lights on. The passion wasn’t extinguished, but it no longer burned and flared.
Bernard stayed out most nights. She knew he was probably doing drugs. He had been when they met, promised to stop when they were dating, had stopped when the baby was on its way. Sometimes he lied to her. Other times she just accepted that he would use them once in a while. As long as he brought enough money home for them and treated her and the baby kindly then she could accept it.
They fought, like all couples. And there were times when she had wished him dead, like when he had forgotten to pay the electricity bill because he had been high and woke up too late. She spent the night fanning the baby’s forehead so she wouldn’t sweat too much and break out into rashes. But those were the idle threats that anyone throws around. I wish you were dead. Why don’t you just die. You say it because you’re angry, but you never really mean it, right?
She held him now, wishing the opposite. She pressed her body to his, hoping that her warmth would revive him, that somehow the fire that she felt in her heart would lick something alight in his body that was growing colder by the moment.
Her hands gripped him, her body wrapping around him, trying to envelop him in life. His blood had been drying and the back of his head was sticky on her shoulder. The tears burned hot on her eyes and she drove her face into his hair, smelling the iron tang.
Her sobs and wails had drawn a crowd; around them the air began to turn hot with breath and whisper, lights flashed from camera phones.
Elena felt the warmth leaving Bernard’s body. She tried to use her breath on his neck, her hands rubbing up and down his arms. But the cold of the night descended upon them.