you don’t believe in fukú but fukú believes in you
that’s what she said, as her fingers smoothed out the wrinkled edges of a paper coaster, damp from spilt beer.
It was quarter to six on a Tuesday, when the pub was usually empty, and Max, the bartender, and I indulged in monosyllabic conversations, which I found soothing for their brevity and clarity. But on this Tuesday, I arrived to find an extra soul at the bar.
She handed me a beer as soon as I sat down and refused the fifty I slid over. I didn’t like it when people paid for my alcohol, but it was difficult to tell her to fuck off, this woman with a face that made me think of an empty stretch of highway.
She was telling Max that her family had mala suerte, and when I said I didn’t put much stock in the supernatural, she laughed like the taste of vinegar. She raised one hand and ticked off on her fingers:
‘The fukú took my grandfather when he was 52. He was struck by lightning while playing his guitar in a hut in the middle of a rice field during a thunderstorm.’
‘Why the fuck would he do a thing like that?’ I asked, expecting no response and received none. Max stepped out for a smoke.
‘My mother died of cancer when she was 33, the same age Jesus was when he got nailed to a cross. The doctors cut her open half a dozen times before they told us there was nothing they could do.’
I stared at the pale woman’s profile, noticing only then the red hair that hung down her back. It shone like a wound in the bar’s dim light.
‘The year my brother drowned in a river, I was diagnosed with cancer. It took surgery and a year of physiotherapy before I could walk again. That was three years ago.’
Max returned and began rinsing cutlery. I finished my beer and dug inside my trouser pocket for keys and a tip for Max. I thought I might pick up a bottle of red and watch that Iranian art film about a vampire dressed in a chador. But then the woman said–
‘My boyfriend died yesterday. He had to fly to London for work. He died on the plane. I have to fly to the U.K. and bring his body home.’
‘Mierda. I’m sorry,’ I said.
‘We met six months ago. We’re in our fifties. Never married. I think we were waiting for each other.’
She looked me in the eye for the first time and opened her mouth but the wind came and stole whatever there was left inside her. She walked out of the pub and I was glad I never saw her again.
Max asked what I thought of her fukú.
‘Fuck, I don’t believe in fukú,’ I said, ‘but she restored my faith in the catholic church. Only a twisted white god would do a thing like that.’