She’s An Artist (Story by R.C. Peris)

Guillermo steered the car with both hands gripping the smooth steering wheel. She was next to him. Fernanda. Her hair was dark and wavy; it draped across her back and was heavy so that if you lifted one chunk it had the heft of a gun. Her brow had a wrinkle, a thin wrinkle, and her face had a smattering of smaller creases. She was an older woman and, at her age and with her demeanor, should would be called handsome like a man but Guillermo didn’t like to think of her in masculine terms. She was a prize with soft eyes and a full mouth. It made no difference her uterus was long dead or that she could walk into a room and be invisible because of her age. She wasn’t so old. In her fifties. Culture wasn’t easy on aging women. There is an age where a woman is no longer a sex object and just a thing. Fernanda was that very age. But Guillermo found her attractive. And crazy.

The truck bounced with every bump and rock on the road. They were driving to the border. Near Juarez. In the back were Diego and John. Guillermo paid them no mind. Diego had cello straddled between his legs and John had a flute sitting neatly on his lap. It was still light out but the night would fall fast in the desert. Guillermo was on a dusty highway heading straight for the Mexico border. Fernanda was looking out the window, at the desert and dry dirt. She squinted in the sunlight.

“Do illegals come through here?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Guillermo. “When do you want to stop?”

“When I see border patrol.”

“We will soon.” Guillermo pulled a cigarette out. He was about to reach in his pocket for a lighter but Fernanda reached her hand in without any thought and flicked the lighter. “Thank you.” Guillermo wondered if Fernanda could see his erection. It was a matter of little importance. A reflexive action when an attractive woman touches him.
They drove for ten minutes more and they began to see the US military and ICE. There was no order to their guarding of the border. They were lounging. Guillermo figured they were all pissed they had to spend Thanksgiving away from their families. Not far in the distance were the camps for the children and the adults. Guillermo braked.

“This is as far as I go.”

“This is fine.” Fernanda got out and gingerly lifted her violin case.

“Who are you?” Guillermo was so curious about her.

“You know my name. Fernanda Shrapovna.” She laid her violin case on the truck hood. It was hot to the touch.

“Yes, but who are you?”

“My mother was a Mexican and a Marxist. My father was a Russian Communist. But I am a citizen of the world and we will play Beethoven. A disagreeable man and victim of child abuse. But from the depths of deprivation emerged art. Will you film us? It’s a live feed for Facebook.”

And so they played as the sun set and Guillermo felt tears forming in his eyes. The music flung across the expanse of desert and it seemed to make the dirt glow. Fernanda was imperious, competent, but emotion erupted with every move of her bow. She was marvelous. The soldiers and ICE in the distance paid the performance no mind. Who are you not to be touched by beauty? Guillermo got very angry. He had been a citizen for twenty years but he disliked those soldiers and ICE. They were like wolves in the forest. Seeking flesh to bite and haul.

The sun set and the trio of musicians stopped playing. They got back in the truck.

“Back to the city,” said Fernanda.

Guillermo wiped his face.

“That was beautiful,” he said.

“That was Beethoven,” she said.

“But that was so beautiful. Why did you do it?”

Fernanda did not answer but called someone on the phone.

“Darling, where are you?” she asked. “The Russian Tea Room? Yes? Did you see the live feed? Yes? Well, darling. I just want to say I hate you. I’m done with you. Move your French ass out of my apartment. You’ve cheated and now we are done…Oh, look…Guillermo…you can see the lovely Russian Tea Room on the phone…I see caviar and cocktails.”

Then she clicked the phone off.

“You came all the way out here to break up with someone?” Guillermo started the truck.

“Yes.” It was the cellist. “She’s an artist.”

“She’s crazy.”

“She’s an artist.”

“And I say she’s crazy. She could have just…” but Guillermo faltered. Fernanda was draped in the black of night and her face had the coldness of a statue.


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