That You May Listen

When the Ear was discovered near the civic center, it caused a frenzy in the small town of Sonable. The local paper described it as “A landmark for its people. A true piece of historical treasure.” What sort of historical value it held, no one was sure. The headline caught the attention of many. People from surrounding regions traveled far to see the unveiling of the Ear. To the locals, it was a relief to finally know what had been making the strange sounds they’d been hearing in the park where the Ear was discovered. Before this, one could hear the melodies of flutes, drums, and strings along with Sonable’s familiar noises from early risers and commuters. The locals were convinced these sounds were coming from a small hill wedged between two trees, and their certainty solidified—the noises had ceased as soon as the town council began an investigation on the hill. With the help of a few volunteers and a team of archeologists, the excavation of the Ear began.

On the day the Ear was made visible to the public, the energy among the crowd was palpable. They breathed in the tension. What could it be? What had been making all those strange sounds? Could this discovery bring a sense of worth to their lives? Their worry rose to excitement; their voices rippled through the air as the veil was lifted. But the structure was greeted with silence. There were a few confused murmurs and scattered applause as people saw the outline of what lay before them: a large stone carved in the shape of an Ear, its canal facing the sky. The locals were unsure what to make of it.

In the weeks that followed, discussions of the Ear could be heard in every corner of town. Some interpreted its meaning through rambling intellectualism, but some, for the most part, expressed their disdain. Words like hideous, eyesore, and intrusive could be heard in these discussions whispered over restaurant tables, in coffee shops, and at bistros. What were they to make of it, when a nicer monument could have been requested to look at? Something less abstract? When the excitement died down, and the trickling of visitors fell to none, the Ear gradually became a channel on which the town projected its frustrations. They had come to the conclusion that it had no meaning. At times, it was easier to pretend it didn’t exist.

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Every Sunday for the past twenty years since the unveiling of the Ear, street vendors lined up in front of St. Frances Cabrini an hour before Spanish mass finished. They huddled beneath the shade of the tall willow trees and spent the hour setting up their food carts. Don Javier specialized in antojitos. While he brought out the food from his truck, his seven-year-old son, Julian, would slice mangos, watermelon, and jicama. He’d place them in quart-sized plastic cups and line them along a display window with a little can of powdered chili and a bottle of lime juice. Don Javier also sold esquites, papitas, and guaraches; he was up at six in the morning preparing condiments, frying potato slices, and boiling corn on the cob. By the time he finished loading his cart in the truck, he knew Julian was already dressed and combing his hair to one side, the way he’d taught him. They even matched outfits: light brown boots, faded blue jeans, and plaid button-ups, though this was unintentional. Don Javier gave what he could, and sometimes it consisted of hand-me-downs and secondhand clothes.

Together, they worked fast. Julian was quick to calculate the prices in his mind so that when Don Javier asked, A ver mijo, how much will it be?, his son was ready with an answer.

Don Javier also noticed how attentive Julian was to the needs of kids his age. He’d often see his son taking their orders, giving them extra portions or toppings without adding it to the bill. He brought it to Julian’s attention more often than not, but Julian would always remind him that small acts of kindness mattered. His son often spoke with a natural sense of confidence, something that Don Javier felt he lacked since childhood. He noticed many of his son’s attributes; at times, Don Javier thought that they were more than he could handle. He had learned to keep his head down and mind his own business, to be ashamed of his humility. His insecurities—deeply rooted in his own upbringing—grew as soothing herbs he nurtured and relied on. Despite reminding himself how much he had sacrificed to be working in America, Don Javier was afraid he wasn’t providing enough, and that his son’s attributes would keep them lost to one another.

Beneath the willow trees, Don Javier and Julian sold their food. The line of street vendors bustled with life. The Spanish language flourished like monarchs shooting through the sky. Sometimes the priests who came from all over Latin America stopped by to chat, eat esquites, or inform them of the happenings in their countries. Beneath the willow trees, the street vendors brought a piece of the pueblos, a time and place of ease and comfort.

But this was a while ago. Unbeknownst to the vendors, the local paper was reporting complaints of trodden dirt and damaged willow trees while emphasizing the belief that an outdoor market had no place on the grounds of the church. One Sunday, the street vendors were gone. Insiders would know, some parishioners included, that a line of law enforcement would be waiting to turn them away. Those who depended on their Sunday earnings were left to find someplace else to sell.

A few months later, a patch of grass was laid out beneath the willow trees, a trail of pebbles leading to a trickling fountain. A statue of St. Frances Cabrini stood overlooking the small garden, a plaque beneath her reading, patron saint of immigrants, pray for us.

▴ ▴ ▴

How much longer will you stay, Javier? I don’t know. I said between two to three years— It’s been four. I know. I’m sorry. I thought I’d have enough by now for you to cross. I don’t want to cross. I want you and Julian here. Well, he seems to be really enjoying school. I want to talk to him. Give him the phone. He’s sleeping. He wakes up early tomorrow. Not to work? No. A friend of mine is giving Julian guitar lessons. And he’s not charging us. I think he sees some kind of potential in him. My brother knows guitar. He can teach him here. Marta, I think he has a lot more opportunities over here. The plan was to save up money to build us a little home. Well, now it’s finished. It’s practically done. Come back home. But what will we live by? It’s not the same. It would take me a lot longer to earn what I make here. You know that. I don’t care. I don’t think you realize how difficult it’s been— Think about Julian’s futureHe can go to a university— Stop. You can’t long for something he has no control of yet. But it’s his right to want a better life. Why are you speaking like that? I want you to be very careful, Javier. You say you want the best for him. But is that really true? You’re not just thinking of yourself? How can you say that? You’re so blind. You don’t see me. You don’t see Julian. Don’t keep him from me.

▴ ▴ ▴

On his eleventh birthday, Julian hurried away from school and toward the civic center to meet Papá. His backpack weighed a bit too heavy on him so that it pushed him slightly forward. The ends of his pants were frayed from the time they fit too loose; now they rose barely over his shoes. With the straps of his guitar case torn off, he clutched the bulk of nylon under his arm. He heard the bell on Papá’s cart from afar. He smiled and picked up his speed, ignoring the discomfort of having his guitar thud against his hip. By the time he reached the Ear, he was out of breath and clutching a stitch in his side, but he couldn’t let Papá see him that way. He sat on the crevice of the earlobe to catch his breath and brushed the hair out of his eyes, his hand rummaging through his backpack and pulling out his apron. He threw it over himself and was tying the strands when Papá rounded the corner.

“Not today, mijo. We’re taking the day off!”

Julian ran to catch up with him. “No. Are you crazy? Let me help.”

Don Javier pulled the cart out of Julian’s reach. “We met our goal for today.”

Julian furrowed his eyebrows. “Really?”

Papá smiled. “Sí. Ven. Let’s celebrate.”

Sitting on a blanket Papá had laid out next to the Ear, the two ate slices of hummingbird cake and sipped from bottles of orange Fanta. Julian knew that such a cake cost what they made on a very slow day. He watched Papá slice through the frosting, bits of it stuck in the corners of his mouth. He caught Papá’s wide eyes.

“What?” Papá said through a mouthful of cake.

Julian smiled and shook his head. “Nothing.”

But Julian wanted his father to look at him longer, to ask one more time What? so he could maybe, just maybe, talk a little bit about his day. He had the main points at the front of his mind: How they had begun reading a book called Tuck Everlasting in English class. The melody that had come to him during recess. The words he had begun writing in his notebook. He wanted to ask about music: What were lyrics? Are they the same as poetry? Could he accompany him to the library and check out books on the matter? But with Papá’s attention absorbed by his plate, and his refusal to look up again, Julian felt his thoughts scatter. He felt something escaping from his chest, leaving behind a hollowed void.

“Do you think Mamá will call to wish me a happy birthday?” Julian asked, digging his own fork into the paper plate.

Don Javier’s hand slipped, sending the last bits of crumbs flying to the ground. “Es complicado, Julian. Time has gone by too fast and… I’m scared things will not be the same.”

Julian looked into Papá’s face, at his heavy-lidded eyes and the dark circles beneath them. Though he had taken to wearing sunscreen and a straw hat at Julian’s suggestion, Papá’s skin still bore cracks and wrinkles from the sun.

“Does she not want to talk to me? ¿Por qué?”

“It’s not you—”

“Then who is it?”

Julian felt the tension at the back of his neck sending blood rising to his temples, and a warmth flush through his ears. He thought he could shoot arrows through his eyes, and Papá…he looked away from him like he always did. The older man dropped his plate and covered his face with trembling hands. His shoulders shook with every breath he drew in. A couple walking their dog stared at them through their shades and tight frowns, their brisk gym attire dry and fluorescent.

“I don’t know, mijo,” Papá said.

The hummingbird cake turned dry and crumbly in Julian’s mouth. “Feels like there’s a lot you don’t know lately.”

The words had emerged in English, and the look on his father’s face brought him satisfaction. It resembled some form of the void he’d been feeling. But all this was only temporary. He mulled it over as he got up and dragged his backpack and guitar case with him. The way he said those words didn’t reflect who he was. The sharpness in his tone and expectancy in his voice held a privilege he knew he didn’t have. He thought of going back and apologizing. Instead, he felt himself shatter, the last bits of optimism leaving his eyes.

Julian’s figure retreated farther and farther into the distance, and Don Javier lost track of how long he sat by himself, staring at his food cart. In his mind the small iron box had transformed into a million overgrown monsters. He thought he saw one of them chasing after Julian.

▴ ▴ ▴

Seven years later, on the afternoon that Marta endured a series of exhausting premonitions, she cleansed her space by bathing in rosemary water, allowing the vapor to creep through her home. She roamed its rooms with a stick of incense in hand; she confronted the shadows beyond the windows, expecting to see something looming. She closed each curtain, gathering the cloth tightly in her hands, her eyes tracing its patterns, keeping them fixed on the intersecting lines. She felt a terrible feeling in the center of her heart, as if a creature with sharp nails were clinging to it, trying to drag her down. She stumbled to the kitchen to get her phone. She tried not to think of the last time she had called Javier; she knew it had been too long. But her worry surpassed any feeling of resentment. At the moment, she just wanted to make sure Javier and Julian were doing okay. She found Javier’s number and placed the phone to her ear, listening to the dialing tones and ignoring nightfall as it pressed through her window.

▴ ▴ ▴

On that same afternoon, Don Javier looked beyond the civic center at the pebble of the setting sun, his eyes absorbing the last bits of light. He sat on the earlobe of the statue that had become the last stop on his route. The years had begun to take a toll on his body, the wrinkles on his skin lingering long after his smile broke the surface of his face. Pushing his food cart around town took more effort; the energy in his limbs came and went in sporadic bursts of electric happiness. When these moments arrived, he felt younger. His hands moved about, sprinkling lime juice over chicharrones de rueda, or dollops of chamoy sauce over nieve de mango with such fluidity that at times the antojitos appeared to be suspended in midair. All the while, he kept his eyes and ears rapt to the confluences of his clients’ stories, how they paralleled his own: the illusion of time and prosperity; of freedom encased in golden cages; of their children forgetting their native language, the eldest finally settling down. And you, Don Javier? How’s Julian? Y Marta? Don Javier would answer to the best of his knowledge. As long as Julian or Marta wasn’t sick or suffering from some kind of immediate medical condition, Don Javier assumed they were both fine. If Don Javier had taken time to ask his son how he was doing—Truly, mijo, how are you doing?—he would have found a chaotic storm of emotions, but the young man hid them well. So Don Javier thought it was safe to retreat into his silence where all was well as long as nothing prevented him from making ends meet. He believed his daily sacrifice was enough to sustain the relationship with his son, but beyond a bloodline, there was no fruit to what Don Javier assumed were well-reasoned acts of parenthood. And so they lived within a false sense of connection.

As Don Javier secured any loose items from his cart, he took a moment to look at his surroundings. In the suffocating shadows of the sunset, he began to feel a creeping sensation, as if he were stepping into another realm, as if the Ear was emanating the sacred energy of the Teotihuacan pyramids he’d seen in his youth. But the thought of stepping through his front door brought him comfort: to see Julian at the dinner table, his notes and books strewn out before him; to step into the warm light of his home. It gave him the energy to push his cart forward. But on his first steps, the bell on the handle thudded to the ground, making a small and distorted ding. As he bent to pick it up, he felt increasingly small in front of the Ear. He heard voices coming from a distance, a heavy banter of male chatter, but his attention stayed on the bits of stone the moss had yet to cover.

Don Javier was aware that his presence bothered others when he sold food in this area, which was why he spread out his route so as not to stay in one place for too long. He’d seen a protest against loitering once. He remembered because he asked Julian what loitering meant, to which his son responded, It has nothing to do with you. But that day Don Javier took his business elsewhere and avoided the area until the tension dwindled. On some rare occasions, Don Javier saw passersby spit or let their dogs pee on the statue just as he rounded the corner. Sometimes, the smell lingered for days so that he thought of moving to a different spot permanently. But just like the promise he made to Marta about returning home, he reminded himself that this work was temporary. He stared at the Ear until only its shadow loomed before him. He placed his bell at the foot of its base and pressed it into the grass.

“I’ll be home, Marta,” he said into the Ear. This time, he heard the voices more clearly.

Don Javier didn’t have enough time to look at his attackers. He thought the sound of his cart slamming to the ground tore his heart out, but it was the cold hands on his scalp and the cruel words, Don’t you know you’re not welcome, that shattered the dreams and hopes it carried.

▴ ▴ ▴

Julian sat at the kitchen table, his eyes fixed on the front door, and listened to the heavy silence left by the clock hanging on the wall. Purple spots bloomed over his vision. The clock had stopped ticking at ten past six. Papá was more than twenty minutes late. His phone lay in the spot where he usually sat for dinner. Julian’s math homework, which had been so clear to him a few moments earlier, now appeared like a book of spells and hexes.

Throughout the years, he had grown used to Papá’s silences. Still. This one felt different. Lifeless. Excruciating. As if everyone and everything had ceased to exist.

Blinking away the strain of stars from his eyes, he saw the shadow of his guitar tucked in the corner of the living room and walked toward it. He took it in his hands and hung the strap over his shoulder, remembering how Papá encouraged him to play, how they’d stop for ice cream after practice. At first, Julian didn’t understand why Papá insisted he learn to play, but with time he saw just how much it helped pull him through the last stages of childhood. His fingers formed an F chord, poised to play, but Julian remained still. The silence pressed on. He let the guitar fall toward his back and walked to the door, intent on looking for Papá. The latch clicked, and the door swung open. Julian let it fall back until it hit the wall, expecting to see Papá with his straw hat crumpled in his hand, his expression tired but happy. But no one stood on the threshold. A gust of warm wind swept past Julian. It enveloped him through, cutting off the cold streaming through the door—warmth that seemed to expand through the entire room. And Julian, he closed his eyes and fell to the floor, burrowing his forehead into the carpet. No. He wanted to say. Don’t leave me. The warmth lingered as Julian’s sobs broke the silence. It stayed with him until they subsided and left at the exact moment Marta’s call went through. The phone rang, and the clock’s hands began ticking once more.

▴ ▴ ▴

A troubling thought brought Marta out of her sleep. She sat up with her eyes closed, her face searching the empty room. She pulled the covers off herself and sank her feet onto the cold concrete floor. Her hands reached out until they found the small match box resting on her dresser. She shook the box awake until it slid out of its cover. The hollowed sound of the matches rained all over the glazed redwood of her dresser. Three broken stems. On the fourth try, a small flame erupted from her fingers. She transferred it onto her candle.

Marta opened her eyes, straining against the light. They rested on a photo she had framed when Javier and Julian had gone north. She forgot who had taken it. Her sister-in-law perhaps; it was she who had given it to her. A rare gesture, Marta considered. No matter how close a family member. Photos tended to disappear, reappearing as buried artifacts near homes with needles poked through, and ribbons tied around amulets or dolls. Amarros or hechizos, as were whispered amongst the pueblo, to cast and bind curses.

In the photo, she was kneeling in front of Julian, who had just turned three years old. His belly protruded through his green overalls, his chubby hands holding a cascarón full of confetti. Both of them were covered in it. Little Julian. He had no knowledge of a life beyond their pueblito. Julian didn’t know that, for six months, Marta had been collecting the eggshells her hens laid. He didn’t know she’d been cleaning and painting them with his birthday party in mind. Depending on the day, the eggs ranged between deep hues and light pastels. Julian didn’t know she had filled the eggs with confetti, and that they were meant to be broken over one’s head. Julian didn’t know that moments after the photo was taken, his mother would take the egg from his hand and crack it over his hair, that she would send him stumbling to the ground. Looking at the photo in candlelight, Marta remembered how fast Julian broke out in sudden laughter, extending his arms toward her. As she took him in her arms and shook away the rest of his shock, she wondered what he saw in her to react in such a way.

Prayer was a last resort for Marta. She wasn’t raised with the ancient customs of her ancestors, but with a detached tradition of invocations and hymns. With little resources in the pueblo, she made sure to make her own ends meet. Ever since Javier had spoken to her of Julian’s future and the opportunities he had in the United States, she had been repeating a specific request in her mind. And now, given the circumstances, she wondered if she had manifested it. The very few times she prayed, she’d almost laugh in irony, thinking about her abuela stumbling over her lauds and litanies and, at the time, vowing to never reach such lonely forms of dependency. But it wasn’t a prayer, she thought, flipping through a small notebook full of her poetry and pressed flowers, until she stumbled on the phrase she’d been repeating. There in her cluttered penmanship were the words she had written down out of despair: please let me see my son again.

Marta closed her notebook and turned at the sound of her goats bleating at the early morning light. She walked to the window and peered through the curtain. Her sister-in-law was already up, bringing in the clothes she had forgotten to take down the day before. With her hands full of wrinkled cloth, she gave Marta a pitying look and raised her hand. Marta closed the curtain without returning her greeting. It was stupid to think Javier was dead simply because Marta had forgotten to mention him in prayer.

“It wasn’t a prayer,” Marta said to the empty room.

She threw her chal over herself, tucking her chin between its folds and warming her hands beneath it. She went to the stove to heat up water, boiling sugar and throwing strands of chamomile in a pot. Bits of twigs and flowers caught on her chal.

When she finally sat at her table, the sun broke free from a cloud and bathed her in light. She pulled her chair away and sat on the other side. Of course she had wanted both of them to come back safely, but how was it possible that it took Javier’s death to bring Julian home after fifteen years? Her written words resurfaced.

“No,” Marta said, placing her eyes on her palms. “This can’t be happening.”

▴ ▴ ▴

Julian couldn’t pretend to have seen the worn-out look Mamá had given his guitar when he stepped into her home. Our home, she had told him, though he refused to see it that way, at least for the time being. Papá had often spoken about their house, the one he and Mamá had built together, but the house held no remnant of his father’s presence. The house bore small burts of colors collected in vases of talavera, wildflowers, strands of herbs, and framed paintings set against the ivory walls. The concrete floor was covered with crimson-colored rugs, and potted plants appeared in random spots. Later, Julian realized that the sun hit them at certain hours of the day.

Julian couldn’t quite place the feeling, but when Mamá opened the door, and he looked into her brown eyes, it was like no time had passed at all. He feared he’d feel distant from his mother, but it was the opposite. The bloodline that coursed through them spoke in that moment and assured him that she had always been his mother even if they had lost proximity. He found she upheld the same silences as his father, but where Papá’s felt lonely and troubled, Mamá held her own with conviction—she gave off the sense that were more pressing matters than saying whatever trivial thing came to mind.

After she showed Julian how to transfer fire to the stove with a match and a napkin, he poured himself tea from the simmering pot and sat at her plastic table. A small glass vase full of lavender was set in the middle. He found her staring out the window, her eyebrows knitted together. The light coursing through lit Mamá’s face so that he saw every line supporting her worries; it brought out the gray strands on her flyaway hair and the deeper hues in her brown eyes.

“A while back, when you were younger,” she said, “there was a small monte just up the path behind our house. I would take you there almost every morning. It was there where you took your first steps. You’d roll down that hill and get mud all over yourself. You never really waited for me. You always found a way to get back up if you’d fall. I wonder…if your Papá was here, would you roll down that hill if he did so first?”

“No,” Julian said, the word extracted from an interior certainty so that it rolled out much too fast.

Marta looked at him with the same furrow on her brow. “I assumed. I never wanted to leave Mexico. I might have very little to work with here, but I’ve learned how to make the best of it. I hope with time you’ll understand why your father left with you and why I couldn’t follow.”

Julian nodded, a lump rising in his throat. He fixed his gaze at a point beyond the window. “Why would someone want to kill him? He was harmless….he…cared so much for me, and I couldn’t show him how much he meant to me.”

“I don’t think we could ever understand how much hatred runs deep. But love runs deeper. With time, you’ll see. Through his love, he’s not truly gone.”

“Did I do the right thing in coming back? Is this where I belong?” Julian wiped his eyes, and then before Mamá could say anything, “You don’t have to answer that.”

Marta covered Julian’s hand with her own. “This land holds your roots. You’re closer to them now.”

Julian nodded.

“We are like incense,” she continued, “we ascend beyond any limitations placed on us.”

They finished the last of their tea talking about the time she and Papá first met and how they dug out the foundations for their home. Through photos and memories, Julian and Marta pieced together the time they spent apart. The sun streamed through the window, and Julian took in the unfamiliar sounds outside the house: dogs, goats, and roosters synchronized in their calls, people selling tamales, gathering water for the cisterns. Unbound songs, announcing opportunities to dream and the freedom to live.

▴ ▴ ▴

The day before Papá’s service, Julian accompanied Mamá to the lower hills near a stream where they picked up herbs and loose leaves. He had known through the few times they spoke on the phone that his mother brewed coffee in a small shop near the heart of the pueblo’s square. Julian also noticed that she sold a small collection of books and self-printed works from writers around the pueblos. He didn’t know she taught English and poetry to local children. She insisted on talking to him in Spanish, And when you’re ready, we’ll start learning a new language. She said coffee shops weren’t common in their pueblo, but that she found her neighbors appreciated sitting down in the ambience she built.

It was a slow and quiet day at work for them. In between customers, Marta went over her menu; since she had very little help during the week, she focused on just a few items. She explained the properties of herbs, the ones native to their land and where he could find them; she explained which properties fused better with certain coffee blends, and since she traveled once a week to find coffee grounds at pueblos magicos, she had a good selection to work with. I’m not going to lie, it’s been difficult, she said, as she twisted a pestle into a mortar, the smell of rosemary rising between them, but this is what I love. Julian helped her strain coffee through the leaves. The vapors from the drinks they made comforted him. He thought of Papá, of the antojitos he made for the people: What was it that made him choose that work besides out of pure necessity? He had never asked. As he thought of Papá extracting the money he earned from his pockets, as he watched Mamá putting away her pesos in a wooden box beneath the counter and placing cups of coffee into the hands of her customers, Julian sensed that he was missing some important piece of instruction for his future. He thought he was in the place to figure it out.

▴ ▴ ▴

During the funeral procession, the child carrying his guitar after school, the boy with his backpack weighing heavy on his back, the one wearing worn-out clothes, the boy that waited by the Ear for his father to arrive for his route—this boy walked the dirt path through Julian’s body, past crooked, wrought-iron crosses, squared mausoleums painted in pastel colors, toward a hole in the ground surrounded by sword lilies and white roses. The sky above encased them in the landscape. The boy thought this was all there was to his world, to grow and return to the land.

When his Papá was laid to rest, the boy looked around him, the neck of the guitar slipping from his sweaty hand. He ran. The dirt scattered behind him, the tombstones fusing into one solid blur. His foot snagged on a tin vase. His hands breaking the fall, his guitar soaring from his grasp. The boy coughed into the ground, unable to move his hands and push himself up. A choked yell escaped his mouth. But then a voice spoke to him, the older version of himself, I can’t do this alone. I need your help. We need to get back up. The coughs and dry sobs subsided enough for him to focus on his limbs. They ached as he sat up. Julian’s arms embraced his stomach, the dirt soaking up his tears. You see? I’m here.

A warm breeze swept through the dust, drying his eyes and cradling his face. He saw his guitar ahead of him and the back of a stone structure. He gathered his guitar and walked toward it. He recognized the silhouette. After so many years, how could he not? But a part of him couldn’t believe it. He wanted to turn away, but the child within him wanted to make sure if it was true what they were seeing. Through the dust, he saw the crevices of an ear etched on the stone, its features opposite from the one in Sonable so that it appeared one in the same. He stayed long enough for the illusion to fade if it wanted to, but the stone remained before him.

He found that the warm breeze stayed with him like on the day Papá failed to come home. As he sat on the earlobe, he thought the dust should have settled by now. It hadn’t. It swirled in intricate patterns. If he focused on one for too long, it remained suspended in the air. A silence began to grow so that the only sound Julian heard was his own breathing. He closed his eyes and focused on untying the knot in his throat. He did so with streams pouring from his eyes. And before he felt a complete grasp of isolation, he heard the faint sound of a bell. He opened his eyes, and between his feet he saw it. The same one Papá had on his food cart. The silence made all the more sense.

Julian’s left hand found an F chord, his fingers pressing into the strings. The fear he felt on the day Papá passed away seeped through his veins, but the child within him seemed expectant, and Julian felt that he couldn’t let him down. So he played through the strings, finding a melody within the chord, the faint ghost of a waltz. He found the next chord, C, and played through it, moving to G until the song broke off its structure. And the riffs began to flow from the heart. The boy said, It’s sounding really good. And the memory of his father infused the song that rose higher, the notes moving swiftly between his emotions, until the breeze quieted and a voice separate from the boy, from his older self, broke the silence, A ver Julian, go on. I’m listening.

▴ ▴ ▴

It was reported on the day the Ear fell apart that a strange noise had been issuing from its canal. Music, as one local said. By then, the last of the flowers and candles surrounding the Ear had already withered and melted away. The death of Don Javier, a street vendor as the local paper reported, wedged away from emotion’s reach and into a faded memory. On the day the Ear fell apart, the people of Sonable reported hearing a guitar playing throughout the park. They scattered among the grounds looking for its source, like their ancestors did many years before its discovery. A crowd gathered around the Ear once more. The music had a haunting resonance to it. Strange echoes clung to the melody as it issued from the Ear. One witness said it sounded like the song of a whale, as if they had all been submerged in water. Most people in the crowd reported the guitar rose to a crescendo so loud that it caused some to cover their ears, that after this happened, the Ear gave a tremendous rumbling noise before it cracked down the middle and crumbled to the ground.

Eduardo Roldan is a Latino writer from California with roots in Mexico and Guatemala. He graduated with an MFA in creative writing from San Francisco State University, and works within the alchemy of magical realism. He is fascinated in the space between the sublime, mystical, and mundane, and his writing explores cultural enlightenment and identity.