June 21, the longest day. Tonight the stars will beam like headlights, and Scorpio will crawl along the ridge.
We’ll drink and talk beneath the portal and wait for heat lightning, red as Antares, to flash beyond the horizon.
No car has passed for an hour. No chainsaw has growled. The melt is over, and the river is low and quiet. Not the wind, but silence rolls in from afar.
There are near sounds: a blackbird in cattails by the river, swallows mewing on the power line. The sapsucker drums in the elm.
The nighthawks are up and wooing their mates with dives. They climb to the limit of sight, then plummet until—whoosh—they brake within feet of the ground. Each night at dusk they make this dance, plunging in and out of sunset.
The final light blazes on the blind man’s house, last house in the valley. It gleams on the transformers and the signs for Quality Oil and Chevron.
It lingers on the peaks, bare islands in a sea that laps the edges of our fields, waiting to reclaim them.
Comes the old man on his canes. Huffs as he climbs from the road. “Son of a bitchy bull, gone all the way to Orlando. Broke the fence again. Maybe tomorrow you help me bring her.” The road is dusty, dry. Yes he’ll take a beer.
Montoyita, how is he?
And Juan de Dios?
“Todavía the same. Weak to walk. Fine to sit.”
Silence, and we watch the valley. Sound of sipping and swallowing. Sound of bottles put down on the rough cement stoop. Sound of circling nighthawks, calling eep, eep, as they hunt and swoop.
The chamisa darkens by the road. The light of the blind man’s house goes out. Now a coyote starts up. Now a car.
“All right, thank you. I got to go while I can see. That vieja is waiting.” He edges down the bank, weight on the canes, loose dirt sliding before him. He reaches the bottom, stamps his boots clean.
See you tomorrow.
“You see me tomorrow, yes. If I don’t die and you don’t go blind.”
He raises high the righthand cane, a salute without looking, and shuffles down the road.
Comes now the light of the moon and the red eye of Antares, staring from the dark above the llano. Somewhere by the river an owl begins to hoot.
View slideshow of 16 Jacobo Romero photographs from River of Traps >>