Now we were so close to Suicidio that I could see the walls of fabric being shaken by the wind and I could imagine I was able to hear the constant blasting noise of the canvas being pulled out and then whipped again. In reality what I was hearing were the puffs and whinnies of the horses. They must also have sensed the asphyxiating presence of Suicidio, growing stronger and stronger. I heard the snap of the whip and the horses whinnied again, but we kept moving ahead. As I was trying to imagine the inner layout and machinery of Suicidio, I noticed two people right outside of it, dressed up in black uniforms, standing together and holding two adjacent sections of the wall with both hands.
The coachman turned his head back, glanced around the side of the cart and saw me perched on the window and looking out.
“Get your melon inside,” he yelled. As soon as I obeyed, two shutters banged over and covered the windows. I could no longer see the outside but enough light still passed through the spaces left between the shutters and the sides of the windows, and through the gaps between the wood boards that made the sides of the cart. I could still see the features of the woman who was sitting in front of me.
During the whole trip she had seemed distant and not too interested in what was going on. At some point I was studying her face while she was looking outside. What thoughts were wavering in that brain of hers, producing a frown, then a smile. When she turned her head and her eyes found mine I looked down and she must have thought that I was perusing her anatomy in an inappropriate manner. Her gesture of pulling down her skirt was a clear sign of protection. Not at all my intention, obviously.
For a few minutes I kept asking myself why such a young and healthy-looking woman had opted to end her days in Suicidio. I decided to ask her exactly that same question without any dilation. I just needed the proper cue to unleash my words.
I spent some decent amount of time rephrasing my introductory question in my head and it still seemed unpolished. However, the man sitting next to me breathed in a lot of air and blew once again a huff of displeasure, and before the man took his next breath I had started to summon my question, without my conscience noticing.
“I’m very sorry to interrupt you, and I realize that I should have already introduced myself and maintained a conversation at some previous time in our journey, but some times, of course, my name is Jonathan Trupp, you may have not heard about me, which is totally understandable, but I cannot stop myself from wondering how is that a young and healthy-looking person like yourself has resorted to Suicidio, if you don’t mind me asking,” I said.
She considered my question for a while. “Business,” she finally said with an air of mystery, of holding something back.
“What type of business, if you don’t mind me asking?” I probed with a neutral, welcoming voice.
“Mice,” she said. In all honesty, I cannot say I care too much for mice.
“Oh, mice, that’s very interesting,” I said. “What do you do with the mice?”
“I’ll try to sell a few and then I’ll keep moving.”
“Oh, you sell mice. Of course. Most interesting. Good business, is it?”
“Only in San Francisco, really. But it’s a good idea trying to expand the business from time to time.”
“Oh, yes, right,” I was able to say.
Now that she seemed to loosen up and be ready to maintain a lively conversation, I did not have anything to add. I find all aspects of the selling business most uninteresting and soporiferous. All the mystery and captivating personality that I had imagined her to be covered with had dissipated. She had been transformed into someone that would try to sell me a pair of mice, a cage, a satchel of grain and a pet owner’s manual.
She regained some of her initial allure when the shutters came down on the windows. In the semidarkness she seemed worried, as if she had been keeping a secret and suddenly realized that someone was on to her and her secret was going to be revealed.
All of a sudden we were in total darkness and I could not see her anymore.
We were inside Suicidio.