THIS IS NOT BARCELONA
WE SHIP ANYTHING, anywhere.
Natalie walked into the postal packaging store that was tucked neatly into the corner of the strip mall beside the Great Wall Chinese Restaurant and a linen store that was going out of business.
The postal store proudly declared in its window, We ship anything, anywhere.
"Anything? Anywhere?" She asked the clerk at the counter.
"Absolutely. Guaranteed...you know, as long as it's legal." He added that last part because he was young and nervous and probably working his way through college and couldn't afford to get into trouble and lose his job.
She smiled to put him at ease, because she was also young and nervous and knew what it was like to get into trouble while working your way toward something better.
* * *
Natalie had never touched Paco's guitar. When she picked it up from its velvet-cased shrine while Paco was sleeping, she was surprised to find her index fingers running across the strings, searching for something familiar, and finding nothing but cool silvery wire that could cut and callous her fingers if giving half a chance. He had missed the deadline for the music school. He was leaving voice messages for a friend of a friend of a friend who he met during a gig in a bar that said she could get him some studio time. Maybe Hollywood. The weather is perfect there, Paco told her, as if, like his guitar, he could simply toss her over his shoulder and carry her across the country.
During the time they had lived together, his passion became a dream, and then became a wish, and then became a pathetic wish, like the kind you make when you blow out the candles on a birthday cake. You don't really expect it to come true, so you just wish for something exotic: to win the lottery, a date with a celebrity, fame and fortune.
Natalie picked up one of her hand-crafted mirrors that she had created. She tore apart the shards of broken china plates that decorated the edges. Stashed behind each one was a twenty dollar bill--the spoils of good waitressing, good flirting, and rich old men who played golf at the country club. She deconstructed three mirrors. Three hundred dollars. She soaked the pieces in the sink to convince the glue to let go. She removed the money, and placed it between paper towels to soak up the moisture.
Soggy, but still legal tender for all debts, public and private.
* * *
Natalie was taking out the garbage after her shift and found some broken china plates in the Dumpster. They were the unfortunate wreckage from an inexperienced waitress who was more curvaceous than coordinated. Their scalloped, silvery cool edges and rococo curves eased into the emblem of the Glendale Gardens and Country Club, and inspired a dash of creativity into her senses that she hadn't felt in quite some time. Natalie carefully stuffed them into an extra garbage bag--always careful of the edges. Always. Edges were everywhere. Careful.
"I could use this to decorate mirrors..." she was surprised that she actually said it out loud. She glanced over her should to see if anyone was listening.
A stop at the craft store later and she was sitting at her sticky kitchen counter, swooshing away the three small black ants that somehow always managed to evade her and her latest D-Con trap, and somehow always came back in threes. She glued the shards of discarded china around the edges of a dime store mirror, creating something that was much more elegant than the three-fifty she paid for it. The wavy pattern seemed to rise and fall in rhythm to the honey-soaked melody of Paco's guitar. He always practiced in the living room. She always asked him not to. His eyes were set on a music school back in his hometown of Barcelona. He practiced in the living room, which adjoined the kitchen, which adjoined the laundry room, which adjoined the small excuse for a back patio, until the entire trailer flooded together in a claustrophobic symphony that made it difficult for her to breathe. Paco's half-pack-a-day habit didn't help.
"I'm almost done with the mirror," she said.
"Mmmm." His reply was somewhere between a grunt and an acknowledgement.
"If Leah breaks some more plates, I might make another one. Think I could sell them at the craft fair this fall? A booth is only thirty dollars. And the booth rental fees all go to some children's charity."
"This place is a dump." Paco looked around, as if, after six months of living with her, he had only just now noticed his surroundings.
"You didn't do the dishes," she said, hoping that he would pick up on the fact that he was at least partially to blame for the mess. "It was your turn to do the dishes." Then she added, almost as an afterthought, "This place smells like a damn ashtray."
"Looks like one, too." He paused his playing long enough to run his slender, calloused fingers into his shirt pocket to retrieve another cigarette. "We are--what do you call it--the trailer trash? The trailer trash of Glenwood, Florida. Dios mio, man."
She held up the mirror. It wouldn't win any contests, but was commendable for a first effort. She used it to see what was over her shoulder, framing the reflection of Paco slouched on the putrid green, dingy, secondhand couch. She had secretly wondered if Paco, like vampires, werewolves and other mysterious beings, didn't cast a reflection, existing only on some invisible plane where stories were created.
"Think I could sell this at the craft fair this fall?"
"Let me tell you about art," he muttered, the cigarette dangling from the edge of his tan lips, almost low enough to meet with his chiseled, Hispanic jaw. "I'll tell you about art. The concert hall in Barcelona. That's art, chica. Those giant sculptures of the muses that extend out into the symphony like they are going to grab the musicians and start making love with them right there on stage."
"I wish you had a picture."
"They don't allow photographs inside." He picked a few chords. "The muses are shy."
Dawn Wilson is a creative writing student from Asheville, NC. This is an excerpt from her short story, "This is Not Barcelona." About "..Barcelona," she says, "I wrote the story in reverse chronological order, with the last page showing how Natalie and Paco met. Of course, the reader has to wait until the end to discover that Natalie is shipping Paco's guitar to Barcelona--with the hope that he will follow it."