After a long night of drinking, Miguel Avila awoke to find his house floating down the street.
The storm that flooded the town and ripped the house from its foundations had been promoted on the radio all week with the breathless enthusiasm of a crosstown soccer match. The weatherman had said folks, for once in your life believe me.
Avila trusted weathermen implicitly—who else spent that kind of time thinking about the future?—and so spent his Saturday mired in preparation. He tacked plywood to the windows, then he dressed the trouble on the roof with a tarpaulin, which meant hoisting himself through the attic skylight with the blue canvas lashed to his belt. Tying the tarpaulin to his belt with fishing line, Avila caught sight of himself in a dusty attic mirror. He was dismayed by what he saw, at the change that had unfolded upon him over the course of his reclusion. His eyes were sunken treasures. His hair had grown wild, cactaceous. He’d put on weight. His skin, once as rich as caramel, had blanched to the color of pulque. Even his hands had seemed to lose their shape, to become something else. But he couldn’t spend the whole day criticising his features. He finished threading the line through the eyelets of the tarpaulin and knotted the thread to his belt. Strange, he thought, I look like a parachuter after landfall. How the earthbound parachuter must feel so graceless, suddenly bereft of flight.
Avila hoisted himself through the open skylight.
His childhood home was a dilapidated Victorian that topped one of the city’s seven hills. You could see out beyond the fortifying walls from the home’s shingled, slanted roof. It was early enough that the sun still shone brightly and the wind was yet calm. Avila made circles of his hands and stacked them against his right eye. Through his makeshift spyglass, he surveyed the landscape. His glass traced the winding road down the hill. Bright red and purple flags hung limp as pelts from juliette balconies. Weeping willows sat shiva around the lake. The morning’s only movements belonged to the mangy orange cats that darted from shadows in the narrow streets. The cats had claimed the city long before anybody could remember otherwise, and Avila wondered briefly how they would survive the flood, though he was sure they would.
When he could no longer bear not to, Avila trained his spyglass on the window of his lover, Lizmeth Perez. Her curtains were drawn, just as they’d been for the last hundred days. Was it still fair to think of Lizmeth as his lover? She had relayed neither word nor letter since the afternoon her husband, the colonel Javier Perez, had chanced upon them soaking in her bathtub.