Celeste didn’t care much for socialising or even being aroundpeople. She was not particularly pretty but her powdery white skin and deep black eyes had a certain attractive thing about them. She had shoulder length straight black hair that she always wore down and small pink lips that spoke sternly. She sat up straight in a black dress with a daisies print on a bench in the crowded esplanade in front of the impotent church of Santo Domingo. She fidgeted, moving her right leg quickly up and down watching the last rays of sun illuminate the faces of the melancholic priests and angels on the cantera facade. Maybe it was the heavy energy she felt or the spirits of the dead indians buried beneath the whole city that gave her that terrifying anxious feeling. But she really wasn’t sure and she certainly didn’t want to frighten her newlywed again on their honeymoon with her “macabre ideas”. As she noticed she had a consternated expression, she immediately tensed the muscles of her round face to work out squinted eyes and a sideways smile. Her husband scanned her face every once in a while, nervous as he had chosen the destination as a surprise for Celeste.
As they watched the dizzying colorful crowd coexist in the esplanade, he handed her a cigarette and took another one out gently placing it on the side of his mouth, pressing his full lips to hold it. He took out the small box of matches he brought from the hotel and lighted a match. The cheap wood burned quickly so he put the fire close to Celeste, waited until the tip of her cigarette turned bright red and quickly blew it out. He lighted another match and lighted his cigarette, the match was consumed too fast and burnt his chubby fingers but he reacted immediately by throwing it in the ground. People came and went and took pictures in front of the church and around the buildings painted in bright yellow, orange and light blue, merchants approached insisting on selling them hand made bracelets and straw purses. The colors, noise and movement of people were overwhelming and made her nervous so she decided to watch the smoke coming out of her mouth disappear above her.
They smoked their cigarette until the sun was completely hidden behind the towering mountains of Oaxaca. The city started to cool down and loud tourists started coming out of their boutique hotels and hostels after resting from the heated day of visits to nearby markets to buy typical alebrijes and embroidered clothes. Celeste threw the filter of her cigarette to the ground and stepped on it with her right sandal, leaving a black mark where she diffused the cigarette. They were talking about the
depressing history and the injustices the spaniards had done as they oppressed the indians and forced them into their religion,when Celeste started feeling hungry.
They walked by the gaudy buildings, as if the sick sky vomited colours on the entire city, the moon shedding her cold light on them until they finally chose a restaurant at a hotel nearby to eat. An ancient monastery turned into a luxury hotel, Quinta Real Hotel, stunned all the tourists, decorated with the original brick arches, religious paintings, fountains and halls from the 16th century. They walked through a dim corridor into the patio and sat at the corner table where the moon was somewhat covered by the tall palm trees that swayed impotent with the wind. The patio was decorated with pink bugambilias, palm trees and vivid green plants hanging from pots. On the walls, the old impressionist paintings of opulent virgins and popes and sadistic crosses were hung.
Celeste slowly stopped to examine one particular painting, a virgin Mary in a red dress and a dark blue cloak over her head. She was surrounded by white smoke and sad winged children in a blue sky. Celestes heartbeat raced as she stood astounded, wondering what kind of material the painting was made of and if it the paint was still humid. The feeling that something bad was about to happen began to grow in her chest, and her husband saw her face and began to worry, thinking about how much of a bad idea was to make the honeymoon a surprise. He took her hand and took her to the table that was assigned to them at the corner of the patio. The table was made of steel forged into a Mexican design and the chair was still hot from the sun that had just disappeared. She attempted a kind of small talk about the weather compared to their hometown and pretended to look at the menu. Her mind clouded with terrible thoughts tried concentrating on the menu but was distracted by the fire flickering in the candle placed at the center of the table and then by the eerie plants that were so green and crisp they looked fake. Her man was passionately telling her about the history of he city, she hadn’t been listening for who knows how long, his words were blurring out. He was saying something about going the beach in Huatulco and Celeste was now captured by the flickering candle again. It slowly consumed the string and shone everything around it on that dim table. She was so concentrated she could hear the subtle crackling of the flame, and she liked it, it calmed her and slowed her rapid beating heartbeat. As she started relaxing, she noticed her left hand was folded in a fist and her nails had made a red mark inside of her hand. She unclenched her hand and ordered a Calavera beer, nodding at her husbands remarks.
They had dinner and every minute felt like five hundred hours, Celeste was growing tired of hearing the people around her talk. Feeling heavier than ever, Celeste left the hotel with her husband and headed towards their hotel. It was 9 o’clock and the main street of the town was crowded with people getting ready to go out for a drink. She looked around and wished everyone could wear darker colours, it was a hot night and girls wore light summer dresses and men wore their hand woven shirts they bought with way too precise colored flowers in pink and blue. Merchants were spread on the sidewalks screaming, selling Mexican dolls dressed in skirts and braided hair and short dark men stood in the corners with carts selling hot dogs and corn, screaming “Elotes asados preparados! Llevele!” and people laughed too cheerfully. Celeste’s heartbeat began to race again, sweating, breathing hard and imagining how the crowd could crush her fragile bones she franticly pushed herself through the
people to a quiet street and breathed the fresh air, leaving the noise and fuss behind. She was so perturbed with the painteresque sight that she began to jog, her husband rushing behind her thinking she was playing a game.
She sees the wooden catrina on the sidewalk placed by the side of the entrance of her hotel and walks alone inside. The hotel lights were out for some reason but she could see the whole ceiling was replete with small paper mache stars, green, purple and pink. They hung motionless — the wind could not reach them there and the thin paper combined the colours of the stars around them. She looked at them with watery eyes and started getting dizzy. They were so fragile, beautiful, so dry, she wanted to hide somewhere where she could not see them. When he finally caught up, they went up the stairs at the end of the hallway and into their room. Tired and hot, the man took his clothes off, leaving them on the side of the bed and went in the shower. She sat at the edge of the bed and looked out the window where she could see the main hall, with the paper mache stars staring at her temptingly. They were calling her name: the paint in the walls, the clothes on the ground, the wooden doors, and the cursed paper mache stars. Her head was spinning, she wanted to throw up, she had to run. She ran outside again, running into the stampede of people and noise again. She ran passed the Quinta Real Hotel, the palm trees, the screaming men selling corn and into silence where the streets were empty and everything was dark and quiet. She walked and sat on the sidewalk near an empty gas station. She smelled the gasoline, breathing in and out slowly trying to get herself together again, whimpering. The smell of gasoline filled her lungs and slowed her racing thoughts. She sat for hours smelling the
gasoline until she fell into a deep sleep on the floor and started dreaming of the stages of hell of Dante’s Inferno.
He got out of the shower quickly as he heard footsteps on the ceiling. Standing still on the door, he looked up. Then, he looked around the room. She was not anywhere to be seen. He heard someone screaming outside, a strong wind muffled all other sounds. He got his boxers on quickly and peeked through the door opening it a little. Red tounges of fire dancing vibrantly on the ceiling, on the doors and all the plants that were in the lobby. The paper mache stars burnt quickly and were turned into ashes that gracefully floated down to the floor. Desperately he ran outside barefoot and wearing nothing but his boxers, screamed for her wife.
The buildings on the street were all burning, the light blue and yellow paint slid down, melted by the heat — giving off a strong smell of burnt plastic. The plants shrunk as if embracing the air in between them, shrouded by the orange flames turning from bright green to fluorescent red to black. The Virgins and popes faces melted and made different colours of smoke, disappearing into ashes leaving only but a black frame.
The palm trees that were swaying hopelessly in the afternoon, shed pieces of bright red burning leaves that disappeared flying in the air. And the colours of the city were quickly turning into black, and the fire spread, gliding faster in dryer materials and fabrics and patiently consuming the plants that were disintegrating into the ground.
It was truly a beautiful sight, the colourful city shone brighter than ever, brighter than any color it had ever flaunted before. The faces of people were enlighten by the flames and everyone ran knowing exactly were they were going. The streets were quickly emptied and in peace and quiet, the beautiful colours of Oaxaca blended with one another and uniting into one dark color. The sound of the flames crackling sounded like a victorious drumroll to a moving orchestra. It roared and there was nothing else to hear but that magical sound. The moon, watched the performing art beneath her and asked the clouds to step out to another town so she could appreciate every color, sound and fill her heart.
Celeste ran as fast as she could towards the end of the city and the beginning of the forest. She was sweating all over and was exhausted but she had never been so ecstatic in her life. Her body, full of adrenaline ran deep into the forest and up the mountain. Suddenly she stopped, turned around beaming and with tears on her eyes and watched her masterpiece.