I stuff my door’s cracks with straw and newsprint, my wood-stove spitting fire, slag. The cement floor glows, warms, sparks ping and flash. Perspiring, I throw off the rug, sit naked and cross-legged like a yogi.
I turn and stare at the bunk bed, its top half missing. I should have retrieved it too, however splintered and broken. What if she returns? Where will she sleep?
Eventually I rise, grimace unfolding creaky limbs, and hobble to bed. Stare at the ceiling, waiting for dreams.
I’m in a crowd, buoyed in the swell, swept from the night market toward the causeway by the lagoon. Above palisades, the citadel rises, its highest tower lit by floodlights. A figure emerges, in black-and-white motley, and shouts into a bullhorn. Above him banners uncurl like bright red tongues. The crowd answers with bottle rockets, air horns, rattles, sirens.
Pressed again the seawall, I recall why I’m here, though Lily begged me not to go. Two infants, Sophie and Hector, nestled in her arms, all three shivering, the stove fire not yet out, but the cold the least of our worries.
I wrench free of the mass of flailing limbs, scramble atop the seawall, and hail a passing boatwoman, who lets me board.
I crouch, grasping the gunnels with both hands as she rows away. The boatwoman smiles, recognizes me. We pass the night market, its floating gardens, its twisting streets and alleys, its archways and colonnades. Arc lights electrify the air, which smells of jasmine, burnt cinnamon, pepper. But the people are gone, the arcades silent save for a lone calliope, its orphaned music adrift on the wind.
The lagoon the color and thickness of chocolate, the boatwoman poles on, doggedly, grimacing. She turns to me, but I don’t have to tell her where to go. We enter a narrow gate and then a long channel, walls rising above us, the sky a slender, pink vault.
Soon the sun will rise and I must wake up, which the boatwoman knows. She poles faster.
Ahead the drowned plaza, the ancient coliseum.