Rosa and the Lines of Destiny

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Lately, the lines on Rosa's palms have been changing.

She examines them closely, slanting her hands first left then right, wriggling her fingers, pushing and moving the skin around to see them better. Nestor laughs at her.

"Old," he says, sucking on the dark, hazy bough of a cigar. "You're getting old, woman. Old and wrinkly. If you keep it up, I'll have to look for a new wife." And he laughs again, coughing a little bit in-between.

"You want to see old?" answers Rosa, folding the thin apron in her hands into a neat square, "look in the mirror."

She goes back into the kitchen leaving her husband to chuckle into the creases and folds of his sports paper. The blades of the ventilator on the open window sill click slowly around in the warm breeze like the ticking of a clock.

It's not age. Rosa is convinced. She holds her palms up towards her face, traces a new line with the tip of her index finger.

An hour later, she's on the bus, swaying into the city. 

The morning light is cut and chopped by the tops of passing buildings, billboards, construction cranes, causing the grooves and fans of the new lines to flicker in front of her eyes in the jerky movements old film reels. 

She shakes her head. 

She doesn't know enough about the cartography of her upturned palms - the mounts, valleys and plains, the suns, moons, Mercuries and Venuses - to read them clearly, these knife-thin comings and goings between heaven and earth. If her mother were still alive, Rosa would eagerly travel the exhausting seven hours into the mountain jungles to lay her hands bare on the scrubbed wooden plateau of her mother's kitchen table. But she departed to be with her mother and her mother's mother in the clouds beyond the mountains years previously, taking all of her knowledge of time, love, wear and weather with her.  

That fact irritates Rosa more than Nestor's ribbings, or the ordeal of the daily trip into the city to her stall at the market. A financial necessity that's getting more and more taxing with each month of the calendar torn off and dropped in to the cooking fire.

Rosa looks up. The other passengers are rising, jostling each other on their way towards the bus door, eager to be the first to escape the hot, cramped interior. 

Outside the driver stands in his shirt-sleeves, dutifully waiting to help young children, the over-burdened, the decrepit down the steep, old-fashioned steps and onto the stomped-earth. 

He offers Rosa his hand without being asked.

Throughout the long, bright hours of the day when the flow of customers at her stand flags, Rosa scrutinizes her palms for more clues. She spins theories, rejects them moments later. She knows what Nestor would say. In her mind, she pulls the door shut on him, and keeps searching for the prosperity she knows she holds in the palms of her own two hands.

An hour before dusk, the finger-like tips of nearby mountains shredding the falling light, Rosa finishes her daily work and seeks out the stand of the Indio butcher on its thick tires at the edge of the market. 

She's found her answer, even if a doubts still string through her mind like the small, jet-black beads of a necklace. 

"The best you have," she says when it's her turn. "Whatever it is. The best you have." The butcher is surprised, his hand already hovering over the blood-misted container of chicken scraps. With a small nod of the head, he gives her what she wants, asking for almost everything she has in the twice-sewn pockets of her work dress in return.

But Rosa doesn't waste a thought on that. She marches across the emptying marketplace towards the bus waiting to take her back home again, the plastic bag with the precious, tender meat swinging resolutely from her hand.

Changes in the palm mean changes in circumstances, changes in destiny. That much she does know. And destiny is what you make of what the sun, the mountains and the stars send you.

Let Nestor say what he wants.


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