A Gypsy’s Book of Revelation

Even if my vision is one I have cooked up inside my dead body, it is just as unpixelated as a live performance. I have cleaned up the time between my children and me. I have swept leftover vital space on my broom. Everything is as real as the small wrinkles on my children’s foreheads. I have nailed my box and picked the crematorium. It is not too far and not too close.

Gypsy with a Cigarette
(Oil on canvas, 92.0 x 73.5 cm)
BY Édouard Manet
Princeton University Art Museum

Picture number five: people in the city get to see the smoke. It rises to the north like the vertical contrails of an airplane. It is not me yet; I am not in it. It comes from the ever-alight hearth, the furnace temperature now gradually ascending to a boiling climax. Despite the stiffness, my body is full of water, and it will take a lot of heat to vaporize it all. In a few minutes I will shoot upward, and once again I realize that it is a one-way trip I’ve taken. I don’t mind this, actually. I am quite pleased with the rocket-launch departing. We are a traveling people, and I am no exception.

The crematorium is not far from our encampment. The Gadjo tells my children they will have to move once this is done. I don’t want them under the sky I will occupy. I need to rest and they need to live.

A few miles away, a wanderer asks his friend who in their right mind has lit a fire in the midst of August.

Stranger: I am not in my right mind and no longer in the right body. If anything, I have earned the right to insanity, and it took me a lifetime.

Picture number six: I asked the Gadjo to hold my hand as he addresses them. This was a sidenote to my speech, scribbled in the margin. I wasn’t sure he would get it. As a matter of fact, I was quite certain he would ignore it but he doesn’t. It turns out the Gadjo is a dutiful man. I can see clearly that he does this with no heart but a lot of guts. Try holding the hand of an unknown corpse as you read their last words, and tell me about it…

In a few minutes I will shoot upward, and once again I realize that it is a one-way trip I’ve taken. I don’t mind this, actually. I am quite pleased with the rocket-launch departing. We are a traveling people, and I am no exception.

If I were still alive, the feel of his hand would arouse me. There is nothing more exciting than the touch of a reluctant body. No age for this. Given time and space to repent for my fornication, I repent not. I make the Gadjo say that, and his white skin turns bright red. An awkward silence has fallen from the ceiling, and an angel is passing through the room. I wonder whether the angel is the cause or the effect of the silence. I can never tell those things.

In any case my children are starting to have a good time; I can see Fonso’s sinuous lips lifting slightly upward at the very tip. He’s resisting it. You can do it, Fonso, hang in there. My son. In the last row Zolfina is tilting her head down and placing a rangy hand over her mouth. I could spot her miles away. And in the middle of them, Sara is holding her stomach with both hands.

Damn. I wasn’t going to make them laugh — or at least not until I had thrown some good advice in their heads.

Picture number seven: My baby brother just lit a cigarette. There are no smoking signs on every door and every wall, but Alfredo doesn’t read. I wish I could smoke. I really want to roll myself one. Smoking is very high on the list of the things I miss. If I smoked now, the tip of my cigarette would make little loops in the air like it does in front of Alfredo’s face. No one asks him to stop. Alfredo is not one to be stopped. He’s too big and too scary for that. Asking Alfredo to stop would be like standing on the railroad tracks and putting your hands forward as the train comes.

If I hadn’t forgotten to ask him in my speech, Alfredo would walk forward, disentangle my hand from the Gadjo’s, and give me a puff. He would whisper in his deep raspy voice: Here you go, sister, here you go.

Incidentally, I died from smoking. I take it as definitive proof that there is an order to all things. I had been waiting for cancer for so long, I couldn’t possibly leave without it. So take me, God, but please take my tobacco along for the ride. And don’t forget the paper.

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