1.5 Degrees Celsius
“Maria, chica, it’s not about the damned orange juice, it’s the principle of the thing,” Garcilazo says. “Maria, hey! Earth to Maria. Are you there, psychonaut? What are you doing?”
Maria is rapt staring out the balcony window. “You know, Garci, that’s not fog swallowing the city. There’s a weather advisory today—that out there is particulate matter from the wildfires out West. So don’t give me any crap about spilt orange juice, or $2,000 for a creative writing class.” Maria doesn’t turn to see Garcilazo holding the glass tumbler in one hand and wiping the orange juice pooling on the counter top. “Why the hell are you opening up the AMEX statement, anyway? Mind your own business.”
“Sis,” Garcilazo says removing the credit card statement from the edge of the spill and throwing it on the laminate dinette table, “it’s never just the juice, not climate change, not your damned novel writing program—that account is in trust for Mami’s care, and her plot. You can’t … you can’t be doing this again. The money. It’s not yours to use this way. It’s—”
Maria steps outside, sixteen stories above Huntington Avenue, the sound of traffic whirring below and an acrid odor briefly fill the apartment. At the railing she turns around; her face pinched, she tweaks her nose. Garcilazo waves her inside, mouthing, get in.
“It smells like the fire was somewhere in the city,” she says. “How can it be, the fires are 3,000 miles away?” Maria is teary-eyed. “Are we going to wear masks forever?”
“Maria. Focus. Please,” he says. “Pay attention.” He throws a handful of paper towels on the counter; he tears off another couple of pieces and drops them on the floor. “First, it was trepanation—lord knows I wish I would have never mentioned it to you! Then, a succession of colleges and art school. Then the radio stations. Now, it’s novel writing. You’ve got to get a grip, sister.” Garcilazo, moves spasmodically as he wipes juice with the towels under his feet. “You have to get real, Maria—quit the fantasies!”
“Don’t patronize, Garcilazo,” Maria says. “I do what I want to do, whenever I need to do it. You’re not my father, and you’re certainly not that vegetable over there in assisted living. Don’t come to Boston, on your yearly visit, telling me what to do. I’m in charge of that account. You stayed in Miami and washed your hands.” Maria walks to the alcove by the front door of the apartment and brings him a small black framed picture. “You see that? You see me? I’m fierce!”
Garcilazo knows the photograph well; he shot it. He was there to support her the day she trepanned herself—in a manner he felt responsible. She insisted he bring his Nikon cameras and document the procedure. It was he, after all, who first told her the story that shocked him about the modern trepanation subculture. He not only felt responsible for exposing her to the idea, but he was also in awe of his younger sister. She had the temerity to follow through with a notion that, while theoretically appealing to him, seemed outrageous and dangerous. He knew her fearlessness and audacity was something beyond his capacity. She insisted on blasting through her limitations and fears, and actually drilled “thee cosmic third eye”—by way of a borrowed dentist’s drill—just above her shaved hairline. Her way of tapping into that universal flow and consciousness. The extreme altered state of consciousness.
Now he can’t get through to her.
“Perhaps we see loneliness in others simply to feel less lonely ourselves.”
— Kristen Radtke / Seek You