I followed Bud into the garage, supremely pissed off now. All those years she’d seemed so sweet and good. Just to pull a stunt like this!
I strode through the bays. Bud stopped by a banged-up Corvette. “This one’s yours,” he said. “See how she looks.”
I yanked on the latch and jerked up the hood. When I tried to force the metal stand into the hole, it missed, and the heavy hood came crashing back down, startling everyone in the garage.
Bud cocked his head at me. “You okay?”
I pressed the heel of my hand into my eye, wishing the pressure would ease the ache in my temple. “Maybe not.”
Mario came up behind Bud, wiping his hands on a towel. “I finished up that radiator blowout. I’ll hang with Gavin.”
Bud backed away, nodding. “Keep him straight.”
When he disappeared back into the front office, Mario whirled around. “What the hell is up with you lately?”
“Nothing.” I yanked on the latch again and lifted the hood, this time making certain the stand was secure before letting go.
Mario tugged on the main belt. “This one’s shot. I’ll go hunt down a replacement.”
While I waited, I stared into the engine and wondered why Rosa had tried to pull a number on me.
My phone buzzed, and I wanted to just ignore it, but it wasn’t a call, just a text with a photo attached. From Rosa.
The picture loaded automatically, a boy, probably about three. I was going to delete it when something caught my attention. A cowlick split his hairline just to the right of the center of his forehead.
I touched my hair. I kept it short up top to avoid the whorl I couldn’t control, in almost precisely the same place.
I clicked on the picture and zoomed in. His eyes were Rosa’s, no doubt. But his ears — they laid just like mine, mostly flat but with a flare at the top.
I shoved the phone back in my pocket but pulled it out again five seconds later.
It couldn’t be.
The message said only “Manuelito. Feb. 15, 2010.”
I counted back. That time frame was right.
Mario returned with the belt. “You look like you’ve eaten some bad chili.”
“How long after a vasectomy before you start shooting blanks?” I asked, my stomach turning.
He balanced the belt box on the frame of the ’Vette. “Hell if I know. You thinking of getting one?”
I tried to swallow, but my throat was blocked. “Already did.”
“Damn. That’s one hell of a thing to do.” He leaned against the car. “That girl you’re seeing — she just find out or something?”
“No. I mean, yeah. But, shit.”
He stared at me a second, then turned back to the motor. “Maybe you should take a walk or something. I can handle this.”
I nodded. “Yeah. I’ll be back in a minute.”
The air outside was cold and helped me think. What the hell was going on? I strode briskly down the sidewalk, punching on my phone for a Google search on vasectomy.
I hadn’t understood a single word anybody said to me at the clinic. I’d awakened on a lumpy cot, groggy, with jagged shards of pain shooting up from my groin. They seemed to want me off the premises right after. I’d only made it a few blocks before I knew I had to figure out something to help ease the misery. Walking was near impossible and I couldn’t spot a taxi anywhere midafternoon.
The farmacia where Rosa worked was blessedly close. Between her broken English and the help of the man behind the counter, they got me some cold packs to stuff in a jock strap, plus God knows what sort of drugs.
But I still didn’t have information on the procedure or when it worked. I hadn’t worried about it, as sticking some girl was about the last thing on my mind.
The doctor I’d seen stateside a couple months later had confirmed I was sterile. He’d asked too many questions about where I’d had it done, so we didn’t exactly chat.
The first link came up on my phone, and I scanned through the information, looking for how fast it worked.
I bumped into a bench and sat down, feeling dumbfounded. Weeks? It could take up to two months?
I backed up and chose a different link, hoping for another answer.
Ten ejaculations, this one said.
How long had it been? Rosa had spent that first night with me after surgery, but we hadn’t done anything. I’d been strung out from pain and full of regret. When had I gone back to her?
I closed my eyes to piece together those days.
After leaving the farmacia, I’d barely made it to the hotel across the street before collapsing. I took the first two pills Rosa had given me and crashed a little while.
But the pain woke me, and heeding her stern warning about not taking any more until bedtime, I wandered the room in a haze until I spotted her from my window. She stood on the street corner below, dressed very differently than she had been inside the shop.
I turned away from her curling black hair that reminded me of Corabelle and what I had done, this irrevocable act that meant I could never return to her. I stared at the ceiling, refusing to succumb to the heaving sobs that threatened to take me over, unable to erase the image of her standing in the aisle of the church, mute and shocked, Finn’s blue casket just behind her.
I had to get past it all. I had to force myself to think of something else. I pulled a chair up to the window and watched Rosa stand by a pole, awkward and too innocent for the job, finally getting approached by a man but pushing him away.