“Geography Lesson,” Conchitina Cruz
“Geography Lesson,” by Conchitina Cruz.
Inside the story is a garden with a pear tree, the view of a house with a staircase and mahogany desks. Inside the house is a woman with her back against the windows, her body bent over her child inside a crib, her body leaning against a table as she fixes the fruit in a bowl.
From the back of the room, somebody mentions foreshadowing, somebody makes distinctions between image and symbol. The board is filled with words.
Inside the story is a dinner part the woman hosts, the idle talk of guests, the moment her husband leans toward the body of another woman. She watches her husband and his small gesture, the drawing room unable to contain her sudden knowledge. Inside the story, the woman turns away from the climax, turns to the windows and the pear tree outside, the symbol of her life, the tree in full bloom, the tree caught in shadows.
We talk about the tragedy of false notions, the link between discovery and despair, the joy of understatement. When there is a knock on the door, a request to take a minute of our time, I say sure. We are inside the story, and to the students outside, I say, sure, come on in.
What they pass around is a can, a sheet of paper, a request for loose change and volunteers to dig for bodies. A few miles away, the residents of a dumpsite are dead, their bodies buried in an avalanche of trash. Inside the story, the woman cries, what will happen to me now?
On the first day, the dying tried to raise their voices above the weight of their own tin roofs. The digging was slow, the voices stopped. Inside the story, the woman fixes fruit in a bowl — apples, oranges, and grapes. She arranges and rearranges fruit, draping the grapes on the rim, balancing the oranges on apples.
The relatives need bodies for a proper burial. The can grows heavy. The students pause carefully upon the sheet, and the others say think about it, we have a booth on the third floor, you don’t have to sign up now. Inside the story there is a woman, a house, a man, a pear tree. Inside the story is a house, a bowl full of fruit. Some students are braver than others. They write their names down.
The woman leans the sadness of her body against the window, tries to look beyond the pear tree. Inside the story, she sees nothing but darkness. She is ungrateful for the luxury of despair.