Philippe asked you the first time months ago, before you could smell coconut when he entered the room, when all you saw were the patches of his beard, when he stood on campus and struck up conversations with everyone and you felt no more special when he spoke to you than if you were a cashier at the theater. But he came to you and asked you to dinner and you accepted, not because he was the first man to ask, and not because your definition of a man was limited to the ability to grow a beard, or the patches of beard that Philippe grew, but because he asked you a question, that wasn’t a question: come to dinner with me.
And you ate, and talked, and kissed, and repeated, and after weeks in this cycle Philippe told you he spoke to people on campus to see who questioned the government and worried about Argentina’s future, and you had never thought about the government or Argentina’s future because you were preoccupied with your own future. But when Philippe said he had a meeting, you asked if you could go, and so he never asked you, you asked him, but he asked if you actually wanted to go and you said yes, not because of the way he kissed or the coconut smell you were becoming used to, or that his breath always tasted like fresh mint, or that now he was in your life it was hard to imagine an empty face where a patchy beard once stood, or the absence of the warm arms that held you, or the voice that was soft but with a gravel edge that made your spine tingle; you said yes because you wanted to.
Gaston sat at the breakfast table with the newspaper in his hands. “What’s this?” he asked, lowering the paper.
“The paper,” Sofia said. Music, fried meat, and smoke drifted into the dining room.
Gaston didn’t say much anymore. He sat at the head of the table. Sofia had brought in the paper; he had turned down the music. He said good morning. Sofia told him to sit. He sipped his orange juice, his tea, and straightened the paper. Sofia set the plate of sausage and eggs on the table. She refilled his tea. She buttered his toast. She sat. Almost a year had passed since Valentina had been arrested. The empty space in their home was suffocating.
Gaston thrust his plate away. He slammed the newspaper on the table. He straightened out the creases and shoved his finger in the paper.
It was an advertisement; on any other day he might have passed over it, might have thought editorials were a waste of time. But today he read the right page, at the right time, or scrolled through all the pages and found the ad the Mothers had written, the ad the Mothers had discussed, but as far as Sofia knew, had not decided to publish.
Come home soon: Néstor Gallo, Salvador Braverman, Carolina Noia.