Washington Heights

NYC

25 October, 2005

5:55 p.m.

1

María Leguenza walked briskly down Bennett Avenue, wrapping her brown cloth coat a little tighter against the chill in the autumn air. At 65, she was not as spry as she had been when she arrived in New York twenty years earlier. Men and women in somber dress rushed past her on either side. Tassels dangling from the men’s clothing flew in their wake. The women, holding onto their wigs, dragged their straggling children while trying to keep up with the men.

She pulled the keys out of her bag at 105

A. J. Sidransky

Bennett Ave. The shiny new security doors proved difficult to maneuver. Juggling her pocketbook and her shopping bags, she opened the interior door to the lobby, nearly dropping the special treats she had brought for Señor Max: ripe plantains for maduros, pork chuletas and peppers, and a big slice of tres leches cake. She held the cake’s plastic container tightly so the creamy liquid inside wouldn’t spill.

Exhausted from the awkwardness of her arrival, she placed her packages on Señor Max’s welcome mat and inserted her key into the top lock. She left her packages by the door and flicked a switch to light the hallway in front of her. “Señor Max,” she called out. “Buenos tardes, estoy aquí.”

There was no answer.

“Señor Max, dónde estás?” María called out a second time. Still no answer. “Señor Max?” She felt a tightness in the pit of her stomach. Her heart began to race. He was old, very old.

She walked down the hallway toward the dark bedroom. The rubber soles of her shoes squeaked against the wood floor. Perhaps he was sleeping? She turned on the

Forgiving Maximo Rothman

light. He wasn’t in the bed. It was unmade. Her heart now pounded in her chest. Turning back toward the bathroom, she noticed the light under the door. As she opened the door, the bright light from the fixture over the sink bounced off the white tile walls, momentarily blinding her. She blinked. Then saw him.

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