Visitation Hours

The strange man taps the child on her head gently. She’s sitting in the first steps of the stairs, worn-out tênis with marks of rust. She’s been playing make-believe games outside the warehouse before coming back home, not expecting to find someone still there. The alien touch brings her back to reality. She realizes she is hungry. Against the wall is her bicycle, waiting to take her somewhere far away again. “Mom,” the child asks, after the tall figure leaves the house, “my spiders don’t like strangers.” “In Portuguese, Marta,” her mother replies. In an hour, some other visitors will arrive, Saturday being the busiest of the days. In spite of the loneliness of these encounters, the woman is not ashamed of her work. Giving pleasure to others is a duty she executes willingly. “The spider webs are a trap to unwanted insects,” her mother explains, eagerly counting the earnings of the day.

Poem published in the magazine Off the Coast.