Last summer, in Oaxaca, Tom bumped into his twin, Gerry. Candles flickered on the engraved glass panels of the cathedral’s main doors illuminating Gerry’s ghostly face as if it were that of a young martyr. Mouth open, Tom stared at the apparition, but neither of them spoke. Tom’s neck-hairs bristled, his mouth ran dry, and his hands shook. He closed his mouth, tried to swallow, but the dryness in his throat prevented him from doing so. He opened his mouth and tried to speak, but words stuck in his throat and meaningless sounds emerged.
Three old crones, dressed in black, broke the spell. One stood in front of Tom and struck him with the large black bag of knitting that she held in her hand. Thin threads of red wool spilled out as she pushed him away. The second threatened Tom with a pair of scissors that she held in her left hand, jabbing them repeatedly towards his eyes. The third produced a tailor’s measuring rod and, using it like a cattle goad, prodded Gerry in the side. Gerry nodded, smiled sadly, and then the three women shepherded Tom’s dead twin away, hurrying out through the cathedral’s glass doors and back into the square. Tom stood motionless for a moment and then as the doors snapped shut he pulled them open and ran out after the group.
The setting sun filled the square with shadows that whispered and moved this way and that. It was as if the earth had shaken, a hole had appeared in the cemetery wall, and a whole generation of dead people had walked out of the cemetery to gossip beneath the trees and dance in the rays of the dying sun. Tom stood on the cathedral steps and called out his twin’s name. Gerry half-turned, but the three old ladies closed together and the herd hurried on.
Tom ran out into the crowd and followed the shadowy quartet, pushing his way through insubstantial people who stood firm one moment and then melted away the next like clouds or mist so thick one could almost lean on it. He ran as far as a side street that led away from the square and there he stopped.
The three crones pushed Gerry into an alley and Tom ran in after them. At first, it was dark. Then, as he brushed through a final curtain of mist, he emerged into a sunlit courtyard. Three beautiful young women in diaphanous garments sat working at an enormous loom. One spun thread and she beckoned to Tom. He approached and she pointed at the loom where tiny figures walked up and down the wool as it was being woven. He felt himself grow smaller and smaller. Then the weaver picked him up and placed him firmly on the loom and wove him into the threads. The third lady clicked her scissors and severed the wool that held him. The wooden shuttle clacked and he remembered no more.
Gerry emerged from the alley and entered the square where real people, flesh and blood beings, turned to gaze at her. A group of villagers carrying the banner of a small town in the hills stood in a group behind their village band. An elder, carried a live-match in his hand. Deep lines scarred his face with living shadows that danced in the match-light. He put the live-match to the taper of a rocket and it soared upwards with a long-drawn out whooooosh. The village band struck up a traditional dance tune as the rocket clawed its way into the sky to explode with a loud knock against the door of the ancient gods.
Afraid of grasping at shadows and scared by this living phalanx of bandsmen that suddenly marched towards her, Gerry retreated across the main square and hurried back to the cathedral. There, she knelt at the altar of La Virgen de la Soledad, the patron saint of Oaxaca. She inserted five pesos in the collection slot, took a taper, lit it, and applied it to a candle.
Then she started to cry. Her twin brother Tom had been wearing his best grey suit over a light blue shirt and a dark blue, hand woven tie. These were the same clothes in which Gerry had dressed him for burial.
Gerry was on her knees before the statue of the Virgin. Her breath came in short, sharp bursts. She clenched his fists so tightly that her fingernails gouged into her palms. She looked into the Virgin’s eyes and candle light sparkled through the single, silver tear that trickled down the Virgin’s cheek.