Emile St. Victoire is summoned to his father’s sickroom. A long-time client has died, one Madame Martine de Villegas, proprietress of a place called El Paradiso. A last will and testament must be read. When Honoré specifies the address––23 Basin Street––Emile asks, “Is this a brothel?”
His father studies a label on one of his brown medicine bottles. “A place for gentlemen,” he says. “Pour le passe-temps.”
Emile never knew his father had such clients. Who else lurks in his locked files? Pirates? Northerners? Carpetbaggers? Most of their clients are just like Emile and his parents: proud, professional gens de couleur libre––Free People of Color––comprising le haute monde of New Orleans mixed-race society.
Honoré sets the medicine bottle down. “And there’s a very curious girl who will inherit. She must be the tallest octoroon in New Orleans. Goes by ‘Queen Juliette.’”
“Do you know her?” Emile asks.
Honoré removes his spectacles, a sign he will not answer that question. “And stop by Gravier,” he adds. “Look in on Marcus Rampling.” Gravier is the side street at the New Courthouse where one enters Parish Prison. Marcus Rampling––a client of a different sort, a charity case––is a prisoner there. “Reassure him that his trial will get a new date.”
“What date shall I say, Father?”
“Good God, Emile, how should I know? Just reassure him. The man is innocent and he is frightened half to death.”
A week has passed since his father, the venerable Honoré St. Victoire, suffered a mild heart attack and upended Emile’s life. Though a lawyer in his own right, Emile has become his ailing father’s errand boy. Worse, Emile’s own wedding––set for yesterday, 29 June 1896––has been postponed until his father recovers. After months of walking about in a stupor of desire for Genevieve Vitrac, he must wait a little longer. Sitting in church with her, having tea, walking down Lafayette, wherever they go, he fears his desire for Genevieve might shatter the windows, the bone china, the sky. He has never so much as seen her bare ankle. What flesh he has glimpsed––the back of her neck where her hair sweeps up, the hollow of her throat with its ivory pendant––sends his heart pounding. He has endured cold baths, painful erections, long nights and hot, miserable days while Genevieve lies just beyond his grasp, the very idea of her agleam like the faceted garnets in her earlobes.
On his way to Gravier, Emile cuts through Poydras Market, past screaming vendors, fat scrubwomen waiting for work, wilted dahlias cast in gutters. The New Courthouse, with jail attached, is less than a year old. Inside the high brick wall, Emile waits for the Criminal Sheriff. The building still smells of fresh-sawn wood and the carbon welds on the cell doors. The Criminal Sheriff Olwen Jaspar, his brown uniform tight across his back and his hairless head shiny like a peeled egg, leads Emile down a brick corridor and opens Marcus Rampling’s cell.
Rampling doesn’t look like a murderer. He rises from his pallet on the floor, a stick-man, hands trembling, eyes lost in blue-black sockets. Emile knows that Rampling is twenty-eight years old, but he looks forty, fifty, worn out, broken. His close-cropped hair recedes far back on his head, and his gray muslin prison garb reeks of fear. “Your daddy still alive?” He barely forms the words through his gapped teeth and inflamed gums.
“He goin’ get me out of here?”
“He is working to reschedule your trial.” Emile wants to pity the man, but he finds him repulsive.
“Your daddy’s a fine man.” Rampling’s sour breath reaches Emile from three feet away. “I can’t never repay him.”
True enough, Emile thinks. You will never be a dollar ahead for the rest of your life.
“Without him,” Rampling says, “I’m a dead man.”
“The matter of the chicken doesn’t help,” Emile says.
Rampling shoots him a blood-shot glance. “A chicken ain’t murder.”
But the chicken could be Rampling’s undoing. He was caught with the still-flapping bird on the property of a white man who died later that night of stab wounds. “Don’t worry. My father has the facts.”
Outside the cell door, Olwen Jaspar shifts his weight and says, “Hurry up.”
Emile turns to go, but Rampling puts his claw-hand on Emile’s sleeve and asks, “You a married man?”
“I am engaged to be married. Why?”
“No reason.” Rampling shakes his head. “’Cept my wife, she in Mississippi. Neshoba County.”
“Yes?” Don’t ask me to find your wife.
“Prob’ly never see her again.” He lies back down on his pallet and he closes his eyes.
Standing over the ledger that Emile must sign before he leaves, Olwen Jaspar crosses his arms on his barrel stomach. “Why does St. Victoire mess with these niggers?” His little mouth works a stubble of blond beard.
Emile takes out his fountain pen and signs. “If you are asking why my father defends innocent men,” he says, now on the side of his father and righteousness, “it is because he believes in laws that apply equally to all.”
“Can he really get this nigger off? In court?”
“Yes. You know he can.”
Jaspar eyes Emile’s suit and silver tiepin. “And what do you do? Run errands? Kiss behinds?”
Emile thrusts his pen back into his vest pocket. “I am a lawyer, same as my father.”
“You’re a little runt puppy is what you are.”
Emile takes up his briefcase. “Jaspar, I can have you put on report.”
“Oh. Big man.”
Outside on the banquette, Emile, hot and furious, strips off his jacket. He should not have posed even the pathetic threat of putting Jaspar on report. More than one Negro prisoner has met with an “accident” at the hands of the Criminal Sheriff. But Olwen Jaspar never would have spoken that way to Emile’s father. In this moment, Emile wonders how Genevieve could possibly love him. Yet she claims to. She is wearing his ring of betrothal and, more than once, has looked into his eyes and said I love you. Words that kept him awake and thrashing in his narrow bed for hours.
And now this Basin Street task, this last will and testament, this errand, as Jaspar unknowingly pinned it. Emile takes the Rampart Street car to Iberville and walks to Basin Street. He has never been in a brothel. Not that he hasn’t been tempted, in this city where bagnios cram every block from Rampart to Robertson. As he walks under the filigreed balconies of the two-story manses, familiar fears start up about his lack of experience, his futile dream of masterfully guiding Genevieve into the world of carnal delights. That dream is always thwarted by the fact that he has never entered that world nor tasted those delights.
No. 23 Basin Street has El Paradiso etched in bronze by the gate, as if this were the home of a banker or philanthropist. A maid takes his bowler and leads him to a cavernous front room. Thick leaded windows along the front wall cast greenish, opaline light over a congregation of whores. A little table has been arranged for him before the massive hearth, with a glass of tea and a place for his briefcase. He walks toward it and a girl calls out, “What’s your name, darlin’?”
They are not even properly dressed. Robes, shawls, ribbons, disheveled hair, white-stockinged legs stretched out on striped sofas. Emile entertains a fleeting image of Genevieve similarly en dishabille and feels his ears grow hot.
“I am Emile St. Victoire.” He fumbles with the buckles of his briefcase. “I am representing my father, Honoré St. Victoire,––”
“Honey, you representin’ sumpthin’!”
“Your daddy know you’re here?”
Emile takes a sheaf of papers from his briefcase, pretending not to hear. “My father has been Madame Martine’s solicitor for many years.”
“What does he solicit?”
“Shut up, Monique.”
“Where’d you get those boots?”
“You kill a pimp?”
The boots. His beautiful, soft boots. Pale Malageña leather with three ox-horn buttons on each ankle. Outrageously expensive at eight dollars. Proof of his vanity, according to his mother.
At the center of the room, a voice says, “Girls. Quiet.” Without a doubt, this is Queen Juliette. She sits on an upholstered bench but is clearly tall––very tall––with skin the same creamy brown of Genevieve’s, but a face far more exotic. Long, oval eyes and prominent cheekbones. Slender neck and regal tilt to her chin. “Let the poor man speak.” An ivory ribbon restrains her cascade of black hair. An ivory robe is chastely buttoned at her throat. “Let us show some manners,” she says, “as Madame Martine would wish.”
So this is the girl who will inherit all of this: the house, the room, the leaded-glass windows, the green damask drapes, the naked Greeks prancing in marble relief about the fireplace, the coral Persian carpets, the Austrian chandeliers, the potted palms, the oil paintings, the Roman busts, the étagère, the fainting couches, the bric-a-bric and, most importantly, the prostitutes themselves, along with Madame Martine’s embossed license to operate a brothel in the city of New Orleans, dating from 1857. Today, in 1896, it is largely symbolic, yet he noticed the framed parchment hanging in the foyer next to a portrait of Toussaint Louverture.
“Monsieur St. Victoire,” Juliette continues, “pardonnez nous. You are very kind to come to us today. Please continue.”
“Oui, monsieur” and “merci, monsieur” from the chastened girls. Emile begins with Madame Martine’s individual bequests. There are thirty or more, naming each girl in turn, along with sundry servants, domestics, musicians, deliverymen, and aldermen. There are marcasite brooches and Japanese kimonos, silk fans and silver combs, Spanish pearls and Chinese shawls to be distributed. There are cash gifts and stock certificates and a box at the opera. Madame Martine de Villegas was generous, and she managed an empire.
That Julie Devereaux, also known as Queen Juliette, is now the rightful owner of the Basin Street maison de joie called El Paradiso is almost lost in the spate of legal verbiage Emile reads at the end of his presentation. Somewhere amid details of easements and zoning, bank accounts and furnishments, licenses and perpetuity, Juliette becomes a wealthy young woman. If the other girls are surprised, they show little of it as they drift away upstairs or to the kitchen.
Juliette rises from her bench. She must be all of six feet, but delicate. Wrists of a child. She moves toward Emile. Her bare feet are enough to take his breath away. “Your father is unwell?” she asks.
“He is resting.”
She touches his hand lightly with her cool fingers. “Madame also set aside a gift for Honoré. Something he often admired. If you will come upstairs, I will show you.”
What on earth could his father want from this place? And when was his father upstairs?
“No gift is required, I assure you.”
Juliette removes her hand. “Madame Martine had great respect for Monsieur Honoré,” she says.
Emile takes up his briefcase. Behind his eyes, his world continues to fall apart. His wedding date uncertain, the smell of fear on Marcus Rampling, Olwen Jaspar and his taunts. And now a courtesan inviting him upstairs in a house of prostitution? “I am pressed at the moment.” He makes a show of studying his pocket watch. “Perhaps I could return another time.”
She tightens the sash on her robe. “Please return whenever you wish, Monsieur St. Victoire.” She gathers the ivory robe by the hem and moves off with the other girls, asking the maid to show him out.
Again Emile finds himself on a street corner, furious and confused. Will his future ever begin, he wonders, or will the world keep hurling humiliation, setbacks, prisoners and prostitutes in his path? Why couldn’t he go upstairs? Was he born timid? Born waiting? Born onto some side street, never to enter life’s thoroughfare?
He wastes the afternoon brooding over coffee in Lafayette Square. Still, he looks forward to that evening. Genevieve, in her mercy, has invited him to supper at her parents’ home. That means facing her father, who oversees every meal like a despot staving off a coup d’etat, but at least he will see Genevieve.
She greets him in the foyer, as lovely as ever in a frock the color of claret, the bodice an accordion of tiny tucks up to her creamy brown throat, the skirt full and rustling as she leads him to the dining room. She is only eighteen, but has the bearing of a woman long comfortable with entertaining, with running the household of a professional man. Her mother has taught her well.
Her father, M. Armand Vitrac, is enthroned at the head of his dining table, his collar limp from a long day of profit-making at Gulf Mercantile Bank. He keeps his folded Daily Picayune beside his plate and scowls alternately at the columns of newsprint and the room at large. Suddenly, he lifts his great, shaggy head toward Emile and says, “How is your father progressing?”
Emile has been gazing wordlessly at Genevieve. “He is stronger each day,” he manages. “Neither my mother nor the doctors can prevent his working, even from his sickroom.”
Vitrac holds aloft an empty bread plate and shouts, “Adele!” The maid appears instantly from the kitchen, takes the plate, disappears. “I suppose,” M. Vitrac continues, “there is the trial of that Rampling fellow to prepare.”
“Yes, sir. I saw the man just this morning.”
“In Parish Prison?” Genevieve’s mother looks up. She is small, easily startled, like a hummingbird shimmering over her end of the table.
“Mama, let us face facts,” Genevieve says. “Marcus Rampling is in danger.” Candlelight illumines a tendon along her neck that Emile wants to kiss.
Vitrac’s eyes, protuberant and drooping, seem to scoop into Emile’s private thoughts. “Are you working on the case, son?”
Emile searches for the proper answer. Such high-level work would impress M. Vitrac. But involvement with the case might cast a pall over the upcoming wedding.
“Well, only in my father’s stead,” he says vaguely.
Adele reappears with fresh rolls stacked on the bread plate.
“This Rampling is in a sea of trouble.” M. Vitrac grabs a roll and bites off half. He waves the newspaper while he chews, swallows. “We see it all the time. Mobs. Boys dragged out of jail, strung up. It’s an abomination.”
“Yes sir,” Emile says, sensing a chance to show his knowledge. “But our new jail is quite safe. Excellent construction.” Of course the Criminal Sheriff is a bigot, he neglects to add.
Vitrac takes his watch from his vest pocket and studies its face, as if calculating the money he could be making if he didn’t have to eat. “Son, construction cannot stop a mob. You could order private guards, you know.”
“I’ll speak to my father,” Emile says.
“Papa,” Genevieve puts in. “Emile knows what to do.”
An hour later, after discussing theatre, opera, and the novels of William Dean Howells with Genevieve and her mother, Emile, for the third time that day, finds himself standing on a curb, angry at the world. He was granted no time alone with Genevieve except for a brief farewell during which she allowed him to kiss her mouth, once, quickly, only to leave him alone now on the street, scanning the night sky, attempting to repress the usual post-kiss erection by remembering his old star maps. He quickly finds Scorpius and Libra. And there are Lupus and Centaurus. He once held a vague belief that these celestial arrangements guided his destiny. Now he despairs of the very idea of destiny. He despairs of his postponed wedding and of returning to his father’s house, the narrow attic room, the narrow single bed. He despairs of learning tomorrow which mundane tasks his father will thrust upon him. His mind returns to El Paradiso and Queen Juliette. The way her ivory robe gathered the soft light from the leaded windows. Her bare feet feral on the Persian carpet. She did in fact invite him upstairs. She might do so again.
At this hour, streetlamps fizzing, Basin Street is open for business. Carriages click along the bricks or wait curbside, their drivers nipping round the corner to the cheaper cribs on Toulouse. Everywhere are dandies, mam-zelles, flower sellers, cutpurses, promenaders, high hats, horses, heaps of dung.
At El Paradiso’s door, the same maid takes his hat and briefcase. Some sort of hostess in a yellow gown with puffed sleeves greets a group of three men in front of him. Each man slips money into her hand as she leads them into the big front room where Emile read the will that afternoon. Now it holds forty or fifty men wearing evening dress, smoking cigars, talking, or shouting to be heard above one another. There are girls in bright frocks, like tanagers in a dark forest. The hostess comes back, her red lips pushed into a smile. “Bonsoir, monsieur.”
“I’d like to see Miss Juliette,” Emile blurts.
“And you are?”
“St. Victoire. It’s about my father. The matter of a gift.”
She glances at a book on a side table. “Perhaps Monsieur is unaware that one arranges in advance for Queen Juliette.”
“It’s about my father,” he says again.
From behind her, Juliette materializes, wearing a column of peacock blue silk that falls in iridescent tiers from a high neckline to her bare feet. “Never mind, Giselle.” A comb in her hair sprouts a high blue plume, as if she were not already tall enough. Unlike the hostess, Juliette wears no rouge or lipstain or kohl. Black lace gloves cover her hands, but her arms, all pale brown creaminess, are seductively bare.
“Monsieur St. Victoire.” She offers her hand and Emile, unsure, kisses the black lace.
“I have returned for my father’s gift.” He knows he sounds like a boy. One does not claim gifts at eleven in the evening.
“So serious.” Juliette takes his arm, as if they might stroll through Congo Square. “Our guests come here for leisure.”
“Of course.” He pats her hand, a man of the world. “Forgive me.”
“I see that you are terribly worried about your father.”
Forgetting that Juliette is well paid to put men at ease, Emile grasps this face-saving remark like a life ring. “Yes. I thought a gift might cheer him.”
“Well, come with me.” She takes him up a wide mahogany staircase to an intimate parlor, wallpapered in dark gold. Two lamps burn low in their painted globes, and a divan covered in bright gold fabric is in front of the fireplace. The mantelpiece holds an ornate clock covered in tiny brass cherubs. Above it is an immense mirror in a carved cherry-wood frame. The carving is so fine that Emile steps in to peer more closely. Then he realizes it depicts a continuous chain of various animals––elephants, dogs, camels, bears––each mounting the next in some ludicrous copulating posture all around the frame.
Juliette comes to stand beside him. “This is Madame’s gift to Monsieur Honoré. He often admired it.”
“The clock?” he asks.
“No, the mirror.”
“Ah.” He pretends to admire the mirror anew while assessing his reflection––the light brown skin his mother so often praised, his pomaded hair, trim suit and stiff collar––and stealing glances at Juliette, at her slender neck and surprising height, which she carries so well.
“The young lady downstairs.” Emile speaks to Juliette’s image in the mirror. “Giselle?”
“She mentioned one might reserve time with you.”
“You wish to reserve time with me?”
“Well, if that’s… is that how it’s done?”
“How what is done?” Her smile turns mischievous, but not unkind.
“You see, my father’s illness has postponed my marriage.”
“You are to be married? How charming.”
“Yes. Someday.” Without knowing he would do so, Emile turns and places his hands on her bare arms. Too terrified to breathe, he nevertheless slides his trembling hands up to her shoulders and back down.
She does not pull away. She does not move. But she does say, eventually, “Monsieur St. Victoire, you are a lovely young man.”
He drops his hands. “I do not wish to be a lovely young man.”
She takes his face in both her hands. “If you wish to reserve time with me, very well. But I believe you should wait.”
“All I do is wait. That is all I do.”
She leans down and kisses him on the mouth. Though his body yearns to press against her, perhaps pull her under him onto the gold divan, he knows she is, first of all, being kind, and, second of all, saying farewell.
The moment he steps back onto Basin Street, trying to quell the riot of new sensations flinging themselves through his body, he stops short. The atmosphere of the street has altered. The banquette is deserted. A lone hackman waits at the curb, tense and straight, reins at the ready.
Emile calls up to him. “What is this?”
The black face, stricken, looks down. “We heard tell of a mob, sir.”
Before the hackman can say Parish Prison, Emile knows they have Marcus Rampling.
“Will you take me there?”
“Nossir.” He shakes his head. “Sorry, sir.”
But Emile is already rounding the corner and striding down Iberville and then running, looking off to his left, toward Gravier, where a halo of red torch-fired dust roils above the low rooftops. He hears a few distant shouts. He turns right on Decatur. His chest hurts and he slows to a walk. Two men pass him, running, one brandishing a bright creosote torch. They are followed by three excited, yapping dogs and then three young boys who might be running to a carnival, so eager and ecstatic are their faces.
At the corner with Gravier, Emile meets the mob, forty or more men in a trailing semicircle around Marcus Rampling. Rampling lies in the street, a rope cinched up around his armpits. He tries to grab the rope to right himself while being dragged slowly over the bricks by a man on a prancing horse. The men of the mob hold rocks, torches, picks, Winchesters, pistols, clubs. Some look like the lowest kind of dockworker, in dun-colored clothes and straw hats. Others wear suits and bowlers much like Emile’s. A man in a shopkeeper’s apron steps out and pounds his club twice across Marcus Rampling’s ribs. Rampling writhes onto his side and curls up, knees to chin, hands reaching weakly to cover his head. The crowd erupts in a roar and the rider spurs the horse, dragging Rampling another half-block. There are growls of git ‘im and nigger and murderer.
Emile crosses the street and lunges at the horse, reaching for the bridle. Maybe he can reason with the rider. Maybe it can all stop. Now he sees that the man astride the horse is Criminal Sheriff Olwen Jaspar, still wearing his brown uniform, still pursing his obscene little mouth in its obscene blond stubble. Their eyes meet for an instant while Emile grapples with the horse.
“Hold on there, Jaspar,” Emile says, though he sounds weak, almost pleading.
Jaspar brings the butt of his riding crop down on the side of Emile’s head.
The blow acts like a signal, and, as Emile falls to the bricks, gunshots rip from several directions. On the ground, Emile wonders, dreamlike, what it will feel like to be shot. The shooting goes on and on. The horse’s hooves strike the ground near Emile’s head and he rolls away, into some foul water at the curb. A shade seems to come down over his eyes and he has a strange, slow-moving notion that perhaps he could sleep here, rest a while. From a great distance, he hears Marcus Rampling in his cell, saying You a married man?
It is the breathing in of the dirty water that brings him back to consciousness. He chokes, coughs, spits, and sits up before he thinks to ask himself if he’s been shot. But there is only the pounding gash where Jaspar struck him, and, he imagines, bruises from the fall. When finally he stands up, his suit wet on one side, the dying halo of red dust has moved blocks away, almost to the river. He staggers after it.
But the mob is fleeing now, some passing Emile going the other direction, laughing, strolling, running. By a deserted warehouse, Rampling’s body, more bullet holes than substance, hangs by the neck from the crossbeam of a new telegraph pole. His prison clothes are black with blood. His head droops forward, pounded flat on one side. Only white shows from his eye sockets.
Olwen Jaspar and the horse have disappeared with the mob. The three little boys who passed Emile on Decatur are still there, staring up in wonder. With a ferocity he should have summoned earlier, Emile screams at them, “Get on now.”
As soon as they have fled, Emile’s knees give way and he sits on the ground beneath Marcus Rampling, a man who stole a chicken because he was hungry, who has a wife in Neshoba County, Mississippi, who placed his trust in Honoré St. Victoire and thereby in Emile.
He sits for two hours, thinking he should get Rampling down, get some help, but he cannot. Occasionally, he looks again to the night sky, not at Marcus Rampling, but searching for the familiar constellations, which have disappeared.
He realizes he has lost his hat and briefcase. They must be back on Decatur, but he will not retrieve them. At last he walks toward the streetcar tracks, as if they might lead to logic or sanity. He passes the fruit stand where he often buys oranges. The shoe-repair shop his father favors. These are omens that the world will continue. He pauses, eyes closed, and tries to picture the grid of streets he must navigate to reach Genevieve.
Emile has never been to the Vitracs’ back door, where the cook and the maid and the laundress enter. It is still two hours before dawn when he finds his way to the wooden stoop and sits, trembling even in the warm air. In the earliest red light the maid Adele opens the door. When she sees him she startles like a deer catching a scent.
Emile stands up. “Adele.”
She narrows her eyes at him.
“It’s me. St. Victoire.”
“I know who it is.”
“Will you fetch Miss Genevieve?”
“I know. Will you fetch her? I need help.”
“Sir, you has blood.” She touches her own temple and cheek.
“Will you fetch her?”
Adele shakes her head. “Mr. Vitrac, he kill me.” But she smoothes her apron and turns back inside. “Wait here.”
The sky behind the screen of magnolias in the back garden goes from blood red to pale yellow, and mockingbirds call from tree to tree. The first cries of Can too loop come from a vendor somewhere down the street. The air smells sweet, lemon trees and roses. None of this blots away the image of Marcus Rampling’s body. Adele reappears. “Miss Genevieve say come with me.”
He follows her from the kitchen up a servants’ staircase, narrow and creaking and lit by one tiny round window. Down two short hallways. Then Adele, glaring at him, pushes open a door. He steps in and the door closes behind him.
Genevieve stands in her small bedroom, dressed only in a white nightgown that falls from its smocked collar to the hem that brushes the floor. She gasps at the sight of Emile’s face.
“They killed Rampling,” he says.
“Oh, Emile. Where? In Parish Prison?”
“They dragged him out. They took him––” Emile has never imagined he would weep in front of Genevieve. Now he lowers his gaze and cries silently.
“It’s not your fault,” she says.
“I fear it might be.”
When she goes to draw the drapes against the rising sun, he can make out her full shape through the gauze of her nightgown. He is moved now more by her trust in him than by the longed-for possession of her body.
She tugs off his jacket and vest as he stands mute in the dimness, looking about, taking in the chiffonier and the bureau with its white cloth and jewelry box, the basin stand with its mirror, the tousled bed, Genevieve, as he has never seen her, with her hair in a thick braid over her shoulder. She unhooks his collar and removes his tie. “Your tiepin is gone,” she says. While she smoothes the bed and turns down the sheet he removes the rest of his clothing and washes his face carefully at the basin, watching the water turn pink, dabbing his temple with the towel. They lower their heads onto the pillows. He holds her to his chest, and the danger ebbs a little where it meets her warmth.
Bright dawn pushes in around the window shade while the dark night still winds its shroud behind his eyes. But wherever his skin touches Genevieve’s there is only a soft opal glow, like the light filtering through the leaded glass at El Paradiso. He knows now that the rest of life will reach him like this. The dark and the light traveling great distances, gathering force, clashing one against the other, suddenly upon him, knocking him to the ground, dismantling and reconfiguring all his plans and all the constellations: need and want, life and death, hope and desire.
“El Paradiso” first appeared in Quiddity, Volume 7, No. 2, Fall/Winter 2014.