The snowflakes are roughly the same size as butterflies. They flail in the air like drunken jumpers, the sky and land fused in an unintelligible relationship through their great insect migration. Jaime watches them fall on the street in a horrible gray pulp, beneath the tires of vehicles, as he plods down the unshoveled sidewalk. The cars heading east and west on Adams give little paroxysmal jerks, then weave in the gray crystalline guts of the arctic mass-suicide. Someone in a pickup truck honks at Jaime and flips him off. Two brass testes hang from the back bumper of the rusted Ford. The wheels on the truck are huge and bald, Jaime notes. Maybe the driver will wrap it around a telephone pole or a tree.
Jaime calculates. The supermarket is five blocks away, one hill, one valley, and then the electric doors. Jaime will be soaked when he walks through the door, and the industrial strength vents will strike his snow-packed clothes like the delousing sprays of institutions. He will walk through the vestibule or foyer-like space and get a basket. He will head for the produce aisle. He will be a knight, a crusader. He will bring back great gifts from this strange land.
Karen and Jaime are lying in bed. Jaime glances at the alarm clock. It reads ten-twelve. They luxuriate beneath the paisley comforter up to their noses, facing each other. Karen is naked, an old flat pillow supporting her turgid belly, another sandwiched between her knees. The scent of her brown hair keeps wafting in his nostrils. It isn’t a bad smell; it is a human smell, a smell of intimacy that arises in close quarters and is welcomed on gray mornings with a smile and a kiss that may or may not become prurient.
“Do you think it snowed?” she asks. Her dark lashes flash over her amber eyes. Jaime yawns and his fingers move over the outer curve of her thigh, following the outline of her body, to the swell beginning a little beneath her breasts.
“It never snows in Deming,” he says, gently touching the place where the flattened pillow sprays out beneath her.
“That’s not true! It snows in Arizona! How could it not snow in New Mexico?”
“In the mountains, maybe.”
“No—I saw it on the Travel Channel once. It was snowing in the desert.”
“My baby is so smart,” Jaime says. He moves his hand from her belly to her thigh and squeezes it between her leg and the pillow. “But what are meteorologists? Weathermen…”
Karen’s leg moves. She opens it like a wing and stretches it over his, which is covered by a pair of red sweat pants. He feels her hand alight on his morning erection, and then tug it. Softly, she strokes through the cotton. “Do you wish you were in New Mexico?”
“Are you there?”
“Of course not. I’m in the Midwest.”
“Good,” she says, and Jaime can sense her smile though he cannot see it. Her head disappears beneath the covers, and he feels a pang of expectation in the pit of his stomach as Karen begins to pull down his sweats. He doesn’t feel anything else. She freezes and makes a noise that gets louder and louder until Jaime is ripping the comforter and sheets away.
“Fuuucking shit! My leg, my goddamn leg! Help!”
Her body is twisted away from his, and she is rubbing the pale skin of her calf with inexplicable speed and force. “Leg cramp! Help!”
Jaime leaps on the svelte leg like a jaguar. He can feel the balled muscles traveling up, beneath his palm, as he works them over. Soon Karen is making little relieved gasps, but he can see tears coming out of the corners of her eyes. He likes the way his light brown skin looks on her pale, pale flesh, and he wonders what their little girl is going to look like. “Better?” he asks.
“You need a banana,” he says and walks to the kitchen. “Potassium for cramps.”
Vague, watery light streams in through the kitchen window. He definitely is not in Deming anymore. The cars in the parking lot are covered by a layer of snow. There are no bananas in the fruit bowl. He gazes out the window at a steady volley of minuscule flakes, feels the cold air rushing through every unfortified space in their small one bedroom apartment. He wonders if it will be warmer in two months when the baby comes. February: He can’t remember what it feels like in February, but he’d have to find a way to stay the winter air if it’s cold.
“We don’t have any bananas, baby.”
“Yes, we have no bananas…”
“Never mind,” she answers.
“I’ll go get some,” he says.
“We have money?”
He’d have to give plasma on Monday.
“Is it snowing?”
“Yes, baby,” he says, dressing.
“Well, okay,” she says with a sigh. “My mom will be calling soon anyway.”
Karen’s mom calls every Sunday to check up; to reprimand. Jaime could do without the job lecture. It isn’t his fault that nobody is hiring; he and Karen do not have a car. How can he find a good job without a car? Karen understands, but not her mother. He begins to dress.
The wind has picked up. It throws the mantle of snow in wild jigs along with the flakes that are still falling. Jaime’s face stings and his toes have gone numb. His fingers are screaming beneath the thin gloves he wears. In some places, the drifts have gone to his shins.
He sees the supermarket ahead. There are very few cars in the parking lot. He watches as one pulls in and idles. Nobody gets out of it. They’re waiting for the brunt of the assault to pass. Seeing how close he is, Jaime sprints across 11th Street, and the electric doors slide open.
The large white tile squares on the floor of the supermarket are dingy with melting snow that the few patrons who’ve tempted fate have left behind. Jaime takes a black wire basket from the stack on the opposite side of the doors and heads with fast, sure steps to the produce aisle. There are bananas aplenty, most of which are in magnificent condition, bright as a child’s interpretation of the sun. He chooses a bunch of six and makes his way to the first check-out lane he sees. The woman behind the register, perhaps in her late forties or early fifties, a smoker, divorced — “you know the story, hon” — looks at him with disbelief.
“You must’ve really wanted some bananas, Frosty.”
He inspects himself. His clothes are layered in slush.
“My wife needed them. She’s pregnant.”
Jaime and Karen are not married, but he calls her his wife in front of others.
He wraps the bunch of bananas in a plastic bag and places that in another, cinches it, and leaves the store. On the way back home, he watches a very slow collision at an intersection. No one is hurt; the effect is almost comical, like two bumper cars with illogically serious adults behind the wheels. One is yelling; the other gets out and looks at a broken headlight. The one examining the damage shrugs.
Jaime makes it through the drifts, through the parking lot of Karen’s and his apartment complex, into the hallway, and through the door. Karen is sitting on the couch in maternity pajamas, the cell-phone to her ear. “No, mom. Jaime’s back. No, Jaime hasn’t found a job yet. Yes. Yes, soon, I know.”
Jaime strips at the welcome mat when the door closes. His face is numb. He unwraps the bag with the bananas in it and begins to peel one of them.
“Hold on.” She looks at him with a laugh in her throat. “My mom wants to know who you think are. You have to get a job, she says.”
“Yes, Mama,” he answers. He offers a banana that looked like solid sunlight to Karen’s lips, and she takes a languid bite.