By Mario D. Gabriele.
The girl had been bludgeoned to death. That’s what the woman was saying. She took another bite of white toast, took a breath, “Killed her in cold blood poor lamb. Nineteen years old. Right on the back of the head, oh gosh Henry I don’t want to read anymore about it.” She put the paper down and sat sulking in her blue trekking fleece, puffing and sweating from eating too quickly. She was American, possibly Canadian-there had been too few low Os to tell. She spread orange marmalade thickly on another piece of imported bread, it had made the same journey she had, likely, and it had survived the trip better. Henry, balding on top looked at his life/girlfriend/noncommittal lifer with earnest concern,“Ooooooh dear.” Canadian then. Henry’s Hapsburgian, inbred chin trembled, “Oh Oh Oh Dear.” He adjusted the T-shirt tucked into his trousers and pulled the waistband back up. “I mean gosh…do they say how it happened? Oh honey I’m sorry. Let’s put this paper away.” I ordered a black coffee, which was thick and syrupy. It came with bread and yak butter, which was salty and clear. I ate it in gulps, unchewed hungry gulps, each bite with bizarre hurried purpose that made the task seem important. I could have been in some sibilating metropolis, eating like this, riding a subway car strangling down a bagel. Dusting flour off a suit jacket, barely navigating the socially obligatory ‘cardiac event’ a certain type of man must incur from going without cellular service for a quarter hour. I’d get out of the tunnels, or better yet a driven car, and rifle out orders to a team of underlyings: the fucking Kliennmann deal had better be on my fucking desk by the time I got in and if not I swear to god I’d fucking handcraft a surgically precise necklace out of said underlyings genitals. Which is all to say I ate quickly. The chubby lifer and her partner ordered another set of frosted rolls. Perhaps they were American. Pastries, full of pus-like fat-ventricular demise-and glazed: a decadence that derived from a unique national self-loathing and a longstanding pursuit of satiation. Only America fed like this, hungry, always hungry, ravenously licking dog jowls. It was hereditary: Conestogas had devoured horizons under their wheels. They’d drank futures that had spun past in endless, stupefying blurs and they jagged for nexts that would not come. When the sea actualized on either coast, when the pioneers had yoked the horizontal to their driverless plough, they tore after new axes. They dug down, they built up, they bolted earth, they wolfed the sky and at night they lay scratching, furiously jonesing for the stars overhead. When they got that too there was only one way left to go: in. They dined. They tried to fit it all inside them. They had to get their teeth scratched clean and stomachs slurped tight, but they kept on. They let their bones get soft and mildewy. They invented new ways to eat and new things to eat. They kept eating—the limit would not fall.
Frosting wreathed her ursine lips and Henry rubbed her back in burping circular loops.“Ooooh honey.” She smiled and munched, “C’mon lets go to the Monkey Temple.” As she walked out she turned and said gracias in that instinctive 2nd grade Spanish way most Americans do. From the States there is a singular eye: There is America, and there is not-America. Not America is a jumble of gracias-de nada-voulez vous couchez avec mois and mamma mias. She made a laughing sound and left, reaching for Henry’s hand.
They left the newspaper on the table and after a few minutes of respectful consideration, the wake, I picked it up. There are few English language newspapers in the city. They don’t make it here quickly enough to be news. If it comes three days late, it can’t be news. It’s posterity. It’s recycling. Nepal Gazette is written in English in Kathmandu and it comes out five times a week. It does not come out on Sundays, and it does not come out on Wednesdays. It is Thursday today, which I did not know. It’s January, which I did know.
There’s a picture of the girl in an old school uniform. Small yellow lettering on the jumper can just be read: St. Stephen’s Girls. Most of the secondary schools have names like this in the valley. St. Paul’s. St. Anthony’s. Mary Full of Grace. Her heritage was indigenous. She did not have big brown Brahman eyes or thick brows; she did not have the slight-red skin of the Chhetri sirs. She had long Gurung lashes, desert lashes, and eyes that saw from the steppes. She was pretty, and her hair was bright even in newspaper print. In the next picture, her skull was broken like a yolk. There was not much to make out. The report said little: she was bludgeoned sometime in the last week or two. Her body was found sometime in the last three days. The cause of death was trauma to the back of the head. There was more blood around the body than the VC chief had ever seen. She liked school very much. She loved to sing. Her teachers say she was a good pupil, if unremarkable. Two friends agree that she was very very kind. She was not married, or engaged. Her father is very sad. Her mother is hysterical. There is an older brother, living in Qatar, who found out yesterday. He will not fly back for the funeral.