As she stepped into the warm Los Angeles morning, Maria remembered what her late mother, Concepción, told her each night at bedtime since María had turned thirteen: “Mija, when you kill a man, you must find the weak spot that all men have and make him suffer pain as he has never suffered before.”
At this point, Concepción would always lean close, her hot, moist breath smelling of café con leche and cigarettes, to add: “Don’t forget to look straight into his eyes when you do it, otherwise his death will have no meaning.”
And María, without fail, would always ask her mother, “What will I see in his eyes,Mamá?”
And also without fail, almost as if it were a strange dance that they had rehearsed each night for many years, Concepción would pull back and exclaim: “You will know when you do it right, mija! You will know it as you know your own name.”
An hour earlier, María had stood in Rigoberto’s den, walls filled with books collected throughout the years, as Rigoberto gently turned the unblemished pages of a rare, inscribed, first English translation of Gabriel García Márquez‘s magnificent novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude.
“How did you find this?” Rigoberto had asked in amazement, too afraid to lift his eyes from the book lest it disappear into the ether like so much smoke.
María remembered how she had looked down at her Latin-American Studies professor, a man three decades her senior, a brilliant man, winner of too many awards, tenured at a prestigious university, a man who preyed on beautiful, promising undergraduate students such as María. She had stood before this man, in silence, waiting for him to look up at her, into her eyes, the way he never seemed to do when they were alone in his bedroom. Finally, María refusal to answer forced this great man of letters to turn his face upward, toward this young woman whom he assumed would be but a titillating footnote in his life.
Their eyes had finally met. María then pulled the long, glistening knife from her purse. Rigoberto’s eyes widened.
And as she walked down the sidewalk, warmed by the sun, she smiled because she finally understood her mother’s advice, fully and completely, as well as she knew her own name.