Wind in general exhilarated her, excited her, filled her with expectation and anticipation. When the winds whipped her blood was effervescent, bubbling through her veins in electric fizzing rushes.
The cold, wet winds of fall that blew the leaves across the road and tangled her hair made her laugh out loud. The Santa Ana winds however did more than make her hold out her arms and laugh. Santa Ana winds stirred up a darker excitement and anticipation. In the Santa Ana she could feel the magic, the ghosts, the darker dreams and broken promises of the ancient land.
The hot, dry air made her restless. It always felt, when the Santa Ana’s blew, that something was coming, something big that would change everything. The grit in the wind made her skin sting. The fierceness of the long, hot gusts would tear papers or books from her hands sending them tumbling crazily down the road too fast and too destructively to hope to catch and repair. As she grew older she came to recognize the restlessness, the edginess that the winds stirred in her. There was something so physical, so carnal about the agitation the Santa Ana’s brought with them.
She stood at the corner of the terracotta tiled terrace looking out over the garden and the roofs of the city to the ocean a few blocks distant. The wind grabbed at her hair yanking and pulling and twisting it like an angry child in a temper tantrum. The ends whipped across her face making her eyes water with the sharp bite. The air between her and the ocean was smudged a dirty, reddish brown from the sand and grit whipped on the wind. That sand wouldn’t settle and completely leave the sky for days once the wind began. It would last until everyone in town was angry and edgy and near tears. There would be fights tonight at the high school football game, at the bars and the trailer parks and the massive stucco homes on the Riviera. No one fully escaped the effects of the Santa Ana’s. Even babies would fuss and cry and refuse to nurse unable to bear the closeness of their mother’s breast during the winds. Women would scream and slap and throw glasses. Men would throw punches.
The fierceness of the wind died abruptly in one of the unnerving pauses that came with the winds. The pauses always raised her tension reminding her of the eye of a hurricane. They lulled little children into stepping out doors in search of a ball or a game of hopscotch only to knock the child down or snatch the ball from their hands sending it rolling and bouncing down the road never to be seen again as the wind once again roared down out of the mountains. In the brief quiet of the suspended wind she heard Alicia Romero, voice raised as she asked Hector where he had been, why he was late, who he had been with. “No one, no where, nothing. It was the wind Licia, just the wind. I walked home. I didn’t want to drive in that stuff.” She heard Alicia’s sob before the wind picked up again. So many fights tonight. She heard the record player in Mrs. Ortega’s kitchen playing the mariachi music she loved to dance to. She breathed a smile into the rising wind. Mrs. Ortega felt the wind like she did. It made her blood race, too, even at eighty-three.
Turning back into the darkened house Elena moved through the rooms without turning a light on. The darkness wrapped around her and heightened the feelings of anticipation the wind had already brought. The white stucco of the walls glowed softly in the dying light of the sunset, the dark shapes of pictures, ironwork crosses and filigree standing out in slightly blurred relief against the uneven planes of the walls. The windows rattled in the front of the house, the sound of a light sprinkling of grit blowing against the old leaded panes pulling her through the dark rooms to the wide expanses of windows and multi-paned glass doors that made up much of the front of the old house.
Again the windows rattled in their frames almost as if someone were outside lightly knocking against the wooden frame begging to be let inside away from the relentless hot breath of the wind. She laid a hand lightly against the old wood as she stepped close to the glass doors and pressed her forehead to the glass as if to see the invisible hand that was knocking.
A palm frond, long since dry and hanging stiffly from the tree at the foot of the front patch rattled and scratched and scraped as it was tossed in the air and against the massive tree trunk again and again. Slowly Elena opened the door and stepped out into the small courtyard at the front of the house and moved toward the intricately curled wrought iron gate set firmly in the stucco walls of the courtyard. The gate too rattled in the hot wind and she set her hand to it as well as if to still the restlessness of the very house itself. Lifting the heavy latch she moved through the gate careful to close it in her wake or the wind would rock and slam it until it fell from its hinges. The street was empty of people and of cars. The wind too strong for comfortable travel on foot or wheel, but still she moved forward into the gusting, pushing, stinging heat of the wind. Her hair whipped around her head, hopelessly tangled and gathering grit from the air. Her skirts whipped up into her teeth and then twisted around her calves whipping madly and causing her to step forward carefully. If she were to fall getting up would be a challenge. As she neared the church at the end of the street she noticed a figure standing on the hill at the edge of the small cemetery looking out to the shifting sand and the ocean as the wind pushed so strongly the figured had to widen its stance to keep from being pushed over.
A man she saw. Old jean jacket and even older blue jeans on his lean form. Hair too long and black as coal whipping in the wind as hers did, into his eyes and against his cheeks, not long enough to wrap around his neck as hers did.
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