But I was not. For we had agreed to this. To the money. One hundred. Two hundred when he was generous. Or when she was.
Cousin Felix, Grandma Jessina, Uncle Manuel and his little two whose names I still confuse. I should have put them back on their raft, let the sea make room for them. I who drive the forklift, stack the boxes, sign for deliveries. I who could hardly feed two, now seven. Who had to beg the offices upstairs to hire Rosa to clean. Had to say, Here, she is Not my wife.
And she isn't.
Here, she is the accountant's. Because he saw her when me and Rosa and Cousin Felix and Grandma Jessina and Uncle Manuel were chasing single grains of rice around our bowls. Were talking from our bellies, the landlady writing letters. Saw her when I was signing for delivery and Rosa was scrubbing, was in position, tempting the air with her sweetness, the accountant walking through the warehouse and into the sight of her like it was a glass wall, Rosa looking over her shoulder.
Now it is twice a month and in the supply closet when the accountant finishes upstairs. But Cousin Felix buys Nike and Grandma Jessina's knees bend and Uncle Manuel eats dates and his little two play computers in their hands.
It is grandma Jessina's birthday, five months and ten times since Rosa's first with the accountant that I ask about him, for I am drunk on his beer and on his new mattress with the woman who is mine and his. Does he talk to you, Rosa, tugging his zipper, forehead moist and the wind still moving in his chest? He does. And do you find him interesting, Rosa, unrolling your panties, back aching with the smell of him?
She says, He's bad, Nasty. He hides numbers. He puts them where they don't belong. And everyone makes money. He brags to me, tugging his zipper, but his forehead is dry and he hardly breathes.
I lay there quiet, doing the numbers, figuring, sizing up.
The man at La Casa de Las Radios points to one bigger than my nightsand with speakers the size of hubcaps. Not like that, I say. I do not want to give the neighborhood the beating-heart music, the anger-music, from the hood of my car. I say, do I look like one of those? Do my pants not fit? Is there murder in my eye?
Small, I say. I say, I want it in my pocket. The accountant in my pocket. I want it smaller than my palm and underneath my fingernail, if you can, sir.
He gives it to me smaller than the games in the little ones' hands and shows me where to put the tape and how to copy my voice, what button Rosa will push when the accountant is busy with his zipper and dry forehead and his stories about numbers which we will sell back to him.
Felix will fill his closet with Nike.
Grandma Jessina will salsa.
Uncle Manuel will shit like a pigeon.
More games in the little ones' hands.
And Rosa will be my Rosa.
And they will come by raft looking for the Great Nastazi. The one they call, Nasty. The one who knows when to fuck and when to pull out.
I am cutting boxes when the accountant comes, tie over his shoulder, sleeves rolled to the elbows like he has come by single engine plane. But the briefcase puts him in his place. And the pens in his chest pocket. I return the blade to my pocket and punch open a box, the sound bouncing through the warehouse, and the accountant stopping, but then walking around me, up the iron stairs, making his own noise till he disappears into the world of glass and light.
Rosa disappears, too. Into the supply closet, where she will wait for him, the device hid behind the Windex, the buttons set.
The hour is long. The delivery men come with their baseball caps and tobacco faces and accents that don't like mine, and when the trucks pull out, I cut the boxes like they will feed me.
And it is noon when the accountant comes downstairs, his tie on right, but his sleeves still rolled.
He doesn't look at me.
He leaves the briefcase by the supply-closet door.
I have never listened before. I have always feared hearing more than when it is us and not him. My stomach is strange and my ear cold against the door. But I hear nothing. I wait, but I can't tell time with so many heartbeats and only one breath. My hands are wet. My foot mindful of the briefcase. I am about to break in, knowing the blade in my pocket, when the sweetest sound, the mumbling, the rumble of victory pushes back against the door. I wait. And before all is quiet, again, I am wondering how many words we have collected. I want to count them. I want to charge him by the word and add it all up and give it to him on a small white piece of paper, so that he may finally know the meaning of numbers.
For now, I count the heartbeats. Sixty and I break the door. And so it goes. Twenty-nine. Thirty-nine. Forty-nine.
Hello, my friend!
Hello. Buttoning his shirt, like it is more important. I want his confidence. I want to cut it and fold it. I want to sign for it, today and tomorrow and forever.
Nasty, Rosa warns. But I knew she'd worry.
So I say, Shut-up! For I am the man, now, and the numbers are mine.
Rosa shivers into a shelf.
The accountant says, What do you want? Like I am a nuisance. Like I am the briefcase by the door.
So I take the blade from my pocket, hold it as if I will change his channel.
Do you want to kill me? He asks.
Yes, I say. I want to cut you in half, then cut the halves in half, then those into triangles. I want to cut you into small pieces of equal size and mail each piece to the bitch who made you. One piece at a time, the dates selected carefully, each one a multiple of the last, gringo.
Thank you, he says, then takes from his pocket the device. He is smiling when he plays it back for me, says there are laws against threats, even if they are not true and from a man with no pride and poor calculations.
That night, I give Felix and Uncle Manuel and the little ones two weeks to leave. Grandma Jessina will stay. But I tell her, from now on, Grandpa Hector will send the money across the waters to pay for her knees.
Now, the accountant wants no more of Rosa. He still comes and still walks around me when I am cutting the boxes. Though he does not stop when I punch one. And I wonder who he brags to now, zipping and dry in another closet in another warehouse with another Rosa, telling her of the man he outsmarted and of the numbers he moves around. I wonder if he thinks of me, the little man, the one forever on the raft with the city before me.