Words written on the back of the old and yellow photograph. María gazes at the young man with a shy demeanor. A real bookworm, Grandma always said, used to read all the time even while walking. María recalls the sadness and nostalgia that clouded Grandma’s eyes when she talked about the son that went missing. People saw him walking by the river with his nose in a book. No doubt he took a wrong step, and the current carried him away.
María frames the photograph and places it on the console beside the television, among the other photographs of her ancestors. She turns off the living room light and prepares for bed.
Four in the morning, and María wakes for no reason. Impenetrable darkness surrounds her, but a bright light seeps through the door, and she wonders whether she left a light on in the house.
Puzzled, María puts on her slippers; fear snakes up her feet and grips her spine. She tiptoes to the living room. The TV is on, and transmitting a black-and-white movie.
Silent room; silent film.
María searches for the remote control and turns off the TV.
She goes back to bed, guided by the dim moonlight that begs to enter through the living room windows. She flicks on the light in her bedroom, but the lightbulb blows out, and that dense darkness engulfs her. Quivering, she pats her way to the bed.
Moments later, María hears the distinctive click of the TV’s power button, and chills crawl up her spine. Heart in mouth, she swallows her fear and creeps into the living room. The TV is on, and the same movie is playing. This time she pauses and pays attention to the film. It depicts a battle in the Mexican Revolution. The images are brutal and bloody, and María wonders that such a realistic film exists. María feels the bullets zipping by her head, and the blood spatters on her pajamas. Overturned horses, trampled men, ownerless sombreros jumping in the spillage of blood and guts. It chokes her.
A man appears, big, assertive and imposing. The man fires his rifle, and his enemies’ heads burst open, their startled lives flickering in the blood-stained wind. He is a real ace of war, and María cannot take her eyes off him. He turns and points his rifle towards her. A scream escapes her lips, and he hesitates as if he heard her. He lowers the rifle, and María gasps at the fierce black eyes fixed on her. María’s heart skips a beat when she sees herself in him and recognizes the unmistakable gaze of José, the shy, the taciturn. The bookworm uncle who surely took a wrong step while reading a book, and the river’s current carried him away.