Dora in the Window
Dora would stay looking from the window. As if Dora could fly, they’d put bars in the window, but not criss-crossed ones like in a prison, and these were painted green. With the point of a fingernail, Dora scratched the paint on the bars, each morning, to never lose count how long she’d been there. There were already 38 scratches, like polish coming off a fingernail, on the green bars.
At night the view from the window was prettier and Dora could see the lights of the city. Far off, where the city ended, there seemed to be a coast, with ships arriving. Dora liked to look at the lighted billboard advertising for Coca Cola and some nights Dora’s only consolation was that bottle filling the glass with Coca Cola. Dora imagined wearing faded Lee jeans and drinking a Coke in an open air bar or café where willows grew, hanging laxly like Dora’s hair.
In the afternoons, Dora would turn on the tape player, putting in tapes that her sister brought. There were the voices and noises of her house on the tapes. Dora heard the sound of her father clearing his throat, like a song bird getting ready to sing. At times, Dora’s mother would sing and her brothers would send along his regards. Dora would hear the barks of the dog, Laika, and she would promise to be good for Laika’s sake when she returned to the house.
The room where Dora stayed was painted white. Above the head of the bed, someone had hung an old crucifix and Dora was becoming friends with that squalid Jesus Christ. During the day, Dora would sleep. As soon as the first lights of the city came on at night, Dora would post herself in the window. She’d kneel there, looking out the window, and she already had calluses from doing so, like a good Catholic.
When they brought Dora to this room, she would look out the window with her mint-green eyes. Later, her brother had the idea of bringing her the telescope that had belonged to their grandfather. Dora had only a vague memory of her grandfather, always wearing a linen suit and talking about stars. With the telescope, Dora would look at the sky and hope to see a flying saucer.
At night, Dora would only leave the window when she heard the noise of the mouse that she called SalaamHemingway. He was docile and Dora could stroke his fur and one night Dora sang “We Shall Overcome” for SalaamHemingway to hear. Dora never gave much bread to SalaamHemingway, afraid that he would get fat and not be able to get through the vent that he came into the room through.
Dora already knew all the noises of the night. In the wee hours, the trains whistled and tooted as if they were passing right below her window. At 12:35, a man would slap a woman in a house below a lighted billboard for Firestone Tires. Before receiving the telescope, Dora thought the slapping noises were part of a TV program that she could hear. With the telescope, she found the house where the noises of the fight were coming from and saw, through the window, a man hitting a woman and then kneeling at her feet. Dora turned the telescope away when the two of them got into bed and began to make love.
After, Dora would wait for the night flight for New York. Dora could tell the different planes by the noise they made and thought it was nice to see them as they rose, their little windows looking like embers in the night. The passengers of those flights never knew how much Dora loved them. Dora would only go to bed when the Early Bird satellite had crossed the sky. Before closing her eyes, she would have one last look at Sirius, the dog star.
The evening before her release, Dora discovered that she loved ever little thing in the world where she was being held. She shared a piece of bread with the mouse SalaamHemingway and said to him, stroking his head, that she was going to take him out of there with her. Dora changed her mind though and decided that SalaamHemingway should stay, to keep company with the next person to occupy the room with the green bars. So Dora leaned there watching the flashing changes of the Coca Cola billboard, after she watched the couple fighting under the billboard for Firestone Tires and she had the desire to say to them: Justice, eh? When the plane for New York went past, Dora waved and shouted bon voyage to the passengers. Dora looked off in the distance, saw two ships arriving, and waited, with telescope in hand, for the Early Bird to cross the sky.
It was a night with a full moon and Dora saw three jeeps stopping over where they were going to make a plaza or basketball court or something. Some men got out of the jeeps and Dora saw them disappear under some trees. Dora focused the telescope on them and the men came back, carrying a cross, like the ones they use in the Passion Plays. They put the cross on the ground and Dora saw them grab a man from inside one of the jeeps. The man had his hands bound behind him, with a length of rope, and he was wearing faded Lee jeans and blue sneakers with no socks. His shirt Dora imagined was an Adidas, bought in Buenos Aires. The beard of the Lee jeans man was full and Dora thought he looked like Alain Delon. His hair was light like Robert Redford’s.
They untied the hands of the man in the Lee jeans and dragged him towards the cross. Three of them kept their machine guns pointed at the man in the faded jeans. Dora let out a shout, that the other patients probably thought was just someone having a nightmare, and the man in the Lee jeans took off the blue sneakers, the Lee jeans, the Adidas shirt, and was naked except for a pair of orange underwear. The men grabbed him, there were some stifled shouts, then silence, with the radio of a waiting taxi playing off somewhere, and then Dora heard the sound of a hammer driving a nail. Dora shifted her position in the window, adjusted the focus of the telescope, and saw the men crucifying the man in the orange underwear.
Dora never knew how many minutes passed then. The men erected the cross, driving it into the earth, and Dora saw Christ crucified in orange underwear. The Christ in orange underwear said something that the wind carried towards Dora but that she didn’t manage to hear. The last thing that Dora remembered was a man climbing a ladder with a bottle of Coca Cola in his hand, soaking a cotton ball in the Coca Cola, and passing it over the lips of the Christ in orange underwear.
The next morning, early, the doctor who was going to release Dora, Dr. Garret, found her pale and with rings under her eyes. Dora told him that she hadn’t slept the night before because they had crucified a man and she had seen the whole thing from the window, catching it all through her telescope. Dr. Garret adjusted his glasses, like he’d do when something surprised him, and asked Dora to tell him what happened. Dr. Garret listened to everything, always adjusting his glasses, and said:
“Listen, Dora, the man that they crucified, he didn’t look like someone you’ve seen, even in a picture?”
“Yes, he did,” replied Dora.
“Like who?” asked Dr. Garret.
“Like Alain Delon, except for his hair. His hair was lighter, like Robert Redford’s...”
“Was his hair long Dora?” asked Dr. Garret.
“It was,” responded Dora.
“Did he have a beard Dora?” asked Dr. Garret.
“He did,” responded Dora.
“Now, Dora, tell me one thing,” said Dr. Garret in a mysterious tone, “How old did the man look to be?”
“Around 33,” responded Dora.
“And he was undressed and almost nude,” continued Dr. Garret.
“He was,” responded Dora. “He only had on some orange underwear.”
“Then Dora,” said Dr. Garret, without managing to contain the emotion in his voice, “the scene you saw happened many, many years ago...”
“What?” asked Dora.
“It really did, Dora. It happened almost two thousand years ago,” answered Dr. Garret, embarrassed.
Later, when he was having a cup of coffee with a colleague from the clinic, Dr. Garret talked about how he had a patient who’d had a hallucination and seen a man crucified like Jesus Christ.
“Do you know what they were doing last night in the plaza where she saw the crucifixion?” asked Dr. Garret, adjusting his glasses. “They were planting roses in some flowerbeds...”
During the 385 days that she stayed kneeling in the window, Dora never forgot about the Christ with the orange underwear who looked like Alain Delon. He was in the habit of showing up in Dora’s dreams changed into a rose the color of Robert Redford’s hair.