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Fiction

Floating Heads

Eileen Malone

Her job at the salon is to sweep the floor of hair, remove wet towels and bring in new, clean ones and cups of coffee for floating heads.

Guadalupe has never called us that to our faces but it must be how we appear, all our magazine-browsing bowed heads floating on a fluttering sea of purple, plastic capes.

 On her breaks, she writes in her notebook with different colored felt tip pens. Remembers back home, the hunger strike, the kind of desperation that starves itself in protest against starvation, cousins, friends, Maria, Pepita, Jorge, how they buried their own bodies up to their heads in a dried field under the torrid Columbian sun, twisting their parched faces from side to side to see each other, opening and closing their mouths like animated doll heads, words drowned by sirens as police came at them with clubs, boots slammed them down, kicked, crushed skulls.

Lupe separates herself from the rest of us, says life is about being with others but survival is about keeping a distance.

Every chance she gets she writes what she must,  doesn’t suffer or embrace what is called forth, things she can never talk about in English, doesn’t try to bend every image almost to breaking, just opens her notebook, records one more thing she can’t stop seeing, turns over the page, closes it, stands up, empties ashtrays and brings more coffee to this new, safe version of floating heads.

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