Gabrielle Esposito

The Blue Hour

after Megan Pillow’s “Margo, Turn Left”

Here is a single cloud rolling over the sinking sun. Here, the crow caws for a chick that fell from the nest in the Meyer’s yard. Here now, the first night of heat, striking as sudden and hard as a branding iron even as the sun goes down. But we barely notice because we’re watching Xochi, sitting alone in her car. 

She’s at the stop sign looking left, right, left, and we can’t see her face, but we can hear her wedding ring tapping the glass and it sounds like a fork hitting a champagne flute. We all know what she’s doing. We watch her from our Adirondack chairs at the edge of Mona’s hot tub, and all we hear is that clink and our lips purse waiting for a kiss that will never come. 

That sound, that sound—we close our eyes in unison, and here is Xochi, already tan before summer really starts. We hear it, and Xochi strips down to her sandals and drops her keys into Bryn’s fruit bowl. We hear it and wait for Xochi’s husband to come and quiet the mourning cries of the crow. 

Clink goes Xochi’s ring against the glass, clink clink clink and Alexandra brushes smooth the hair on her legs, but all she feels is Xochi tense as Alexandra brings her to the edge of herself for the first time, the last time. Clink and Mona slips her own ring off her finger and considers it like she’s seeing it for the first time. Clink and Bryn begins to bite the inside of her cheek so that she can soft-tissue pain like Xochi, who would eat herself alive if she could. 

Here is Xochi at the stop sign and we all know this summer will be oppressively hot. We all know her bag is there beside her on the seat but empty because Xochi hates commitment, and what is she thinking? We all know that if she goes the sun will grow so hot it will boil our blood in our veins and our households will shatter and the bells that chime on every porch she walks past will melt. And yet here is Xochi, not gone yet. Now is the time for the incantation. 

Alexandra brushes her course leg hair and with a practiced flick of her wrist, pulls out a pinch. Mona moves her wedding ring into her palm and drops it into the frothing mess of the hot tub. Bryn gathers a wad of spit in the back of her cheek and hocks it into the water and we all whisper the words:

Turn left, Xochi. 

Xochi, turn left. 

Again and again we whisper them, quiet, so our husbands won’t hear us and before us, the water begins to flash disco green. And while we chant, we think what we cannot say. 

Turn left, Xochi.

(because if you do, the road will sprawl out before you in a way that will reveal the true curve of your body, coiled like a crouching snake.)

Xochi, turn left.

(because one day, one day, you will pad the walls of your mind with softness so that it won’t hurt when you remember.)

Turn left, Xochi.

(because you are too big for this town, too big for us, and even though it’s good right now, it might be bad later).

Xochi, turn left.

(because we read the question on your lips when you look at your husband: What were we doing? What were you doing?)

Turn left, Xochi.

(because we were there the night you held up a raisin and said, This reminds me of—and you laughed and it was the worst thing we ever heard.)

And we don’t understand, and we don’t ask because we don’t have to. But every night when we are alone in our beds, here is Xochi’s reflection in a funhouse mirror and she looks 16, has always looked 16, and all we think is you are the daughter we chose not to have

Here is the cloud rolling over the sun. Here, the crow crying. Here, the first hit of heat. 

And yet. 

We watch Xochi. 

We tend to the water.

We chant the words five, ten, fifteen times. 

Turn left, Xochi.


Turn left.


Gabrielle Esposito is a graduate of SUNY Geneseo’s Creative Writing program. Her work has been published in The Manhattanville Review, Gandy Dancer, 34TH Parallel, and others. Her short story, “The Way Home,” is a recipient of the Doro Boehme’s Fiction Editor’s contest by Hypertext Magazine. She works as a Librarian and teaches writing classes throughout the Hudson Valley.