A Rough Life


Luci Tapahonso

She was from Dulce.
Thick, black hair -- Apache.
Her voice was loud
a blunt edge to it.

She was crying softly when I first saw her,
clutching kleenex balls in each fist.
Her head bent low over the front of
the thin cotton hospital gown
pulled tight across her lap.

Later we talked:
My legs are cold, she said, rubbing her calves hard.
They're always cold.
Her eyes were sharp, dark and sort of squinting at me.

I felt guilty in my nylon nightgown
because I expected to be in this place at this time
but she woke up here from a 5-month drunk

She told me:
One time I was hit with a tire iron, right here on the head.
I was changing a tire and somehow it hit me hard.
It was a big gash -- just bleeding on my face.
All I had was a bottle of beer -- those big ones, you know.
So I just poured it all on my head and tied it
and it was snowing then so I stayed inside the house
for about three or four days, out of the cold.
It healed up okay.
She rubbed her head remembering.

You're a tough woman. I told her.
That's what's meant by life is rough.
You're a Navajo. (I nodded silently.)
They're ok, she said looking out the window,
It's those Utes that we don't like.
They're no good, you know and
They don't like us Apaches, too.
I don't know why but I was married to one a long time ago.
He was no good, just used to get drunk and talk too much.
He left one time -- I didn't look for him or nothing.
I was glad to get rid of him easy. He didn't come back.
About a year later, I was drinking at Towaoc
with his cousin and she told me
someone killed him two weeks before.
But I didn't care 'cause he talked too much
and died from it. Besides he was a Ute.
She said smoothing her hair.

I said again to her:
Yep, that's a rough life there.

We nodded in agreement.

From Seasonal Woman by Luci Tapahonso, Tooth of Time Books.
© 1982 Luci Tapahonso

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