“Spoiler Alert” is a serialized short story, coming in 13 parts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. “The Communion” is part six. It’s best if you know the end first, so go to part one if you haven’t read it yet.
David told me all of this in the dark of pre-dawn as we hid in a recessed doorway near the city’s outdoor market. As early as 4:30, people started setting up their stands, giving us more and more cover. “The crazier the scenario, the more likely it is that I’ve been told about it,” he explained.
“Like this one?” I asked. “You’ll huddle in a doorway near an outdoor market in downtown Sonsonate, hiding from the police and waiting for . . . What are we waiting for?”
“A truck of some sort, the kind with a flat bed and high walls.”
“Several reasons, really. But mostly because I avoid buses at all costs.”
At the risk of sounding like a five year-old, I was about to ask why again, but then I remembered the prophecy of David’s death. That and I noticed the humorless expression on his face. He took this stuff seriously. For me, it was just some fascinating oddity, like the bearded lady or the boy with elfin ears. For him, it was more sinister.
“It’s not that I know exactly what will happen to me all the time. You see, the old man didn’t relay every experience of my life, just a few hundred highlights or so. I’ve never bothered counting. Hell, I’ve never bothered trying to recall them at all.” He took a deep breath, as though he were about to confess to grave crime. “But I do recall them, typically right before or right after they happen.”
“It must ruin the surprise a little.” When you don’t know what to say, state the obvious.
He paused and looked me in the eye, a smile barely discernible on his face. “Yeah, I guess. But not all surprise is eliminated. I mean, if I told you that you would someday be in a Costa Rican hostal talking to a beautiful Canadian girl about a documentary you both saw on mutations in frogs, that experience wouldn’t be less special once it happened. And honestly, various facets of the experience remain a surprise. For instance, I had no idea who the beautiful Canadian girl would be. I had no idea how we’d meet. I had no idea how beautiful she’d be. I simply knew that when I was in San Jose, chances were good that I’d meet that Canadian girl I was told about.
“It’s like watching the film version of a novel you read ten years ago. It doesn’t take the emotion out of it. You may know that the killer is waiting behind the parked car, but you don’t disengage from the movie altogether, do you?”
It wasn’t a rhetorical question. David doesn’t ask rhetorical questions, I found out. In the pregnant pauses following his inquiries, I eventually caught on, but never quick enough. On this occasion, I was pondering his odd choice of analogy. The killer behind the parked car? Then I noticed his expectant stare. “N-no,” I stuttered.
“Sure, when you’re told you’ll marry that Canadian girl, it takes some of the anticipation away. But she’s no less marry-able. She’s no less beautiful and captivating. Really, I’d say that it’s hard to dilute the high points of life by predicting them.”
He extracted a water bottle from his backpack, opened the cap, and sniffed its contents. He offered me the bottle after he took a swig himself, allowing me a brief moment to believe that he didn’t have it so bad.
Then he went on.
“It’s the tragedies that you don’t want to know about.” He took another gulp. “Know what the worst thing about tragedy is?”
It took me a second. “No.”
“Inevitability.” He let that word reverberate a little before moving on. “You don’t want to know that one day, on the banks of the Reventazon River, you’ll witness a young girl drown trying to save her dog and that her brother will also drown trying to save her.
“You don’t want to know that you’ll be trapped in the jungle one night because of flash flooding. Nor do you want to know that you’ll get into a car accident your senior year in high school and that one of your friends, the one sitting in the middle without a seat belt, will go flying through the windshield. Even though he’ll survive, you don’t want to know these things ahead of time. It just amplifies your helplessness.”
If I’d been envious of him up to this point, I no longer was.
“And trust me. You certainly don’t want to know that seven years after you marry the Canadian girl you met in San Jose, she’ll leave you. ‘Cause then every hour you spend with her is tainted by the dread that it’s finite, that it will end. And when things aren’t going really well between the two of you, you’ll tend to get a little touchy, you’ll tend to take it out on everyone around you without ever being able to explain that one day, some asshole came into your life and told you this all would happen.”
He offered me some more water, which felt to me like a sort of ritual communion between us. I drank. “So you don’t tell most people about this?”
I returned his bottle. “Then why are you telling me?”
“Because,” he said. “I was told about you.” He drank.