Their mother read them the note their father left taped to the hot water heater at the foot of the cellar stairs, only moments after she read it to herself. Though some things become lost in the folds of memory—the name of that classmate once loved from afar, a short term furnished apartment, a healed injury— abandonment can never be forgotten
She was as abandoned as they, maybe more so since she knew him longer and in different ways. The note was in Spanish. She translated it to her children as though it were the first clue in a scavenger hunt. “Look, Docia” she said, dry-eyed, “this is your name, and Roberto, yours, too. Here’s yours, Alfonso. Look where he wrote down all of your names.”
The hot water heater grumbled. Within a few months it would be gone, too, broken beyond repair, and a month after that they would all be gone from that house, gone to live in migrant worker camps. The mother supported her children by picking fruit. She eventually married a responsible but unkind man.
Now grown, not one of her children can remember, if ever they knew, why their father left them, only the way their mother read the note he left taped to the water heater.