Corner of Boggiani and República Argentina

Victoria holds a plum out to me. She is sitting in her usual place next to the curb in front of the supermarket.

Hola amiga,” she says, “Try this. See how sweet it is?”

I hesitate, as I always do when she holds out fruit for me to taste. I look down to see what the crates surrounding her offer today. The pears look juicy, the apples large and mealy, the plums, expensive.

Preferring not to offend her, and taking advantage of the gift, I accept the plum and take a bite out of it. She’s right.

“Ok, I’ll take three pears and six plums. How much is that?”

“Here, I’ll give you 4 pears and 10 plums for 35,000.”

I’m always sure I’m on the wrong side of the bargain but then agree, as long as I have the money to spend.

“And your mother?” she asks me.

“My mother?”

“The woman who usually comes with you.”

“Oh, my sister-in-law. She’s home, cooking.”

It isn’t uncommon for people to assume that my sister-in-law and I are mother and daughter. When they do I try not to react, though at first, I feel embarrassed. Is it a comment about her age? She isn’t that much older than me. But then I realize that it is probably because we are both small, and because of her eyes. They are blue, like mine. Bluer really. She is the only one in her family with blue eyes.

When people say this to us, I just nod and say no, but my sister-in-law squinches up her nose, shakes her head, and raises her hands to shoulder level, flapping them like bird wings.

“I don’t have any responsibilities,” she says, “I’m free, free,” she sings, continuing to bobble her head and flail her arms.

I’ve heard many theories about why she never married or had children. Some say she was too ugly, or tavy, Guaraní for stupid, to attract anyone. But I’ve always believed her version. She never wanted to.

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