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The Embrace I always liked outside more than inside. In summertime, after dinner my mother and grandmother would stay at the table and settle in to talk, but my grandfather would stand up and go outside to smoke a cigarette. Eyes half-closed, he’d look out over the countryside in front of my house, a flat horizon that went up into the sky. I would follow him out and squat down next to him on the front step. He would put his arm around me, and I would try to squint my eyes like him. I liked the smell of the cigarette, the warmth of the cement step burnt by the sun all day long. We’d sit there close, wrapped together, and became smaller and smaller. The outside came to life completely, in all its loveliness, canceling out the moments when the inside, with its aggressive, unpredictable fury, flowered out of the dark. The Kiss As a little girl, there was a point when I stopped breathing. Apnea for me was a dangerous exercise in social coexistence. I realized this after I fainted at a neighbor’s house. An old man named Augusto gave me a big kiss to thank me for bringing him some figs. He’d just come from the barn and his face was dirty with something I can’t...