Lost Children Archive: A Novel by Valeria Luiselli:
To appease our children, and fill the winding hours as we make our way up the mountain roads, my husband tells stories about the old American southwest. He tells them about the strategies Chief Cochise used to hide from his enemies in the Dragoon and Chiricahua Mountains, and how, even after he died, he came back to haunt them. People said that, even today, he could be spotted around the Dos Cabezas Peaks. The children listen most attentively when their father tells them about the life of Geronimo. When he speaks about Geronimo, his words perhaps bring time closer to us, containing it inside the car instead of letting it stretch out beyond us like an unattainable goal. He has their full attention, and I listen, too: Geronimo was the last man in the Americas to surrender to the white-eyes. He became a medicine man. He was Mexican by nationality but hated Mexicans, whom Apaches called Nakaiye, “those who come and go.” Mexican soldiers had killed his three children, his mother, and his wife. He never learned English. He acted as an interpreter between Apache and Spanish for Chief Cochise. Geronimo was a sort of Saint Jerome, my husband says.
Why Saint Jerome? I ask.
He adjusts his hat and begins to explain something, in professional detail, about Saint Jerome’s translation of the Bible into Latin, until I lose interest, the children fall asleep, and we both fall silent, or perhaps fall into a kind of noise, distracted by sudden demands of the route: highways merging, speed checks, roadwork ahead, dangerous curves, a tollbooth—look for spare change and pass the coffee.