Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.>

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Table Next Door

Sometime in 1949 or 1950 walking in front of our house. That's me in the middle. Caruca is on the right, her cousin, Teresita is on the left. What follows is part of a memoir I've been writing for nearly thirty years. It helps me to remember all that came, and all I was before. "Pipo" is dad, "Mima" is mom. "Screams in the night" refers to an earlier story where, after dad and mom had left the country, and with me sleeping on a bed next to grandma, I would often hear screams from far away. I would see grandma stir and I'd ask her, "What are those screams grandma?" She very nonchalantly would reply, "They are just castrating men up on the hill. Go back to sleep."

On a cold winter’s night here in the northeast is easy to remember the warm afternoons playing in the patio and romping around in the backyard. It is easy to remember my next-door neighbors and their daughter, Caruca, who to me was like an older sister. She played with me, and babysat me since I was little. A short wall was all that separated our homes. Her mom, Caridad, was always in our house borrowing charcoal for the meal or chatting with grandma. Caruca’s dad, Capote, always helped dad castrate the pig in October. He was a rural policeman. Rode around in a horse with a rifle.  They were more than the family next door. They were our family as well.

But this was the year of screams in the night. Pipo had left for “el Norte”, and mima had followed him. It was only grandma and I, and a sad silence had fallen in our back yard. We were no longer allowed to speak with our neighbors for Capote, the rural policeman, was a Batistiano, one of “them”. Who knows, maybe he was responsible for the castration of men up on the hill in the middle of the night. I could not talk to Caruca. Time was silent. Even the ants were silent. Everyone was either one of us, or one of them. Even my family was divided. 

It was on a sunny Sunday that Caridad decided to invite me to a party they were having at their house. She was kind and knew how lonely I must be. She instructed me to sneak in the back door and quietly sit under a table where few would see me, and not to say anything or play with Caruca. Just sit there and enjoy the people. I did just as she told me. I sat on the wooden crossbeam that spanned the bottom of the table and watched the people laughing and playing music. I was happy and it almost felt like the old days before everything changed. I was the fat little boy sitting under the table, swaying back and forth and smiling. Suddenly I heard a loud crack. The wooden beam I sat on split in two for I was too heavy for it. I cried and ran out of the house through the back door. I felt bad for being fat, for breaking the table, for embarrassing Caridad. I don’t recall how long I cried, but I do remember Caridad comforting me as she explained to grandma what had happened.

That was the end of the happy days for sure. In a few months grandma and I moved to great grandma’s house – a big place where uncle Andre had his wood shop, and where there was a bed for me to sleep. I don’t think I ever saw Caruca again. And the house I lived in with the back yard and the ants, the roosters crowing, and the black tarantulas that came out in the rainy season, all was now gone, and little did I know, it was all gone forever. Gone, only to be remembered as one of many stories of a kid named Osvaldito, and perhaps bring a tear or two to this man’s eyes.

1 comment:

Ozzie Alfonso said...

Feel free to comment.