Thursday, June 16, 2011

Jacking water, Niningo

            At about 5 PM after walking the two kilometers home with me from her now daily afterwork visit to the dentist Altagracia eats her lunch of guandules, white rice and chicken and drinks a cup of coffee on the galleria and then retires to the bathroom with the mop and a bucket and an armload of clothes to wash by hand in the shower while she is bathing and shampooing and locks herself in for a couple of hours. When she emerges she hangs the clothes on the line and has Chavela put her hair in big rollers, then drags the lavadora out to the patio to wash more clothes even though I keep pointing out that that shirt is clean, those pants have only been worn one hour etc. and in between cycles she sweeps and mops the three bedrooms, living room, kitchen and galleria even though most of them were mopped earlier in the day and then, since it is a water pumping night and the pump is hooked up, she brings the garden hose into the marquisina and hoses that down, walls and all, all the time swearing and muttering like Yosemite Sam about what slobs her kids are and especially Jhoanglish who never cleans anything except his own clothes and, in fact, he has left his opened bottle of liquido, or shoe blacking, on his bed and so she hoses that down too to try to teach him a lesson but when she calls him in off the street where he is hanging out with the other youth of Primaveral and he sees his dripping mattress he just shrugs and wanders back out into the night to bum more cigarettes and talk about what it will be like to be in the Air Force. She then smokes half of a five peso cigar and sets up the wooden ironing board in the living room even though it is still hot as hell in there and irons clothes until 11PM when she drinks a little more coffee and puts her hair in the smaller rollers for sleeping and we go to bed. Tomorrow is, Wednesday, her day off.
            It had been a fine night for pumping water. There was plenty of water pressure as well as electricity for the pump and so a lot of green garden hose ran from the exposed curbside plastic pipe nubs and crisscrossed across the street, and sometimes for hundreds of feet and sometimes up to roof tops where it filled tinacos and barrels in second floor kitchens. People without hose or a pump or access to a water pipe walked around with empty plastic five gallon Tropical brand paint buckets, which are as ubiquitous here as joint compound buckets are in the States, looking for a place to fill them and so occasionally Niningo or I would pause in filling our cistern to fill a couple of buckets for neighbors like Ambar from three houses up and across the street who was wearing a short nightgown and carried the heavy buckets home slung between her and two girls who live next door.
            In past weeks Marwell, like Andres before him, began appearing later and later and more sporadically in the evenings to visit Chavela and has now gone the way of Andres which frees Chavela up to mingle in the street in front of the house and to receive a variety of male visitors-- some of them are friends, some of them are clearly too young for her even though their hopeful greetings often involve a little more than a momentary embrace and a quick besito, or peck on the cheek, and some of them are suitors. Chavela has told both her mother and me that, while she liked kissing Andres and Marwell, any touching beyond that made her uncomfortable (and Altagracia, who can spot a lying teenager from a much greater distance than I can, believes her too) so I am not very worried about her turning up unexpectedly pregnant even though 27% of all pregnant women here are girls younger than nineteen, but Altagracia is furious with this behavior. Last night she pulled Chavela inside at 10:30 and had Niningo lock the doors because Chavela was talking with a boy out front and at six this morning while Altagracia and I were drinking coffee in the kitchen, which has a window into Chavela's bedroom, Altagracia launched an unending barrage of critique toward Chavela who barely protested because she was still half asleep and words such as puta (whore), cuero (whore), sinvergüenza (shameless), mala reputación (bad reputation), and coño-- the most popular curse word by far in our barrio and which is often used by mothers to motivate even small children e.g. Muévate, coño which you might translate as Hurry up, damnit and which translates literally as cunt in English but does not carry even nearly the force of that ancient English word which may even be referred to as the c word on all male construction sites-- were much in evidence and I was taken aback until I remembered that Altagracia herself was never sixteen years old and single.

            Niningo is Altagracia's youngest at fifteen years old and is quiet and studious and is the only boy who does chores, often without being asked, and who runs practically all the errands to the colmado and who has worked in the colmado and who now works on either Saturday or Sunday every week painting rooms in the pension where Altagracia works and gives me money to save for him because he would like to buy a cell phone. Both he and Chavela are now enrolled in a computer course which meets every afternoon on weekdays and will last for three months and it is he, more than Chavela, who is reading ahead in the manual and asking me questions about Windows and files and bytes.
            One evening when Niningo, Chavela, Altagracia and I were watching television we thought we heard a gun shot outside and we all got up and, as it happened, it was Altagracia who was the first to the door to go out to see what had happened but Niningo lunged and tackled her yelling No, no not you too! and he would not let her out until Chavela and I had ascertained that it had been a truck that had backfired. Their father, Luis, had been the parent who had spoiled the children and had been the good cop with them and, I think, the older three may resent that he was the parent they lost and not Altagracia and this may be part of the reason for the recalcitrance of Jhoanglish and Kiki. But the relationship with Niningo had been different, Luis had ridiculed him from a young age and gave him the nickname Enano which means dwarf and which Chavela uses affectionately sometimes but neither Altagracia nor I ever call him that and it may be that I am the first man who has ever treated him respectfully, has ever handed him the sports section of the newspaper before he has read it himself, for example. So Niningo and I have rapport, often unspoken because he speaks very fast and mumbles so I have a hard time understanding him, but it was to him that I entrusted a special phone number in the States where I would always get the message in case things blew up in Villa Mella or I ever had to leave suddenly.
            Niningo and Chavela are close and he and Jhoanglish get along okay but he is as relieved as I am that Kiki has moved out and even Altagracia will point out that it is best to keep all young boys away from Kiki because he might throw a kick or a punch their way and he has reportedly beaten up Niningo in the past although not since I have been around and my theory is that because Kiki was punished severely as a  boy he takes it upon himself to try to assure the same treatment for all boys.

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