Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sunday Morning

            Altagracia woke up at 5:15 cranky this morning and half way through her cup of coffee began swearing a string of invective that continued nonstop until she got on the guagua to go to work and waved to me through the window. This litany included critique of her thankless lazy children, particularly Jhoanglish who wrecked the left member of his only pair of shoes yesterday, but also included Chavela and her increasingly perceived slutty behavior and Niningo who forgot to put water in the ice cube trays, as well as to Kiki  and who he is allegedly consorting with in Pizarete and of her sister Francia, who borrowed the blow-drier and broke it and now does not answer her phone when we call and her brother Tito, who had always been upright and honest with her since she raised him practically single-handed from a baby but who now owes her 13,000 pesos that he was supposed to pay back when he got the insurance check for their father's burial but who now does not answer his cell phone (which he borrowed from me) either. We are especially disappointed in Tito's delinquency as he is in the Army and so has a regular paycheck and also because some months ago when he accidentally shot the driver of a car he had stopped at a checkpoint with the same pistol he was relieving the driver of because he suspected it was an illegal one (but was not, unfortunately) we did bring him dinners while he awaited his hearing in Polverín, the military prison near the River Isabela on Maximo Gomez. It turned out that the driver was only shot in the leg and declined to press charges which, although it made everyone suspicious that he must have been doing something illegal, was good for Tito who was released after only a week with a warning not to shoot any more motorists accidentally or otherwise.
            But by 6:30 Chloë and I walked Altagracia up to the blue water tank where she caught a guagua for work and we walked back home slowly. The street was still almost deserted but we did see Anthony Richard who lives on the corner by the bakery and who looks exactly like Bill Cosby and whose father immigrated here from the island of St. Kitts in the twenties to work as a cocolo in the cane fields and who himself moved to and worked in a factory in the Bronx for many years before retiring back home in Villa Mella. His wife, a bustling beetle-browed woman, is named Luz, which means light in Spanish, so he is fond of affectionately joking that even when the whole barrio is dark, that he always has Luz.
            The days now are hot but there are light breezes at night and the mornings are cool enough until about 8:00 when the sun gets above the rooftops. Sitting on the galleria I watch the street wake up. Guangu walks slowly up to his house carrying a jaggedly broken mirror fragment and a piece of pan de piedra which he throws at a dog who is following him too closely and who has just finished breeding a bitch at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the street and the dog yipes and scurries. La Rubia strides down the hill alongside her house with the daily six chickens to kill, stows them in the chest freezer shell and starts her fire lighting a couple of plastic cups to get it going. The beefy girl, Rosie, who lives in the house between Guangu and La Rubia with her boyfriend, her brother Alvaro and their aged arthritic father who still works at a local lumber yard, comes out barefoot in her nightgown and runs a homemade extension cord up the hill to a house behind hers that fronts Calle #12 and plugs in a water pump to fill the fifty gallon water tank in her kitchen.  A shoeshine boy trudges up the street leaning forward under the weight of his wooden box filled with polish and brushes, and the dapper little man who sometimes walks past curling a tiny barbell with each arm for exercise walks by clutching an open Bohemia grande in a brown paper bag. I wait by the railing of the galleria to catch a glimpse of Ambar on her rooftop but it must still be too early. The cats and the big corgi wait near the fire that still smells a little of burnt plastic and one of the itinerant roosters grabs a beak full of feathers on the back of the neck of a scrawny hen and mounts her fast by the curb.
            Because there is electricity I pump water up to the tinaco. Chavela gets up and yells sharply to Niningo through his bedroom door to wake up but he does not stir. She tunes a salsa station on the radio loud enough to hear over the noise of the water pump. I haul the lavadora out of the kitchen and set it up in the patio for her to wash clothes in later and she carries a plastic basin full of dirty dishes out to the outdoor sink because it is cooler there than in the kitchen. A drumming noise echoes from the chest freezer across the street as the dying chickens thrash and kick against the thin sheet metal walls. It is 8:30.

            The weather changed suddenly and the last three days have been cool with lows in the mid 70s (I can only estimate because my thermometer was dropped and broke), breezy and overcast so many people wear denim jackets or two shirts to protect against the cold, although when the sun does break through it is burning hot. I continue to receive little waves and smiles from Ambar from her rooftop but I have not sent her any more Bohemia after hearing that she does, in fact, have a boyfriend who lives in Capotillo which is one of the most dangerous, drug addled barrios and who in one jealous rage some time ago shot her twice in the thigh and even though this information comes from Jhoanglish, who claims to have seen the scars but who almost never tells the truth, I have taken the flirtation under advisement.
            Altagracia has continued her daily visits to Dr. Pinales although now is complaining that he never gives her even a topical anesthetic while he is drilling and filling her cavities and it is now past the two week mark within which the work was supposed to have been finished so she had me call yesterday to cancel for her and today we will see if he will agree to anesthetize her and get cracking.

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