Friday, July 8, 2011

Kiki, Elias Piña, Bad Toe


         News from the barrio came in sketchily while I was away working in Massachusetts. Two of our plastic chairs disappeared from the galleria but Altagracia found one of them in front of a neighbor’s house and stole it back. Later that week Jhoanglish spotted the other one through an open door in the same house and when he went in to get it he got in a fight with the lady of the house and had to leave scratched up and empty handed. Since early May Jhoanglish has not worked. Herman, the snakey tiguere, finally shot and killed someone, I don’t know who, in a drug dispute and is on the run from the cops. Loma de Chivo is a little hotter in general and there have been several general busts by teams of police in SUVs and one often hears that the brother of so and so or the boyfriend of so and so has been locked up.
         Chavela passed, or at least did not flame out as she put it, her final exams and Niningo has just finished taking the five day series of exams called the Nationals and is waiting for his scores to be posted on the internet and thinks he did well. The two of them are now getting ready to visit their grandmother in Elias Piña for a couple of weeks of vacation and to be with their dozens of cousins.
         Kiki, as predicted, moved back into the marquisina a week or so after my departure in the Spring and has been in several disputes over drugs since. About three weeks ago he flipped out on cocaine and smashed the few remaining unbroken items that were breakable in the marquisina including Altagracia’s collection of little drawings and prints of various saints that she had arranged on a table for when she read taza. He punched out the glass in the ones that were framed and then begged Altagracia to look for money to take him to a hospital for his bleeding knuckles but she saw through the ruse; that is, once he saw money he would take it for drugs. He then took the pictures of the saints out to the patio and burned them; the scorch marks can still be seen low on the garden wall. Altagracia finally called the police and when they showed up Kiki took off running and she has not let him back since even when she heard that he often slept on the street and was losing even more weight. On my third day back he showed up around 10 in the morning with a big smile, eager to greet me (smelling money) but Altagracia stayed tough and told him to leave. He hung around outside for about an hour and then left. Jhoanglish says that Kiki occasionally earns 600 pesos a day as a diesel mechanic but drinks 500 of them.

Elias Piña
         Since I can only be here for one week before having to return to work in the States, Altagracia took an unprecedented two days off in a row and on the first, Wednesday, we went to Elias Piña to visit her mother, Anna, to bring her some money and some snapshots from the rezo and one of Amado and Altagracia before his death. Anna became momentarily confused when she saw that picture saying that he looked like he was still alive and then cried when the photo was explained to her-- but other than that she seemed happy and relieved and, after all, she had only come back to him after their separation because he was sick with the thrombosis. While Altagracia and I wandered around the neighborhood greeting friend after friend and neighbor after neighbor we occasionally saw Anna in nearby patios doing the same thing and when we bumped into her walking along the dirt road she was striding along faster than we were walking. I had sort of figured that Anna was in her upper 70s but after some more figuring we decided that she must be only 53. Anna cooked chicken and made mangú (plantains mashed with oil, garlic and onion) for our lunch and we left after coffee to catch the last guagua back to the capital.
         Pipina, one of Altagracia’s sisters has separated from Isidro. Isidro has been our main telephone contact in Elias Piña because he has a working cell phone and when Altagracia needs to speak with Anna we call Isidro and he goes and finds Anna and we then call him back and he hands her the phone. The grounds of the separation are murky. Isidro had been having their children taste his food before he ate because he suspected Pipina of trying to poison him. Pipina claimed that Isidro never gave her any money to buy food. Isidro says that Pipina has another man but Pipina says she doesn’t. The flares of Isidro’s nostrils were both dark red,as though densely colorede with red lipstick, with burst capillaries which he said was from a recent fever.
         Altagracia owns a little house nestled within her family’s compound. It has three rooms separated by six foot tall partitions and is built of wood with a galvanized metal roof and is surrounded by a short wall about three courses high of cement blocks which eventually will be raised to enclose the wood house which would then be torn down and Kiki and Jhoanglish could be moved into it. On a visit last year we found that the tenants had not paid anybody any rent for 10 months and so Altagracia promptly burst in through the flimsy door and evicted the couple and the bachelor living there. She whipped the blanket off the sleeping man and pulled him out of bed and pushed him out the door. Weeks later when she found out that they never finished moving out she went back and completed the eviction process by tearing off the pieces of roof that had been over their beds. Now there are new tenants who don’t pay rent and the old ones have moved into an outbuilding in the same yard that is no bigger than 6 feet by 8 feet. When Altagracia heard this she only shrugged.
         Nobody disputes that, at the moment, the little house belongs to Altagracia although the papers, somehow, are in the name of her deceased ex husband, Luis. We went to the house of the cousin who was storing the papers and helped her look for them by emptying out old pocket books and gym bags and paper sacks full of bank receipts, cancelled checks, scraps of paper with phone numbers written on them, grocery store and lumber yard receipts, old belts, socks and baseball hats. The cousin says that she will keep looking. Altagracia is afraid that if the papers fall into the hands of any of Luis’s other 31 children they might be able to steal the land and the little house although she claims that the laws of inheritance here state that only the youngest children inherit property and Luis’s youngest are Altagracia’s.

Bad Toe
         About a week ago Altagracia tripped and fell on the stairs leading to the second floor of the pensión and stubbed her big toe badly although we do not think the bone is broken. It hurts so much that she wore flip flops to walk to Hipermercado Olé instead of the stylish, strapped, medium height heels she usually wears everwhere in public but which really hurt her toe. When she comes home from work we wind a handkerchief around the toe and I put her foot in my lap and pull on the ends of the handkerchief, hard, to reduce the swelling and you can see that it hurts so much that her fingernails are digging into the hard plastic chair seat where she is sitting but she never stops smiling although she cannot quite talk because of the pain. Afterwards she wiggles the toe and says it feels much better.

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