Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kiki reels on, Altagracia works

From Baní Kiki went to his Uncle Tito´s house in Dajabon, then returned to Baní then went to Elias Piña. After about a week in Elias Piña he started running into some folks he had fought with last year so he fled back to Baní, but not before attacking a moneychanger and stealing 5000 pesos from him. His second night back in Baní (where Mariela is still pregnant) a friend of his asked to borrow 100 pesos and when Kiki took out his wallet two other “friends”, one with a pistol and one with a machete, helped the 1st friend rob him of the 5000 pesos. They scattered. Kiki went for a machete and waited outside the 1st friend’s house for hours until he came home Kiki attacked him and cut him up bad enough that he had to be sent to Dario Contreras Hospital here in the capitol with head and body wounds. So if the guy dies Kiki will have to flee Baní. He still won’t be able to come back here because the guy’s face whose ear he shot last week is swelling up because the bullet passed under the skin near the cheekbone on its way to his ear and the guy, whose name is Hansel, had been known as a handsome fellow and is pissed off about his face.

Altagracia has gone back to work. She has been working Sundays cleaning a gallery/pension for Bettye a Tennessee expat for 500 pesos or about $15 for the past few years. She has filled the rest of her time aggressively cleaning our house. Through my recommendations she now works three additional days per week. One day cleaning the apartment of Stan’s wife, Elizabeth, and two days cleaning and doing laundry for a couple who are friends of Stan. It seemed that her getting out of the house and earning some money that is really her own would all amount to a good thing but. . .
            On the Saturday I drove her to her first day of work with Adrian en route she unleashed a string of invectives against me out of the blue. This is not unprecedented, Altagracia speaks nearly every thought that enters her head and filters nothing but usually I have done something to spark a frontal attack like this one. That night in the house she ignored me completely. Sunday she, Niningo and I drove to the Plaza, which abuts Bettye’s—I sell photos under my canopy in the flea market and Niningo sells bead, and shell jewelry that we buy wholesale in Villa Consuelo. We get to the plaza around 8:30 AM and since Altagracia doesn't start work with Bettye until 10 she usually drinks tea which a walking vendor sells out of thermoses and chats with the other vendors setting up their stalls but that day she sat down and shouted insults at me whenever I walked by. Ramon heard some of them and was really shocked. To tell you the truth, for all I knew, this treatment was a common Dominican cultural phenomenon. When I offered her a cup of tea her response was Go to the Devil, coñazo. After a week or so things calmed down but I don’t know why. We would sleep more or less normally, make love more or less normally but in the morning either silence or insults.
            One of the problems is that, even when she is working outside the house she is determined to maintain the house the same as when she is home full time. This includes sweeping water off the roof of the marquisina after it rains, ironing everything in the laundry— including my paint stained tee shirts, perma-press polyester button down shirts, underwear, the baby’s clothes, the pillowcases, my handkerchiefs and the dishtowels. Sometimes I hang clean stuff that does not need ironing in the closet to keep her from doing it but she ferrets them out and irons them anyway. Even though, at $250/month she is making more than a secretary, more than a full time policeman and more than any military personnel up to about the rank of lieutenant this may not be worth it.
            So the timbre of the relationship has changed. It seems to me that when she calls me a stupid campesino (which had been a term of affection between us and perhaps best translated in this context as sodbuster) that there is a more cutting tone; that when she says that she does not know how I can be so stupid while being a professor and all it sounds, these days, like she really means it not like before. We have been together almost 6 years now but separate for about half of every year, which makes it 3 years together physically. It has always seemed to me that the 3-year mark is the big hurdle in relationships. I don’t know if 3 years is the period of best behavior, if our habits of consideration and kindness slip a little, or if we do not really change much but our perceptions of the other shift. Even though I had made it  clearto her that I was not rich—which is the perception about all gringos here—and that we would both have to work to get ahead somehow a latent impression of rich gringos lingers and she may be a little bitter that she wound up with a poor one. It also happens that she is working in houses that are luxuriously appointed. As long as there are pictures on the walls and the chairs are strong enough to hold us up I don’t really care. I lived in tipis, barns and foundations when I was younger and somehow never lost the taste for living in unimproved conditions.
            People think of her as the wife of a gringo who does not have to work but works just to keep busy. Perhaps she feels like she is getting the worst of both worlds.
            She woke up late this morning and when I suggested that she take the Metro—the new commuter train—to avoid the traffic jam and difficulty in finding a taxi she said that the Metro was for the rich people and she would be ashamed to take it wearing her work flip-flops.

1 comment:

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