He appeared like a ghost would at my bedroom’s door. It was him, yes, with his face riddle with wrinkles, with his skin of a colour dark caramel, tired of waking up at dawn to work on the little piece of land that he has owned forever. It was him, there was no doubt, because we were still talking about that same piece of land that Eulalio said, back when we were together, that it would be mine, that it would be for both of us. He is making that promise again, fifty years later, and again, as it was before, it is my only hope for scape.
We are getting married. This is why he came, and a little perplexed and relieved I said yes. He just widowed. He needed a partner, and I, I wanted to live. There was no turning back. Nothing to think, or talk. I let my brother and my nieces know that as soon as they came to visit. I was not expecting it, but a stint of mock was drawn in the corner of their mouths. Alina, the oldest, said that if I married first than her she would die, and they both laugh so hard they turned to grab their stomach. Then they changed the subject. Carla and Alina were going to United States to study English.
-When are you leaving? I asked with not a hitch of interest
-On September the eight, answered Carla, the youngest. Just one week after my father’s appointment as a Judge of Appeals.
-Ah, yes, I commented. Congratulations, I said to José María, without hiding my nostalgia for the years past. All the sacrifices I made so my younger brother could spend his childhood at my parents’ house and could finish his studies at the public school and later become a lawyer, his long-time dream. José María was the intelligent of the family, or so my dad use to say. Me, on the contrary, I was a woman, and the domestic work was the only thing that corresponded to my role. I could perform my duties at home, or for any matter, I could spend my useless time at the Convent of Santa Caridad, where I would be far from Eulalio and my virtues would be restored after all the whispering that the marriage proposal had caused.
-Put yourself together Ofelia. José María dared to say. What are you complaining about? You have never had to face the world out there, you don’t know how it is. From which revenue exactly are you going to live? You have food here, a bed and people who take care of you. What are you going to have outside? You don’t even know how to take the bus, much less to manage a bank account, and even less how to make money! Light up! Sister Susana told me that you have been sorrowful and meditative since Eulalio came to visit. Who would believe it, after so many years, that lying bastard!
-Elulalio would pick me up in the next days with his son. He would show me our home. We would get married. But José María was right, that lying bastard never came back.
Every night before going to sleep I sit down in my bedhead and look at the candle’s reflect on the wall. The only thing that breathe in here are the dead shadows that come with the dark, just after diner and our never-ending prayers. Silence is also a present king during the day, making a hole inside my soul. I survived the enclosed convent because of my love to God and the hope that José María would take me out to live with him after his law school graduation. But his obligations became a priority. He got married, he had his daughters, he had a lot of work and could never take care of me. It was not enough that all the city was enchanted by the delicious empanadas I made, that people already bought them through the blind little window that showed up my hands on the Convent’s door. I did not know anything about trade, or business. I only knew about praying and serving others. At the end, I accepted his visits with resignation, every time with more space in between, until they vanished with the time, inside a cloud of indifference, inside a reflect of despise.
My father. May he live in the glory of God, was always the maker of my life. He wrote my age and my obligations, to my parents, to my brother, to the neighbourhood, to God, with a black pencil in a parchment that was kept next to the bedside table where he slept. I still remember the day I came home with Eulalio. It was an old house located in the hillside of The Colón. It was the same day we finished high school. My father was waiting for us on top of the stairs that smelled like oak. When I told him the name of my fiancé and why was he there he slapped me so hard that I couldn’t focus my sight for days. Eulalio kept looking at my father’s eyes, terrified.
-I am deeply sorry to have bothered you, Mr. Girón, was the only thing he dared to say, while he backed up through the stairs, without even looking back to where I was.
-What are you looking for in here, you bastard? Screamed my father, waiting all the air in his lungs. When he finished his words, Eulalio was already with one leg on the sidewalk and one hand on the door, closing it loud, as a gust of wind after a tropical storm. My mother and José María looked undaunted at the scene that was unfolding under their eyes. Two shadows on the wall. Later my mother would obey my fathers’ command of packing my bag while I was still on a position foetal lying on the floor, with my head over my right arm, looking at my adored balcony. There, I had an extra hot coffee with a piece of bread every day, right in front of the sun that used to wake up behind the roofs of the neighbourhood, listening to the cocks singing at dawn. The die was cast, the destiny of the parchment was about to become reality word by word.
My life was not all unease. When the years went by the cold of the walls soaked less into my bones. I enjoyed more the four-in-the-morning-wake-up-calls to prepare all the instruments needed for the mass at six o’clock. The same food that we ate everyday started to taste better and I survived with more composure and less distress the five rosaries that we prayed every day to Virgin Mary. I could not say that I was happy. Happiness would have been to have a Sunday walk on the woods, or have been received a blessing from Sister Susana to take care of the sick children at San Felix Hospital, or having spent Christmas far away from the sacramental repetitions and closer to the snow and the lights that were hanging on the posts outside on the street. Happiness would have been to have nursed a child on my own, to have read a book chosen by me. Happiness would have been to be free.
I am almost sure I am at the end of my life. I know this because in more than fifty years I was in a car that transported me, in my wheelchair, to a retirement house for the nuns of Santa Caridad on the outskirts of the city. I asked the driver to slow down and to open the four windows to feel the wind blow in my face, the voices of the vendors that were standing up on the traffic lights, to see the children walking along with their parents and holding their hands, to see the couples kissing each other while eating ice cream. As the saying goes, God travels along with wind. Yes, I agree. For the first time in my life, I felt him, just at that time!