Solar Systems

Emmy wished she could sit in the courtyard after sundown and look upon the earth’s ceiling, sink into the solar system. She could barley see the sky from her bedroom. Abuela was forever reminding her that she should be grateful for her bendiciones (blessings). The fact that she had a roof over her head was far more important than staring up at an invisible one. More than being told she had to make something of herself, Emmy was constantly reminded by her Mother and Grandmother that she had come from nothing. So the small latch window which permitted only fragments of light and swirls was simply that, something better than nothing.

Growing up she had listened to stories about the days when abuela and mother had scrambled for food, how they had built their home with their bare hands. It was usually on a Sunday afternoon, when all the Feijoada had been eaten and the pack of cards put away. A gentle silence would fall over the room until one of her only two elder relatives filled the space with reminiscent words. Sometimes she felt guilty for all these things she had that she had never worked for, that she often took for granted, somehow they disconnected her from her family and yet still made her different from everybody else. She lived with a generation that refused to accept the world they had once belonged to was gone, yet belonged to one that refused to acknowledge any reality past or present, besides their own.

Emmy rolled over onto her front and reached to the dresser for her sketchbook and favored 525 grey shading pencil that she had stolen from the Art room at school. She flipped to her sketch of the courtyard sweeper, thickened his outline, smudged the patchwork pattern on his flat cap and gently blackened his pupils. She liked to draw on her bed because it was comfy and sitting upright reminded her of being in class. Being proper in any sense of the word was something she was not, and pretending otherwise was too much like hard work. Brushing a handful of canary curls off her face, she led the pencil tip to the top of the page and begun etching above the sweepers head, creating the cosmic world as she imagined it.

© elenaxtina.com, 2015 in Skies over A Shanty Town

XV. Rainbow

She had lived in the slum for a couple of months.  A dot on the map of Merolas.
Abia knew its streets like the back of her hand. She had learnt its land and the ways of it’s people. Mainly because of Tariq. Because She would have gone anywhere with him, and because he knew everywhere to go.

When she lived in purple corner (that was normally where newcomers settled, on the outskirts it was less daunting by name and nature) Tariq lived on Arco Iris (Rainbow), which sounded like a dream to Abia.
After convincing her mother that it was closer to the market, caught more heat and sunlight during the hours they were awake, and was just enough west of the wind that blew in gusts from the city, they packed up their possessions and carted their salvaged home (if you could call it that) in bits to the block of multi-color.

Rainbow was central but it homed a backstreet all the way to the city edgeThe rat run was a store for secrets.
Within a week she had learned which roofs to climb for a birds eye view, which shrubs to avoid because although they looked smooth on the outside, they had tiny little thorns that would jab at your fingers should you touch them. Sometimes her neighbors would ask her to run errands, usually in the morning when they knew she would wake early. She would appeared with the sunrise, take their orders and seize her opportunity. A young woman in the streets without reason to accompany her was Spanish for trouble. With one she could exercise freedom. She knew where to get the cheapest cloth, even the silky satin kind coveted by all Merolas women. (Sometimes Mr Avedias would get her items especially from the cita. Knowing not all her neighbors would approve, Abia usually handed them over without words, but they rarely asked, so she rarely had to lie.

© elenaxtina.com, 2015 in Skies over A Shanty Town

 

XIII. Memories

Before the Favela

Sometimes, when the weather were hot enough, Abia would take her siblings hiking up the mountain side. The trees were almost tropic-like up there, and some even bore fruit.
They would sip juice and fry fish all day long, and only start the journey home when first light left the sky.
But with every outing came a responsibility which hindered all the freedoms of childhood. At eleven years old she was half a parent to her brother Daniel, and the twins Ana and Natàlia.

Her father had waltzed in and out of her life until the year Daniel was born. He and the twins had never known him. In thoughts she only allowed herself to think in the secrecy of night, she likened him to the moon. Greeting her with fleeting visits that silently promised departure. Some days he would be there waiting for her when she came home from escuela (school). She would know only thirty seconds before reaching her porch, his rusty second hand Suzuki lent against the crumbling front wall, the smell of tobacco and stale alcohol lingering in the afternoon air. In all her feelings of excitement somewhere Abia felt anxious, unready. He would ask about her school work, her friends. He would eat the dinner that her mother cooked, sleep amongst the blankets and pillows laid out on the downstairs sofa, and he would leave before dawn. Abia, not enough to make him stay.

© elenaxtina.com, 2015 in Skies over A Shanty Town