Tag Archives: expressivewriting

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


Emmy squinted through her thick outlined eyes across the courtyard. As she sat on the wooden bench, legs swinging, she reached for her packed lunch. She bit into the roast beef, tomato and pickled cucumber sandwich that although she detested, her mother continued to make for her.

The courtyard stood in the center of the city. Originally the outside structure of a Catholic Church, a wishing well stood on a green between four crumbling columns. Evergreen had grown plush up and along each of them, moss sticking to the time-worn concrete. Without a ceiling, all day the sun shone in a sphere flooding each corner in light. Wooden sticks had been hand woven into a braided trellis and attached to an outer wall to steady the plants growing along the top. The holes left by broken window were replaced religious mosaics of multicolored glass, an attempt of the local council to preserve the Church’s history and all the stories that it told, if only silently and if only to a few.

Emmy ate her lunch here every day on the hours break from school. Most in her class ventured out to cafes around the city, only to eat a little and gossip a lot, perhaps because discussing the ins and outs of everybody else lives fed her peers more. She would seek the yard’s sanctuary amidst the hustle and bustle of the city,  where she was guaranteed a spot in the sunshine and a good hour of people watching. Her indifference failed to concern Emmy. She liked to think that she was different for a reason, and this she amplified in many ways. When she turned fourteen, she dyed the jet black hair that tumbled into curls all the way down to her lower back into a beaming blonde. Two weeks later, much to her mother’s dismay, she pierced a hole through her nasal septum and filled with a silver loop. She accentuated her voluptuous form with hip hugging jeans and tiny tank tops and bound golden chains around her tiny waist.

To the left of the largest window a man was sweeping away the Tuesday morning leaf fall. He was dressed in a brown cotton suit threaded with messy strands of blue, and a flat cap balanced on his crown. His sun-aged skin looked almost dirty and when he smiled, his rather large nose appeared almost hook-like. She had spotted him here every day for the past week, humming and sweeping, never uttering a word just nodding to passersby. Emmy took out her foolscap page notebook from her studded black satchel and started to draw. She tried to capture the way he swept, a thought behind every brush. She thought him either someone who had advocated every chance of happiness, or someone that happiness had never found.

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

A Red Birthday Balloon

In the slums, turning another year older was more a sigh of relief than a celebratory event. Once a year at the break of dawn, in a state nor of sleep or wake, Abia would imagine that a perfect day lay ahead of her. She would run errands in the morning, stop by Roja to lay in the sun for a while. Perhaps if the City were safer, She and Tariq would climb up and over it’s walls in search of an adventure. Simple birthday treats.

Once she had seen an advertisement for written cards in Homes and Lifestyle, one of Mr Avedias magazines. A family of four sat around a big oak table, Mother, Father, Sister, Brother. A cake with a candle for each year of age was arranged in front of the little boy, and a Red Balloon was tied to the back of his chair. The image was a cheerful one, full of smiles and laughter. Golden and blue boxes littered the surrounding room with bows as big as fists, dazzling in the suns reflection filtered in from the bay window. It came as a surprise to Abia herself that she never wondered what treasures they held inside. She wished she could reach into the picture and grab the balloon, tie it’s rosy string around her wrist and carry it everywhere. Or perhaps hang it out of the bedroom shutters, so it could float in Merolas breeze.

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

XIX. Legacies

The day she saw him again the skies above the city were overcast. In so many years so much had changed, and yet at the same time, threads of her old life remained embedded inside her, laying dormant.

Trivial things reminded Abia of Merolas, the memories like jewels as jewels are passed on like memories. Two years before, ‘The Incredible Hulk’ was advertised outside the local cinema. The green monster-man so tall on the poster canvas she believed it must have been scaled to his actual size. It took one glance to recall another lifetime, her mind reminiscent in colour and laughter. Such is the thing about memories, you can never control the remembering. You could be home to a thousand at one time yet surrender as many in an instant. Sometimes the ones you remember are the ones you would most like to forget, and vice versa.

Her mind swum into a sea of green and a childlike sense of adventure washed over her. Like rapid waves rushing through her veins it was a memory she felt through her entire body. The first time she had seen the green monster-man was on one of Mr Avedias comic books, the only one he was never prepared to sell. When Tariq would barter with him for tobacco, she would steal a peak and build a story. Not being able to read, she had created elaborate escapes and voyages that evolved with each turning page. Now the green monster-man was a film, and she could walk right into the backstreet cinema and watch the story unfold in moving pictures before her eyes.

On occasional evenings, the sun lulled in the sky, growing sleepy before it set. Too light to sink and too heavy to sit for much longer on the horizon, it chalked a hue of gentle indigo over the entire city. A sunset that formed only one place in the world. A sunset of Merolas, of home.


He hadn’t aged how she’d imagined. His hair with streaks of feathery silver and crinkles growing toward the corners of his eyes. In a shorter blink she would not have recognized him, but a deep tug pulled her gaze, palpitations in her heart warned her to look again.

‘Who is that mama?’. Jorge pulled at his mother’s skirt.
Emmy turned back, her big blue eyes, two azure stones gazing up at her.

‘That is your abuelo (Grandfather).’ she uttered in a hopeful tone and the makings of a smile upon her face, almost despite herself.

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