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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

XVIII. Blurry River Roja

Abia stared at herself in the reflection of the blurry River Roja. When the wind was high its jade green waters gushed fast and wild like her imagination. When the gales settled, so it did, reduced to silent ripples.

She had never thought of herself to be womanly. She gazed at her slender frame, with no noticeable hips and wondered if she would ever look the way her mother did. Rose was comfortingly shapely with porcelain skin and cheeks that ran her namesake plushy pink when she sat out in the sun. She often caught the eyes of the townsfolk, her own a rarity gift, two azure stones that imitated the ocean. She was a breath of fresh air, naturally beautiful.

Abia crouched on the riverbank, brought her knees up to her chest and clutched her elbows. Bony and cold. She was a lot darker than her mother, with thick hair and sunken eyes that were almost black. As a child her frame was her advantage. It was easier to run and climb trees, she was quick and agile and could keep up with the boys in her village. Although she tried to fight the feeling, now as a young woman, she felt inadequate, incomplete.
Arriving to Merolas she had had her fair share of attention from the local niños (boys), especially the ones in Rainbow. When they climbed trees to pick ripen nectarines, (no longer a race, she could still beat them to the top) she would glance down and catch them staring up her skirt. She noticed they hurled remarks at anyone and everyone. Old escorias (prostitutes), even mother’s with children. Sometimes she saw them flicking through Mr Avedias magazines, sniggering in suggestive slang.

She peered again at her reflection, held in the river. A leaf fell silently off an oak above it’s landing sending ripples through the liquid turquoise. Her thoughts glided to Tariq. When he looked at her, she wondered what he saw.

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


XVII. Dreaming Hour

His bedroom sat five shelters high above Rainbow. A window to the world. He would shove his arms through the slated wood and light a cigarette (Mr Avedias finest). Sunrise reminded him of Abia. Calming, sensually sweet but by nature naive, always posing questions and always desiring answers.

Tariq had lived life long enough to know that not all questions were answered. Why was pana with seeds and nutmeg cheaper than plain bread? How did they fit those tiny boats in tiny bottles? Why is it that we hurt most those we love?

Before bright light awoke the world Tariq would feel most settled. A population silenced in slumber, this was his dreaming hour. His thoughts free to run and all possibilities unrestrained. The golden hues quietened his internal quarrels, blinded his pride and flooded his ego. Only the days tasks lay before him, which he had learned to be a lot easier for a man lightened of such terminal traits.

This morning, the sky rose in blackened tones and reality dawned upon Tariq. His eyes dipped into a murky pit of purple his thoughts would not settle, and he found no ease.  He had known this day would come, when explanation would surpass him and instead, the complexity of change would attain a voice all of it’s own. His own held at ransom.

Deep in his chest he could feel it, rising and falling with urge to burst out and duty to stay hidden. A secret he had kept, a truth he had buried.

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

XVI. Home Sweet Home

Abia remembered places how she tasted sweets. Sour and sweet, sour and sweet. The ones that were delightfully ordinary and ones that were treats. Cities like candy in a powdered box they were there to relish, to reminisce.
Nova Fribrugo was high up in the mountains. It carried mist through it’s air and whistles in it’s winds. Her childhood home was like a dark chocolate humbug, or a sea salted caramel. It oozed with tradition, with sweetness and familiarity, but left an aftertaste of indifference.
Merolas was a sugar coated fruit cube. Covered in snowy sweetness it was soft to touch, full of flavour and adventure. But it’s taste was ambiguous if you did not let it settle on your tongue, too sharp if left there for too long, too much in one mouthful and you might choke.

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

XIV. Lined

Before the Favela 

Her mother would tell her, as if like bedtime stories, anecdotes about her father. Abia could always see him in details if she closed her eyes. Thick dark hair with eyes wide like hazelnuts, glistening in the sun. But she liked to hear him spoken aloud, given presence with words. So even when he was gone he was there.
Her father belonged to no one, but her memories of him belonged to her.

Her favorite tale, one she could not decide was a recollection or a wish, (of both her and her mother), was the one she learned to ride a bike.
They had practiced every evening start to finish of sundown. Up and down their street, the wind through their hair and gliding feet, until Abia did not need her fathers hand to steady her, or his eyes to guide her.

She could listen to stories, she could sink into memories.
She could wish and she could dream.
But she wouldn’t ask why he had left. She couldn’t ask why he wouldn’t stay.

Such was Abia’s life. There were lines she could cross and ones that she couldn’t. There were lines she would cross and ones that she wouldn’t. Lines drawn as shapes in the sand, ones drawn in the stars that shaped her destiny.

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