At the break of dawn, we made love again. I thought that was the closest I’ve been to complete happiness. But my pessimism forced me to think things could only go down from that point. I wanted to remain on that level for as long as I could. Maybe, I could alternate my ups and downs without staying on the downside for a long time. I promised myself not to be the one responsible for ruining such happiness.
That morning we took grandma to church. My grandma looked proud, and I felt proud to be the cause of her pride. We could have taken the car since Sadie got her temporary license to drive, but instead, we pushed grandma’s wheelchair.
I watched grandma taking communion, and it occurred to me that I’ve never seen her in the confessional. Her chair didn’t even fit there. How could she confess? Besides, she couldn’t talk. Maybe she prepares a list of her sins at home. I just wished she didn’t mix my sins with hers.
In any case, she took communion every Sunday. I was sure cannibalism was a mortal sin, especially if you own a butcher shop. And never forget that she was a witness and accomplice to several murders. I could still remember her facial gestures when she called Ana Suarez “puta”.
Probably her donations made her an automatic saint. I understood the reasons why I was a cold-hearted killer. But grandma didn’t have any excuses. She never ‘pulled the trigger’, but she was a little perverse too.
When I went to church, I was as mute as grandma. I had nothing to say, nothing to ask for, or nothing to offer. I wasn’t looking for redemption or absolution. I was guilty, and I knew my place wasn’t in heaven or even in that little church. I’ll take my punishment. Send me to hell.
The first thirteen years of my life weren’t so bad, but then, I suffered continuously for twenty years. If I could enjoy the next twenty years, we could call it even. In any case, I loved grandma and I knew we’d continue to be together, even after we died.
On our way out, grandma made us stop at the statue of the Virgin Mary. She attached some silver Milagros to the hem of the Virgin’s velvet dress. I couldn’t think of anything she wanted in return. Maybe, more fancy food on the dinner table.
My grandma was eighty-one years old; she was born in 1930. She’s been my protector and my friend all my life. She had sheltered me in her arms in my times of despair and devastation, which have been many. I was six years old when my mom died, and my grandma took over since then. In my times of need, she always came to my rescue. She knew the story of my life. She knew why I turned out the way I was.
I was so concentrated on my survival that I didn’t know very much about her life.
Before we retired to our rooms, I asked her to tell me about her life, and after a short pause, she sighed and replied with her silent lips: “Mañana”.
In the morning, she gave me an envelope. Inside, there was a letter written by her.
My mom died the day I met your grandpa.
The day I met your grandpa was a sad day. We used to live in El Pueblito, a tiny little town outside Jerez, Zacatecas.
I was eighteen years old. My mom and I were crossing the road holding hands. We were on our way to the market. It had been raining for two days; the wet dirt road had sporadic puddles. We were laughing and jumping, trying not to get our shoes wet.
Then, suddenly my mom disappeared from my hands. Poof! She just vanished.
Like a bat out of hell, a horse galloping at full speed took my mom out of my hands. It all happened in a fraction of a second. Then, when I took hold of my confusion, I saw my mom several yards up ahead on the road, lying face down in a puddle of water. I ran to her, and when I turned her over, I knew she was dead. Then, a man in muddy clothing and out of breath arrived at our side, saying he was riding that horse and had thrown him from his mount. I kept crying disconsolately in the middle of the muddy road with my mom on my lap, and then I heard a shot, the man had just killed his horse.
A couple of days after the funeral, and even though it had been an accident, the man showed up with five cows and offered them to my dad for the pain he had caused. My dad accepted them. They kept talking until dark.
The following day he appeared with ten more cows. A week later, with my dad’s blessing (orders?) I married that man. I had no saying in my dad’s decision.
When I said, “I do” my heart was still full of sorrow and pain for the loss of my mom. A funeral and a wedding took place almost simultaneously, with no time for a prayer or a honeymoon, no time for tears or celebrations.
That man lived in California and came looking for a wife, and he found me. He was thirty-six years old. The year was 1948.
Even then, your grandpa calculated everything in cows. To him, I was worth ten cows.
I could have refused the proposal and accepted the consequences of my rebellion, but with my mom gone, I couldn’t stay. Your grandpa was handsome, tall, and imposing. He seemed like a good man. “A good specimen”, they used to say.
My dad lost a wife and a daughter but gained fifteen cows. I lost my mom, but I gained a husband. My mom lost her life and everything else. I lost my mom because your grandpa couldn’t ride horses. (He never rode horses again) Those times were in another century, another world. I was uprooted mercilessly from my simple and uncomplicated life. I felt the aftershocks for decades. For many years, I felt out of place.
But I learned to love your grandpa. He was a hard, untamed man, an utterly stern, old fashion man. He was just like the desert.
I was happy for him when he decided to retire to the same world where he met me. He had worked hard all his life; he deserved it, but I guess God disagreed.
I still think your dad killed him.
Sandra Cortez Lomelí.
Written in Spanish. The writing was elegant and adorned. It must have taken all night to write it. A beautiful, sad story that could have remained untold had not been for my curiosity.
Visalia, CA. Nov-27-2012