Doña Maclovia

by Jorge Santana

In the ranch where I grew up there were few neighbors, but one of them was Doña Maclovia and her strange family. Maclovia’s husband was a quiet, tall man, much older than her; a reserved man, sitting on a bench for hours, staring at nothingness, letting the days go by as if they were free. He always wore the same clothes, the same hair, the same look; a man that I thought was mute for many years, until one day he shouted in a low and hoarse voice, “watch out!” because there was a snake in the stable where I used to look for those little critters that dig holes in the earth to catch their victims, the famous “toritos,” small rhinoceros beetles. Maclovia was a short, dark, robust woman, with grayed hair, with huge breasts, which she unenticingly pressed against me upon her greetings, and also always the same clothes, or at least so I remember. Maclovia smelled like an old forgotten book. Her house was immense: two stories, with paint peeling off, which had once been a screeching green, but it was in deterioration, with a rusty gate, and some broken windows covered with duct tape. In the kitchen, to help out, Maclovia had set up a small shop, which had no ads other than a Coca-Cola sign outside the house. There was an old refrigerator that always shocked me horribly when I pulled out a cold, sweating apple soda, my favorite. Maclovia, apart from sodas and other dusty things, sold marshmallows. Sometimes they were very hard due to the months without anyone buying them, but it was the only sweet available in the inhospitable desert. Maclovia was the first to arrive at house wakes, those funerals where you could smell death because you had the deceased literally in front of you, without a box, sometimes on the floor, or in his own bed where he had died. Maclovia was a churchwoman; the first to arrive at mass, the last to leave. She hosted a nativity scene at her home, and she tucked and raised that baby Jesus: the only of her possessions that shone polished. She had roosters and a pig that accompanied me in nightmares, because once when I wanted to feed him, Maclo told me to be careful because he could bite my hand or eat me like the others. Maclovia sold burgers, stark and simple. She made the meat, and softened the hard bread with butter on the griddle. She finished it with simple slices of avocado, and accompanied with a soda, that hamburger tasted like glory in those forty-odd Celsius, I sat on the bench outside her kitchen to finish every bite.

One day, the dogs of the neighborhood, several of them, went blind. They kept running into trees and walls, blind and bleeding. Maclovia, so they wouldn’t get close to her chickens, had thrown boiling water on their eyes. When I found out, I never visited her again. I did not turn around to see her again; she became like a witch in my childhood mind. I did not let her hug me again and feel those huge breasts of a protective mother. Anyway, that’s just how this is dear reader.

 

Bewitching Legends

by Jorge Santana

In the tours that I host for my historical neighborhood of San Pedro, there is a place that calls my attention in particular. It’s a small, round, a very strangely shaped hut. It is a tour of myths, a tour of terror; not one of historical accuracy, although legends tend to become history for better or for worse. The legend (like many myths), hides a background of “objective” reality far away. I like that contrast, sometimes I think I’ve managed to survive solely because I can live in that middle point of twilight, between legend and reality, between fantasy and the dull truth. Well, when I walk past the house, with megaphone in hand and a line of people behind me, I begin to tell the legend. “In that round house, they say, an African witch lived, in the mid-1800s when the black soldiers called the “Buffalo Soldiers” arrived at Fort McIntosh (now the Laredo Community College) were a cavalry that came to this border to defend the gringos from the Indians. It is said that this woman practiced black magic in that little hut, from draining the blood of goats and chickens, to performing macabre potions with the hair or breeches of the white soldiers, oppressors of the Afro soldiers.” People get excited with the story, except for the owner of the house, who once chased us off her sidewalk with the spray of her hose. It is understandable: the woman rents that little house, and if the tenants knew they were sleeping on an old river of haunted blood, they would want to move from there. The point of all this is that I like to think about what will happen to us when we are dead. What will they say about us, about our lives, what legends are we forming without knowing, and about how many legends are we being part of? I can already imagine: “In that house they say, lived a man who wrote poems and whatnot. They say that he killed himself because he was never able to live off his writing.” Well, that’s what they would say, when in fact I died because they hit me with a car, or due to some disease, or perhaps by spontaneous human combustion, or gods only know what exactly will happen to me. Someday, someone will rent my house and the new owner will run them off with “manguerazos” for walking by saying that under the orchid tree hung the previous owner (me) for ingesting poorly prepared toloache. I do not know if that witch lived there, if it really happened what they say happened, but when I walk down that sidewalk, I do it just a little bit faster, dear reader.

 

Life is Short & The Universe is Big

by Jorge Santana

My bed were two chairs and my pillow a woman’s purse. That’s how sleep overcame me past midnight while my friends, a little older than me, kept declaiming, singing or speaking technicalities to the wind. That’s how I remember the social gatherings of my childhood. Those I went to when I was barely a surprise in my mother’s womb. I grew up knowing what a bohemia was after the bohemia, the after of the after, playing with my dolls while dawn arrived with poetry and boleros. I grew up between the sensual smoke of my friends with an orange juice as I hummed to the music, art and the night. There exists no better combination.

My friends were always my friends even if they were 40, 50, 60, or years older than me. I never knew they weren’t like me. That they weren’t children and maybe even I didn’t know that I was a kid. For me, they were my friends and that romantic world was my childhood. I believe they were unaware that was my childhood and that they were a huge part of it.

At home things weren’t all that different. Away from technology, in my home, there was little else to do but read, play in the patio with my imagination, in the dirt, with the trees, have a dog and be their friend, and at night be amazed by the stars. I didn’t know more.That was it. Everything that I could wish for and then more. I had the privilege of a solitude so beautiful that I wouldn’t change for anything.

Growing up untimely had its advantages and disadvantages. I couldn’t get along with children my age. I thought cartoons were dumb and I didn’t understand video games. I still struggle to find a place with people my age, but I enjoy being different. What can I do, asi semos no somos an old saying goes.

For me, it’s a unique fortuity that I’m thankful for everyday. The point of all this is to think about how many things would’ve happened to me had my parents decided to give me a “normal” life by not including me in their adult world. How many things would I have missed out on had I followed the rules, societal norms, the rigid structure that people say we need to follow?

How different would the world be if we chose to step out of our routines, of what should be, give ourselves the permission to explore life and take a different street, ask for something different than our usual at a restaurant. For us to use red when we’re known to wear green, smile in a serious moment, or go to a funeral dressed in yellow.

Think about how many things we miss out on, really think on it my readers. Life is short and the universe is big, is it worth it to be afraid of what’s different?