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Calles are not that bad
by MBa
2014-10-14 11:19:32
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The nerdy young tourista has balls. Most normal people would not do what he seems about to do. The monster has pushed his way past people lining up to get the arm-size hotdogs or whap with thousands of toppings on them known in the Dominican republic as chimichurri.

nino_y_yo_400The only girl hovering near the line realizes the café- latte complexion boy with buzz-cut black hair is heading to the front of the line. She tries to get his attention and divert him from troubles but the traveler is already in harm’s way. Everybody whisper that no normal person will be so reckless. The trouble was, the young foreigner isn’t normal at all. The boy grabbed the mulato complexion dude by his light blue stripe Tommy Highlighter sweatshirt saying “ hey hunk, you ruined it for yourself.” the 6’3 tall bodybuilder abruptly turns to face whoever dares to annoy him. Goateed traced up to both sideburns, surprisingly mellow brown eyes, black Mohawk styled hair and strong face features cons tract with tight light blue jeans he wears. He is a handsome version of Mr. T, a grumpy American action series of the 80’s. “Con ese guevazo y el Culo-azo todos te admirabamos, porque aruinarlo actuando como el mariconazo que no eres pana?” everyone holds their breath as their eyes went from the killing machine to his potential target.

The giant frowns for what it seems an eternity then the unexpected happens. The monster goes from stony silence into a wild laugh, placing his trunk-size-arm across the frail-looking boy ‘shoulder. The giant says to call him Robocop and asks for the now smiling boy’s name. The boy explain his name on official papers is another but his Dominican family members calls him Antoni, “without the h”, the courageous boy add. Antoni notice the food cart vendor is holding the two chimichurri his now new friend had odered and he snatches them from him. He takes a bite from one size, turns it around and brings it up. Robocop, understanding the peace offering meaning of the gesture, bend down and bit off almost half of what remained from Antoni’s bite. They take a couple more chimichurri, take a few steps and leaned on the glass wall of a hardware and department store called El Titan, to get to know each other. A Cadillac car goes by and a guy looking like the famous Spaniard singer Julio Iglesias waves at Antoni from the driver seat. Robocop face seems to wonder how the foreigner knows the owner of the El Titan.

“Tio Pedro Rosario is my Tia Cruz’s husband. Robocop whistle and remarked that those are old money white Dominican he is related to. From that day on, Robocop is Antoni number one fan. He would talk to his amigos how a raggedy ass boy from New York knocked him out by saying “with a big cock and huge butt like you’re packing, you got the admiration and envy of the dudes, so why ruining it by playing the asshole you are not?” everyone laugh at such an outrageous and original way for one dude talking to another dude. Robocop adds that the boy has knowledge of every topic one could think of and that at time he even seems to look into his past and figure out his present. The next day, a friend asks Robocop to introduce him to the tourista to see what’s up with this weird guy. The day after that, this friend’s brother, who is a construction worker, wants to meet the New Yorker for the same reason. The construction worker tells a co-worker about the New Yorker telling him a bunch of shit about his past and present life. Yes, you guessed right dear reader, the co-worker demanded to see this fascinating character too. By Friday an entire gang of men and one female, who would stay at a discreet distance, shows up to listen to Antoni and ask him questions about this and the other.

Antoni, who didn’t suffer from the illness of modesty beamed like the sun before all the attention they would give him. No far from where he would welcome that ever growing court of followers, other people are not impress at all with Antoni daily street meetings. “Las Calles son para Buenos para nada, delinquents, prostitutes y hombres pajaros” Antoni’s Dominican family members declares after eating the chimichurries Antoni brought them as an after-lunch-snack. Following siesta-time custom common in Mediterranean and Tropical cultures, some of them cuddle on rocking chairs in la galleria, others lay down on hammocks hanging from two facing trees on the side-yard, chit chatting while dosing on and off.  La galleria is the porches found mostly in middle classes and wealthy classes houses. Las Acacias, the house of his auntie Cruz in the D.R is one such house. Tia Cruz, who lives in Switzerland but flew to D.R when told this nephew, had come unannounced to spend a week reuniting with family member. Auntie Cruz’ grown up daughter, two sons, their respective spouses and children all live in this house, mostly at her expense for they work from time to time. 

La galleria have four rocking chairs facing a small table, all made up of bronze with traces of yellow on them. An all around knee-height cemented hand-rail that encase the gallery into a square with an opening, come handy for people to rest amid the potted plants dotting it. Antoni, imitating the little kids, lay down on the dying grass, tracing figures distractedly with a rusted nail he’s found on the fudgy ground beneath a flowery bush. Whatever the family wouldn’t learn from Antoni accounts of his adventures, they would clearly get it from other sources.  Milerdy, the maid’s daughter who has lived and worked in Las Acacias at intervals since being a child, has been popping up everywhere Antoni has gone, seemingly mesmerized by his charm and accent. Senora Cruz, who has turned evangelical in her declining years, would give her nephew moral lectures and advices whenever he was heading out. The way she sees it, Antoni is a naïve, well-educated and religious boy wasting his time and energy with strangers. “Who knows of the harm he might be exposed to with some of them?” she would gossip over the phone with his mother in New Jersey. One day, Mrs. Cruz shares her thoughts with her nephew about taking him to visit the tomb of Tia Antonia Ricardo, then a quick glance at Saint Antonio barrio’s house my parents used to own. Antoni decline the offer and dark shadow overtakes Antoni’s mind as Mrs. Cruz chats away with details of those long gone years. Tia Antonia is allowed to run that house so long as she would take care of any kids mom was planning to bring from Venezuela so that she were free to work double shift at her return to Caracas. All the siblings old enough to take care of themselves, go to school or work, went back to Venezuela after spending sometime in D.R Antoni and a brother a bit older than him were left in a country and with a babysitter that were hostile to Antoni’ sickly and delicate self.

familia_brasil_400When Mrs. Cruz stops talking Antoni reiterate that he doesn’t want her to bother in going to those two places for him. The maid’s daughter offers to escort him to both places for it was on her way to her campo. “ Mind your own business, mihijita” Antoni shouts then storms out of Las Acacias. “Primo espera ahi” one of the cousins shouts after him. Antoni, quickening his steps, turns left then turns right, and so he goes in zigzag. At one point Antoni asks out loud what was he running away from when he realizes he had walked into a long stretch of grassy unoccupied land. Spotting tiny yellow birds birching madly he bends over to try to pick one up when a sharp penetrating pain makes him jerk right back up. A rooster had come in from behind him and peaked his left hand. Red drops fell on the lusty green grass. At the rooster call to arms, other rooster’s starts charging toward Antoni their tail and wings spread apart like a world war I’s airplane.

The scared boy takes off running, stopping only when signs of civilization start to drown out bucolic countryside world of animal and wild forest. Antoni curse himself for running away from his relatives’ neighborhood without having a reason to do so. Or does he? Antoni paces down, his breathing forceful and the “I Love NY” white t-shirt pasted to his plain chest. He surveys his surroundings. He’s aware he has gone past the city main market, the small mechanic shop that was owed by his father side of the family. There’s something vaguely familiar to the area… Antoni stand frozen. He nears this zinc-roofed-pink painted small house taking one step at a time. His eyes get blurred as they well up and memories starts seeping back out of three decades of obscurity. Neighbors would come in to the backyard and see an undernourished, worm infected, brown child with black semi-snappy hair. They would see was the posted child of the third world. Antoni had acute anemia and barely survived tuberculosis and chronic bronchitis, which in part explain his odd personality. Antoni was very passive, almost never talked. He would forget things by the minute, walking around lost in thoughts most of the time. He was not a “normal” kid. Tia Antonia had cooked enough meat stew early in the morning for she would spend many a day at the hospital with Antoni’s baby sister Yesenia who keeps having weird complications all the time. One afternoon Tia Antonia came back and half of the pot with stew meat was gone. As she roared like a wounded animal, guess who got blamed for trembling and not defending himself when asked about it?

Yes, Antoni was the lucky one who just kept on giving his auntie the perfect punching bag for her to take her frustrations with. When the next-door neighbors came in that day after hearing heart-breaking wails they found poor Antoni kneeling over a metal grater, the kind used in the kitchens to peel off vegetables and grate the cheese. A stone almost the size of his head sat over his nappy black hair while he held it in place with his flimsy hands. Fat Tia Antonia, her right hand still wielding the ‘hand of God’, stood by admiring her methods. The hand of God consisted of an oiled up slim tree’s branch used by many in Latin America to discipline unruly bad boys. Problem was, Antoni wasn’t bad at all if anything he was considered a retarded. It seems that the family living next door decided enough was enough and contacted the poor child’s mother in Venezuela begging her to take her children from her sister. Antoni would hide and cried up to heaven to save him from the witch. Some fairy Godmother granted this wish. Antoni was sent to Venezuela after one big tragedy sped up everything else.

Our hero founds his half-brother Rolando working at his dad’s family taller mecanico. Rolando takes the rest of the day off and takes Antoni to spend the night in the campo with Rolando’s very poor and mulato-looking wife and kids. Needless to say that he left money and whatever valuable he was carrying for Rolando kids, who were delighted their new uncle would spent the night fending off flies with them in the same queen size bed. When dropping him off at the Cruz household Antoni inquires about his half-sister Kilsa and Rolando gives him instructions of how to find her. After siesta, Antoni drops by the house of the stranger’s younger brothers.

A little background story is in place. The stranger is a very Arian-looking Dominicano who recently moved next to Antoni’s mom’s apartment in New Jersey. Upon arriving to D.R, Antoni has dropped off the stuff the stranger has sent his siblings with him. These twin teenagers basically lives on their own for their mom spend most of the time with her boyfriend in Colombia. The twin introduced Antoni to their upper middle class circles. Just like tia’s cruz children, the twin barely keep up their middle class status by “pidiendole a un santo para vestir a otro.” Back to the present, Antoni don’t find them at home after siesta time so he hails a motor-Concho to take him to his sister Kilsa. A motor-Concho is a motorbike, usually fucked up or very old, driven by suicidal guys who, miracles sly miss hitting pedestrian and other vehicles as well. Needless to say that the only way to avoid turning into a human projectile is by clinching oneself to the driver, pressing ones’ crotch against their butts and hope for the best.

The danger does not stop there. One must keep one’s feet far enough so they don’t get shredded by the back tire at high speed and close enough so that they don’t get chop off by passing vehicles and light posters. What should have been a 15 minutes ride actually takes the driver less than five minutes so go figure at what speed he drove and how many traffic violation he committed with pedestrian and police with as much as batting an eyelash. Antoni is nearly ejected from behind the driver when he stops outside a green painted house. Kilsa and her boys, alike the stranger’ brothers, turns out to be Caucasian, my nephews more brunette-Italian looking than Nordic though. Another difference of them from that other household is that the entire Kilsa’s clan work to support a decent life style rather than keep up a pretense at the expense of love ones living abroad or borrowing from anything or anyone standing in their path. There is love at first sight between the entire kilsa household and Antoni. “Mi amore, otros hermanos vienen de Venezuela or the United States y no hacen lo que tu has hecho, gracias hermano querido” Kilsa would not stop praising Antoni for introducing himself into their life rather than staying at the Cruz household or at a hotel without looking for those more distant family members. Having spent the night at kilsa's I got over my grief and bade goodbye to a part of the family I had started a relationship with without the pain of the past. “Aha Juan, asi te queria encontrar” Robocop sung the words of a merengue song which come handy when you want to sneaked in on somebody, grabbing them by the arm and breaking into a laugh after the initial shock is over. In this case the giant grabs poor Antoni by the neck, giving him a good shake. Reading his face, Robocop explains he asked for him at the Cruz household who said they learned you were seen at the mechanic shop Rolando works at.

From Rolando Robocop learns Antoni was dropped off at Kilsa’s house. Antoni likes how outside from paranoid US America, people willing to share information that will connect or help one another is more a life saver than “the danger a New Yorker reading this would probably argue it is” he concluded with a nod as he glutted himself to Robocop V shape muscular body when he sped away in a Kawasaki motorbike. At Antoni request, Robocop slows the speed enough for Antoni to capture the scenery of going from a centric neighborhood, through a cemetery then out into the countryside where Robocop says he has something to show him. The Kawasaki sailed along street-vendor infested pathway, old and new shops, outdoor market and colonial-looking houses that has seen better days. Antoni felt like one drop in an ocean of anxious looking housewives, stern faced older men playing cards, bingo while loud broken radios give updates of baseball and even basketball matches. Kids and youth go wilding out on the street after spending half day in school or at low paid jobs the lucky ones.

The not-so lucky one would be just scrapping a living doing anything, from odd jobs to illegal activities, which was left to be done when there was nothing else available. As they sail through and out the cemetery Robocop slows the motorbike even more. Soon Antoni’s eye zero in police precincts and National Guard units, where police in grey uniforms, multi-color clad motorist and national guards in their khaki uniform abounded. Soon they were navigating winding, unpaved, trees and bushes dotted roads that made their body vibrate to an uncomfortable height. Bird’ sound coming from the not-so high greenish hill engulf them; Robocop finally pulls over outside what seemed to be a catholic seminary. He drops off some stuff and then takes Antoni to the shadows of some trees. A dense silent falls upon them and Antoni recalled hearing in a dream that something “heavy” is to come his way. Robocop coughs a few time as to clear is throat of something heavy in it. He seems first at a lose for words then starts babbling away from one topic to the next. Antoni looks up to heaven, then to his surrounding, realizing that he seem to be removed from anything and anyone. He attempts to say something but Robocop continue to rumble on, while his right hand reaches into his tight light blue jeans front part. “Hmmm, a hand diving into the crotch area, that’s interesting” Antoni thinks inwardly while forcing a smile. Robocop hand seems to find what it’s looking for. “ That day you put me in my place I was really in my worst of moments.” Robocop added.

Antoni means to say that he understands but no words come out of his mouth and so his head have the common sense to nod. Robocop adds that Antoni has balls for putting a perturbed stranger in his place in the sarcastic way that he did. Antoni’s right hand goes up and then slaps the air away as if to say “oh, that was nothing really, you should see when I open the door naked when evangelicals, the super or the landlord of the building I live knock on my door”. Antoni see the giant’s hand wriggling itself out from the crotch it has been nestling during all the scripted talk. Our hero draws his breath in and waits.

The meaty hand comes out bringing with it a handgun. “Oh boy” Antoni hears a voice saying inwardly as he gulps, and feels his body and head hair rising up. For some strange reason, Antoni’s mind amuse itself admiring the cons tract between the silver shinning pieced wrapped and the chocolate-brown hand wielding it. Robocop inch himself closer to Antoni as he says it’s time to come straight to the point. “Is this how it will all end God, really?” Antoni hears himself whispering as the silver metal piece landed on him. Antoni blinks a few time as he realizes Robocop have grabbed his hand with his left hand and placed the shotgun on it. “I was on my way to kill my step father for all the abusing my mom the day you came into my life with your cheap philosophy and eclentic ways “it is eccentric not eclentic” the sarcastic in Antoni said after recovering from the emotional paralysis this beast of a man put him through. Robocop said that his stepfather was gone by the time Robocop remembers what his mission was after talking with his new friend for hours. No trouble, Robocop will come get him the next day afternoon when he would come take siesta.

But that day, a friend asked him to showed him to the tourist, and the day after that other friend asked the same. “Day by day I kept missing my step father because all you said and did will distract me from the plan to kill that mutherfucker”. Antoni mind split in two. One part of him would hear the long list of complaint from his family and other love ones about he being irresponsible, crazy, a loser who is going nowhere wasting his time on the street with other losers. For every insult, humiliation and misunderstanding one part of him would hear, the other part would hear the touching and praising words of the poor human being who was laying open painful areas of his intimate life. “Nothing good can come out of the street, nothing good in wasting your time with low lifers out there” many of his love ones would hammer those heart breaking judgments of who he is and what he does. “You are a good for nothing” Antoni hears the eco from the late Tia Antonia saying, as she would hit him over and over with an oiled wooden stick for acting like a retarded. Robocop falling on Antoni, squeezing him into a bear hug wakes him up from daydreaming with his own demons. Robocop has to go home to hug his mother and tell her it would all be all right if she come away with him.

At the request of Antoni, Robocop drops him off at the encrucijada, which is a threshold that split the small city in three major sections. Antoni keeps staring at Robocop upside down triangular-shaped back until the motorbike becomes a tiny dot then disappears from view. To Antoni’s back there’s a North-bound Avenue which lead beyond the centric areas to the interstate bus terminal from which buses and shuttles mini-van depart to all the touristic areas, resorts and to the airports. Antoni faces the opposite ways and looks side to side. To his right there’s a street that leads to Saint Antonio neighborhood, where his most painful childhood memories awaits him like a monster hibernating under a tranquil landscape. To the left was the cemetery, where laid the rest of the worst of his childhood days torturer and the little girl who died when he was set free from that monster. Antoni eyes wells up, as he remains silent for what seems an eternity. His right hand balls in first, followed by his left one a moment later. Both fist begin to turn pale and the bony arm of our hero tense up revealing clear veins. Very thick veins pops up on Antoni’s forehead ‘sides as his head aches. His legs begin to complaint of the tremendous stress Antoni is putting his whole body through by shaking uncontrollably.

The poor wretched finally collapse, his head too heavy to hold away from the dusty ground. A terrifying wailing, followed by groaning accompanied by the dangerous sound of an asthmatic, forceful breathing. “ I AM SOMEBODY AND I AM GOOD FOR SOMETHIING GGGG,” the boy cried out then starts twisting and flipping in the ground, his hand reaching for an asthma pump in his pocking but finding none. He pulls and pulls trying to tear his shirt’s collar open, gasping for air, yelling for help but it is siesta time. There is not a soul around to help our hero as he starts losing his strength and his trashing on the dusty ground gets slower and slower.

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