Chapter Four 4
Who would've thought that after being away only a year in half, everything could've change so much. I guess in teenage time a year and a half, is something like a decade and a half in regular adult time.
Back in my neighborhood I had to tell countless times the story about how I did in the army, but only my closest friends, got to know what really happened up in the mountains. Actually took me quite some time to tell the real story, and they didn't get the whole story either, because I never talked to them about the whisper in the wind. I have been always very private about my personal life, and even if I was a very good listener, I was not much of a talker. I have to admit, that I have never talked about the whisper in the wind with my friends or family before, I guess I didn't want them to think that I was going crazy or something like that. At the same time I have always carried with me, the conviction that talking about God was something totally sacred.
Everybody told me how much I have grown up, that I was more mature, more of a man, but I didn't believe them. I thought that they were just trying to be nice with me. In all reality I felt like I was as clueless as I was before I went to the Army, and even more. Actually with all that stuff that happened to me while I was in the army, it was very hard for me to make sense of society as a whole.
In a short period of time since I left, everything had change so much, to the point that was really hard to understand even my own friend's slang. They made me feel sometimes like I was not part of the hood anymore. Sometimes my friends started talking, and I couldn't understand half of what they were saying. The music, the names of the people they were talking about, what was in, what was not, what was popular and what was not. It was like I have been living under a rock my whole life. That is how I felt around them after I got out of the army, but just like when I got there after I moved from my hometown La Serena, little by little, slowly I started to fit in once again. Definitely it was like starting all over again, with the only difference that this time, it was easier for me to blend in. I was away a short period of time but they were different, I was different, everything was different.
Coping with my reality after I left the Army was not easy thing to do. I still needed to finish the last year of my high school, and I didn't know where to start. I didn't even know if I wanted to go back to school either. I was literally lost.
At that time in my life I was so clueless. I didn't even know what I needed to do to finish my high school, and if I did finish my high school I used to think, "So what? What good that would've been for me? I was in a third world country, with no money, and not a clue about what to do with my life. There I was with no future in sight, and I was facing the same feelings of frustration as always, no matter how hard you try to satisfy your basic needs or how hard you try to get ahead, there is no way and no hope for a better tomorrow. At that point in my life, I couldn't find that first step that would lead me to the next. Then again, "How I wish my daddy Oscar was still alive so I could ask him, and say to him with all my love and respect, "Hey old man. What do you think I should do with my life?"
Good thing that in the backyard of my house, my dad Luis had a little shop. He had a welding machine, a wood Lathe, and I used to entertain myself here and there when I didn't have anything else to do. That was another way I had to deal with my frustrations. Many times I went to that little shop and got lost for hours tinkering around with wood or metal. That way I got away from my frustrations at the time.
Through the years my dad Luis and my older brothers had taught me how to weld; some basic car and motorcycle mechanics; basic carpentry skills, and I learned a bit of plumbing too. I had all this skills but even if I try, I couldn't make a penny out of all this knowledge. The most important thing of all was, that I was eager to do anything that would bring a buck my way, and everybody had something that needed to be fixed, but nobody had the money to hire me.
In a third world country where unemployment is high, to have a little place that you can call it your own is something close to impossible. I got out of the army and I wanted to have my own life, but no matter how hard I tried to achieve my independence, I was still living in my parent's house. Regardless of wishing with all my heart that I could have my own place, there was no work for me.
My brother Luis was about forty-five years old at the time, and we shared a room on my mom's house, and not because we wanted to or because we were lazy, there was nothing we could do about it.
At that time in my life I used to dream about having my own little place, and go out and have fun, have a little bit of money for a date, have a pair of Levi's. I didn't want anything fancy. I didn't want luxury. I just wanted a way to claim my own independence. That was all I wanted at the time.
Talking about not wanting luxury, I grew up with only two pairs of pants: I had one pair of pants to go to school, and another pair to go out. Is hard to believe how much sacrifice goes into just getting your kids to go to school, if you are poor in a third world country.
There I was, young and healthy, I had a pair of hands with an exceptional good craftsmanship, but I couldn't find nothing to do, nothing to do that would bring a little bit of money my way that is, now if I wanted to work for free, of course, there it was plenty of work for me to do, but that was not the idea.
A few weeks after I came back to my civilian life, I started noticing that my old friends, the ones closer to me, sometimes in the middle of a group conversation they started talking about things that happened the night before, and I was there with them all night, all night until they went home, but I had no recollection of what they were talking about. Actually I started noticing that they didn't want me to hear what they were talking about, and if for some reason I did, they will change the subject right away. I catch them doing that more than a few times, and every time I did ask what was that? Like I said they just change the subject and kept pretending like they didn't say anything. I started to get annoyed and suspicious about all this, and I have noticed that what they were talking about, mainly it happened on Friday nights. Friday was the day that we used to put together the little bit of money that we had, and bought a few beers, sat on the side of the little liquor store, and hang around till around midnight. On the side of that liquor store we hang around, we told jokes, and sometimes we will sing along with my friend Aldo. He played the guitar very well and on Fridays we did put up a show for us. I loved to hear live music, loved it. Friday night was our big day especially if you didn't have a girlfriend, or money to go out. Friday night you knew where to find us. Actually this little liquor store was a very well known place among the young people of our town. This little liquor store was known to be a great place to have an after party celebration, and was the only liquor store on that side of town open after midnight. This little liquor store was our neighborhood liquor store, and we were proud of it. It was only about two blocks away from the beach, and on summer time especially on Friday nights, that little liquor store was a great place to be, because everybody that was camping on the beach, will come over to this little sort of minimarket, where you had a little grocery store and the liquor store. Two little businesses owned by different people. Everybody in town knew about this little place, actually everybody knew this place by a nickname, and the nickname was The Rock Café of the Poor. We had plenty of good times on the side of that liquor store. This place was the place to be after midnight on Friday and Saturday nights.
One of those Friday nights I went to buy a couple of loose cigarettes to the liquor store, a common thing to do when you are poor, because when you are poor you cannot afford to buy a whole packet of cigarettes, on that sense is very good, because even if you want to, you cannot smoke too much. I walked in quietly into the liquor store and Sergio and Ro-pe were talking about having the house ready for the after-party, they didn't notice me so I said out loud, "What house is ready for the after-party?" They change the subject quicker than Billy the kid drawing out his gun and I said, "Good-one! That's how you treat your friends hah? Keeping secrets from a good friend like me, you sissy boys!" They just started pretending like they were talking about a movie and stuff. I acted like I didn't care in front of them, and I just got my two cigarettes and I left, but I felt really left out.
That night was a Friday night and later on, I stayed with them till the Rock Café of the poor closed, and everybody went home. I said good bye to everybody, and I walked home like always, but right before I open the door of my house I kept going, and I went around the block taking the back street that leads to the beach. Making sure that nobody saw me from the bushes by the side of the road, I kept an eye on the liquor store. After around 15 minutes I saw my friends one by one coming back to the side of the Rock Café. They started to gather in the same place where we always hang out. I count them one by one, and when the last one showed up, I snuck up on them saying, "Ah hah! That's why I don't remember what happened last night, "cuz" you guys brush me off, and then you come back, and get together after I leave. Very cleaver! Hey if you don't want me around, you just have to say it, friends?! What's going on? I thought we were friends. Aren't we?" They started looking at each other, and they didn't know what to say. Sergio the one with thicker skin finally said, "Look Satu is not that we don't want you over here, but you've been always a good boy, and not a very good at keeping secrets either, that's why we have not invited you before, and on top of all today we are going to get together over Edwin's house, and like you know, he doesn't like you very much. Anyways the only thing we are going to do is drink some wine, and listen Aldo play the guitar for a bit" I asked, is Edwin still holding a grudge against me? Is he still upset at me because of that time that he was mean to me, and I call my mom on him? Sergio said, "Probably, but anyways you've never been close friends anyways. Let me talk to him and I'll see what's going on, I don't like to leave you aside, but you might not like it anyways." He went and started talking with Edwin and a couple of the older guys-the owners of the liquor store. I could not understand why so much of secrecy, didn't make sense to me, especially what Sergio said, "You might not like it anyways." Sergio came back and said to me, "You can come over with us but if you open your mouth about what goes on in the party, we will never invite you ever again. Deal?" Deal I said and I went with them to the after, after party. I was excited to find out why so much secrecy. For me something was up, but I could not figure it out.
Edwin's house was just around the block, and we all walked quietly, trying not to wake up the neighbors. This neighborhood next to mine, had bigger and nicer houses, actually I remember complementing Edwin's house because everything was very nice. I have never been to his house before. We all sat around in a big dining table, and started talking, and joking while opening the bottles of liquor, wine and beer. After a couple toasts, Aldo started playing the guitar, and sang a couple songs. We all were having a very good time. Right in the middle of all this, a couple guys started taking some papers out of their pockets, those "especial" kinds of papers. I thought at first they were cocaine papers and I asked them, "It's that cocaine?" they said "It would've been nice, but no, cocaine is too expensive. This is Base-Paste." Never heard of it so I did ask "Base-Paste?" The guy next to me said, "Base-paste is what you get after you extract the cocaine out of the coca leaves. Still there is some cocaine in it but very little, so you get kind of the same effects, but is not as expensive as cocaine, it cost just two dollars a gram, and a gram of cocaine costs $10. Wet the tip of your finger and touch the powder, put that in your mouth, and your whole mouth it's gonna go numb. That's how you know when you have good Base-paste." The guy added, "Have you ever tried paste before?" Never! I said. Right after I did what the guy told me, and with the tip of my finger I grabbed a tiny bit of the powder, and I put it in my mouth. My whole mouth got numbed. Now he said take a big puff out of your cigarette, and tell me how it feels. I did take a puff out of my cigarette, and I have never felt the smoke of a cigarette go down so smooth into my lungs, I was impressed. They surprised me again when they started rolling the cigarette in between the palm of their hands, and started taking almost all the tobacco out of the cigarette. They started to put a little bit of paste, and a little bit of tobacco back into the cigarette, until the cigarette was full again. They shook it and roll it again, making sure that everything inside of the cigarette was evenly mixed. After that they lighted it up, and passed it around taking a couple puffs each. I did skip my turn the first time, but I got really curious, the smell that was coming out of those cigarettes was sweet and inviting. The second time that the cigarette came around, I did take a puff and I filled my lungs with smoke, sweet smoke that made the tobacco taste smooth and full of flavor. The cigarettes they used were the cheapest kind that you could find, and I have to say, that I've never taste a cigarette that tasted that good before. Right after I was done taking a puff Edwin said to me, "If for any reason you feel like losing your cookies, go out to the garden and do it by the tree" I said, "It's okay I'm fine don't worry" but right after I said, that I felt like I was nailed to the chair, sort of like falling down hard on myself. I had a very strange sensation, and right after I felt a weightless sensation, no pain, no aches, no hunger, no worries, my mind was clear and focused. For a minute I was completely aware of what was going on right there at the moment, and that was kind of the opposite of what I normally feel like, because I'm always thinking of something in my mind. Right after that, I heard my friends saying, "Oh! He's turning into Mr. Roboto, he is "Duro" and pale like paper" That was the first time I heard the term "Duro" for some reason you start moving like a robot, and you feel like the police is coming to get you, with their guns drawn, right at that very moment. I started feeling paranoid and I had to go outside and use the tree to hold myself up, because I could barely hold myself straight. I felt like I was going to lose my cookies, and I hold the tree for a few minutes until I emptied my whole stomach, and then some more. When finally I went back inside, I was pale like a zombie. My friends started joking saying, "You did a good job holding that tree. Good job!" I sat down at the table again after I wash my hands and my face. I had this feeling inside of me, like I was looking everything from inside of a shopping window, and I wanted more. The only thing I was thinking about after that disgusting scene was: I do want more! They asked me: How are you feeling my friend? And I said, "I'm okay. Is there some more of that stuff? Nope they said, "The flower just died." No more paste buddy, and anyways is too late, and we have to go home. We said good night, and I said, "Thanks for inviting me over and I'll see around." And we all went home.
Walking back home I was checking my 6 o'clock every few steps, because I was still feeling paranoid. I realized that Paste was a very addictive stuff. It has been more than a half an hour since I took that puff, and I still had the urge for more. Moonlight over my head, no cars on the street, only the sound of the waves crashing at the beach. That night I felt really alone, empty inside and disappointed at myself once again. As I finally got home, I looked at that corner of the roof right above the front door, and I realized that Monochito was not there no more. Monochito was my beloved cat, and he used to wait for me every night at that same spot. He waited for me in that same spot every single night, and as I opened the front door, he will run across the roof and sat by the kitchen window, waiting for me to share my dinner with him. I have never before loved a pet as much as I did love that cat. I was about 15 years old when I got that cat, and he was just a little kitty. Since he was two weeks old he grew up right by my side. He used to sleep on my bed, and we spent countless times playing and having a good time. After I went to the army and visit home for the first time, the cat didn't come back home ever again. Nobody knew what happened to him. My mom told me that the cat used to wait for me every night like always, in the same spot as usual, lying down like an Egyptian Sphinx, with his front paws folded inwards right under his chest. She told me that the cat was never the same after I left, and she could tell the cat was sad. Every time she played a tape that I recorded playing the guitar, if the cat was around, the cat did get inside her room, and started looking for me. That night when I got home, I remembered that my cat was not there anymore, and I felt even sadder. I got to the kitchen and I looked at the same spot where my cat used to wait for me, wishing that I could see him one more time. While fixing my dinner I suddenly realized that I was not hungry and I asked myself, "Me not hungry?" I was surprised of myself. They used to tease me about being the terror of the fridge. They used to say that the fridge started shaking every time I got close to it. I use to swim a lot so as a teenager, I was always hungry, but not that night. I realized that I was experiencing what is called being "Duro" that is typical side effect of people under the influence of cocaine. Even if you don't want to, you are sort of stiff, and you feel it especially in your stomach. I went to bed that night with an empty stomach and I was not hungry. I thought I was going to fall asleep right away as usual, but not that night. I couldn't sleep and I stared at the walls for hours. I could hear my heartbeat, beat after beat, and I knew I was really tired but I couldn't fall asleep. It was such an ugly and dirty feeling I had. That night I saw the night turned into day before I could close my eyes. I really didn't like the side effects of smoking that's crap.
When I woke up late that afternoon I felt so guilty and dirty inside; I was feeling so uncomfortable that I decided to sweat it off. I went to the beach and run for a while along the ocean. Feeling the fresh breeze on my hair and the sand on my toes, made me feel better a lot better. After I got home I took a shower and finally I was able to eat something. I didn't like the after feeling at all. For the first time in my life I felt darkness in my soul. I was in a state called "Duro."
After that experience I said, "I will never do it again, never!" Next Friday we met again, and we were having a good time when one of those funny cigarettes started buzzing around. I didn't want any at all, and I even passed the first round, but the sweet smell that was going around contracted the muscles of my stomach, and my heart started beating fast. One more time I wanted a puff of that cigarette. The funny thing was I had never before wanted to smoke a cigarette that bad. Inside my head I thought, "Can I have one puff? Just one puff, only one and that's it." I took one puff and I knew right there and then, I was hooked. The smoke went down my throat like honey. I felt the smoke little by little going all the way to the bottom of my lungs; my stomach relaxed all at once, I was nailed to the chair, and as soon as that smoke hit my brain, my pulse start to slow down, way down. I felt every single symptom one by one all over again, but this time was in slow-motion, I was in ecstasy. That sensation just lasted for a few seconds, and right after those few seconds of nirvana were gone, I wanted more. The more I smoked the more I wanted, it got to the point where my thinking and judgment were gone, they completely disappeared. I was once again "Duro" just like a zombie looking for brains to eat. I was in this trance where my will was brought into submission, and I'd had only one thing in my mind, and that was, I want more.
That was the way I learned the meaning of the word struggle. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I couldn't help. Once I smelled the smoke or I took a puff, I knew exactly what was going to happen to me. Most likely I was going to be the rest of the night looking for brains to eat just like a zombie. I was going to be looking for more paste, until I spend the last penny on my pocket, even if that was the last thing I wanted to do.
There was paste all over town and I knew how to find it, and if one placed didn't have it, I'll go to the next even if I have to walk sometimes for more than an hour to get there, I didn't care, I just had to have it. One side of my brain was saying, "You are pathetic" and the other side was saying, "I want more." It got to the point that I was doing paste almost every weekend. Like every drug out there, I had my honey moon with it, and I went from smoking here and there once in a while, to every other week. Soon I was doing it every weekend, and every time I did, I regretted it immensely.
The only thing that made me feel a bit better the day after I smoked was exercise. Running along the ocean was the best thing to calm my feelings of betrayal to myself, at least enough to hold me during the week.
One of those nights I remember waking up to my mom in the middle of the night, and I started begging her for two dollars. I remember saying to her, "Just two dollars mom. I'll give them back to you tomorrow. I promise!" Two dollars was the cost of one gram of paste, might not sound like much, but that was our next day budget for food. I remember my mom saying no to me about three times, but I begged and begged. I could see her just wanting to go back to sleep, and being so disappointed at me. At the end she gave me the money saying, "Look kid, this is all the money I have for tomorrow, and if you don't give me back this money tomorrow, I don't know what I will do to put a plate of food on the table. You need to give it back to me tomorrow, no excuses." "Yes mom don't worry I promise. I'll get back the money to you tomorrow." Right after my mom gave me the money I walked in the middle of the night about 4 AM for a good 40 minutes just to get one more gram of paste, and guess what happened after that one gram was gone, you guessed it right, I wanted more. I got to bed that night around 7 AM in the morning, the sun was barely coming out, and took me hours to go to sleep. I was tired and exhausted but I couldn't go to sleep. I could hear everybody getting ready, and I was lying on my bed pretending I was asleep. My heart didn't want to stop pounding on my chest, what I disgusting feeling. I went to sleep for a few hours, and when I woke up I went straight to my friend Martin's house. I don't remember what lie I said to him, but he borrowed me the money. I went back home and give the money back to my mom saying, "Here mom, here's the money" She looked at me and said "Look the things that you make me do. I had to go and ask for credit at the minimarket so we could have food today. Don't do this again to me. Don't you ever wake me up in the middle of the night again." I felt so terrible that day. I told her I was sorry, and I really meant it. I was not a little kid anymore, I was 20 years old and I begged my mom like a kid begs for candy at the grocery store.
I was down, I knew I was doing something wrong but I couldn't stop. My whole life before that moment was a very healthy one. I was almost a vegetarian, and I have to admit that we didn't eat more meat, not because we wanted to be vegetarians it was because meat was too expensive for us. Before I went to the Army I couldn't wait for summer time so we can go everyday to the beach and now I was throwing my health away for nothing. That was the feeling I had in my life at that moment. Now all my friends and I the only thing we were doing was to smoke that crap. I was 20 years old and I couldn't find a job, I was still living with my parents, and even if that was not uncommon on our culture I felt bad. I wanted to have my own life, and I was willing to do anything that would allow me to have a life. I wanted so bad to have my own life, my independence, and have some hope in the future.
I think that was the biggest problem of all, more than the drugs I have lost all hope, at that time in my life I even lost the hope on myself. I didn't have a job, I had no education, not even a high school diploma, by all definitions I was nothing but a loser. I didn't like anything that was happening around me at all, and I knew that becoming a drug addict was even worse than anything that has happened to me already. At the same time at that moment in my life I couldn't find any way out either, I tried the best that I could to stay away from paste, but wherever I went it was there. Sometimes I was a strong enough to say no, other times I just couldn't resist. That was the biggest struggle in my life up to that moment.
A year passed by since I got out of the Army, and nothing good was happening in my life. I was definitely trapped in the poor People's vicious cycle. Some say that there is no such a thing, but only those that have been poor, know what I'm talking about. Sometimes your biggest weakness can be your biggest strength, but it is very difficult to see how big or small the storm is, when you are right in the middle of it. Being poor means that you don't have enough to satisfy your basic needs, so every day that pass you by you fall farther behind. For many is very hard to deal with that reality when you are in this situation, and the chances of getting out of there are stockpiled against you. The chances for you to get out of this circle or dead loop on your own are very slim. I do remember a friend saying, "Everybody says that education is expensive. Have you tried ignorance?" Truth is, when life is more than what you can afford, there is not much you can do about it. I tried to find a job, and I was willing to do anything, but I couldn't find anything at all. Actually thanks to my neighbors that knew about my handyman skills, I was able to get a little bit of money here and there. At least with that money I was able to buy me some loose cigarettes, and have some change to pitch in on Friday nights, so we could share some beers, and have a little fun. That was my life for a while after I got of the Army, one of the lowest moments of my life for sure.
Since I was about thirteen years old I have been praying to God in a very simple way, and at that moment of my life the only thing that could stop me from being a bad drug addict was a miracle.
At church they told me that the right way to pray to God, was calling his name with respect first, then give thanks for all your blessings especially if you had good health, and then asked God whatever you wanted to ask for, and you should finish your prayer with the phrase, "…in the name of your son Jesus Christ. Amen." Of course every religion has the right way to pray to God, and every other religion was wrong. For me that was already completely wrong, God was for me what should unite us, not what tears us apart. I knew that in front of God I was just a child, and I use to pray in a very particular way regardless of what they said. This is the way I used to pray to God at that age, "My heavenly father. I do thank you for all your blessings, and let it be your will and not mine. Love you." And that was it. I never asked to God in my prayers for anything, especially for something material. I never question other people's faith, because that was my understanding of the gospel at that age. I remember at that age wanting to serve God, and I wished I could make a living talking about God. That was my dream, a very far fetch dream at the time all considered. God always was my favorite subject growing up, for me getting close to God was getting closer to the very essence of life, and the main reason why I wanted to speak on God's name was the fact that regardless of religion, every time I hear somebody talking about God, for me sounded most of the time, like a complete insult to God. With the little bit of knowledge that I had about his teachings, every time I heard somebody talking in front of a congregation about God, sounded to me like out of ignorance they put some words together to make them sound pretty, but the meaning of them was completely wrong. I never talked about that with anybody, because in my understanding it was a sin to weaken somebody's faith in the first place, and second God has not instructed me to speak in his name, so I kept my, "pie shut." That way of thinking came from my understanding of the words in the Bible that said, "Any faith is better than no faith at all." For me those who speak in God's name must be chosen by God itself. Example of that could be the story of Moses or my favorite story of all times the Ark of Noah. For me to argue with somebody about the meaning of the words of God, could easily be classified as taking the name of God in vain, and that for me was a very serious sin. That was what I used to believe back then, since I was thirteen years old and until I was about twenty eight years old.
One night out of frustration with all what was going on in my life at the time, I prayed to God in a very unusual way for me. Instead of praying like always, giving thanks for all God's blessings, and saying, "Let it be your will and not mine." This time I put my head down, and with a true humble heart I said to God, "My heavenly father, thanks for all your blessings and I ask you with a humble heart, to give me the strength that I need to say no to paste. I do not want to be a drug addict. I want to be once again the person I used to be, a man full of faith completely convinced that you were right there by my side in every moment of my life. My dear God I want to be that man again, a man with a heart full of hope and faith in you. I do believe in you, believe in me my heavenly Father. Help me to steer away from darkness because I have forgiven those who have hurt me here on Earth, that's why I'm asking you, to forgive me my Lord and I pray this to you, in the name of your son Jesus Christ amen."
A few days went by after that night, maybe four days and four nights, I'm not sure really, but one of those mornings I woke up to a loud and firm voice saying, "Wake up and live this town." For a second I thought I was in the Army again but no, I was home in my room and by the side of the bed already. For me to wake up that fast was very, very unusual. Everybody who knows me knows that you need a backhoe to get me out of bed in the mornings, but there I was, looking everywhere around, and not a soul in sight. I got scared at first, but then I got this feeling of peace and harmony inside myself, almost weightlessness, sort of, kind of. It was nice sensation, a very nice feeling. I asked myself "wtf?!" I just shuck my head and I went to take a shower. I took a long and nice shower that morning, with cold water though, in my country even warm water is for the rich only. I remember making it a long shower because the feeling it was so nice inside my heart, that I just wanted to enjoy that feeling as long as I could. I was in awe thinking about the voice I heard in my dream, I guess, I don't know, it sounded so real, and the tone was so strong and deep, that felt like I was still vibrating from the frequency of the tone. That shower was for sure one of the nicest showers ever in my life. For the first time in a very long time the feeling that the voice brought to me, made me remember the time when in the Army I heard that same voice like a whisper in the wind, but this time it was so much louder. At that moment while taking the shower that I did listen to the whisper in the wind, because I did read the whole Bible from beginning to end, but I didn't read the end of it, the Apocalypse. That voice told me that the Apocalypse was going to be my forbidden fruit, so I did listen to it, and even to this day I haven't read the Apocalypse. I thought that was a trace of madness in my mind for sure, was I turning schizophrenic. That thought brought me back to Earth that morning, and the beautiful feeling slowly faded away.
After I dressed myself, I went to the kitchen where my mom was cooking, and like always she was multitasking doing a whole bunch of things all at once. I recall seeing her making miracles at the kitchen. I call it miracles because she was such a good cook, that she could do a great tasty meal almost out of nothing at all. I went to the kitchen and I said to her after she acknowledged me, "Mom I'm leaving this town today." What? She said, and I repeated, "Mom I'm leaving this town today." "When are you living son?" She asked, and I said, "Today mom. I am living today." My mom replied, "Oh! You're just crazy son… leaving town?! With what money son of mine? To do anything in this life, you need money." I said, "I know mom and it might sound crazy, but I'm leaving this town!" She shook her head and rolled her eyes saying, "This kid. He doesn't even know where he stands, and now he is living town…Oh my Lord." and she kept cooking. I went to my room and I started packing the few things I had, I was in the middle of doing that when my mom showed up in my room and asked me, "What are you doing? Are you serious kid? Why do you want to live this town in such hurry? Do you have a girlfriend pregnant?" "No mom is not that or something like that. As a matter of fact I just want to leave this town. I have no real explanation for it, but I feel that I need to go." I didn't know exactly what to say, I didn't want to lie, but I didn't want to tell her about the voice in my head or whatever that was. One more time I was walking through life with my heart and not with my mind, and I said to her, "Mom do you remember when they call you from my middle school saying that I just disappeared from school, remember?" "Yes! How could I forget." she said, then I replied, "For some reason mom that day I felt at school the feeling that I didn't want to be there no more. I couldn't bear to stay there not even for a second more, and in my mind I thought that I was a free person, and as a free person if I didn't want to be there no more, I did have the right to leave. Right now mom I'm feeling exactly the same, and I want to leave this town." She said "Where are you going son?" I said, "I don't know mom. My first guess would be going to my mom Nieves house." She said, "Do you think that they will let you stay with them, and take care of you? You don't even write a letter to them. You have been so ungrateful to them. You haven't send not even a letter in years, not even a call, and you think that they are going to receive you with open arms after all this time? Like you were part of that family?" I said "That I don't write a letter or call them, it doesn't mean that I don't love them." My mom said, "That is what you think son, but to keep relationships alive, you need to be in contact. You'll see, you'll see." My mom Mercedes said, and added as she was getting out of my room, "Running away from your problems is not going to make them go away. Whatever problems you might have, running away is not the solution." I said, "I am not running away from my problems mom. You just don't understand."
That is how usually my conversations with my mom Mercedes use to end up, "You don't understand me." Later on she said to me, "Look son, why don't you come over and have lunch with me. We will talk some more. Maybe you are just hungry. You know what they say full tummy, happy heart."
During lunch we talked about it some more, and she tried to change my mind, but I was determined to follow the voice advice. Even if I didn't mention that to my mom, I knew at that moment that I was not going to back down, not even a bit. I felt that deep inside of my heart.
After lunch I went to my room and I kept packing my stuff, it was not much I should add, actually all my clothes fitted in an old medium-size sport-bag that I had. I was in the middle of doing that when my mom came over again, and grabbed my shoulder saying, "I cannot tell you what to do anymore, but listen, I don't have any money to give you right now for a bus ticket, but if you wait for me a few days, I could give you the money for a ticket, so you don't have to leave in a hurry, without not even knowing where you are going to spent the night or what you're going to eat tonight." I did look back at her, and gave her a hug saying, "Thanks mom." I guess by then she knew that trying to change my mind after I had an idea like that it was a waste of time, and like she used to say to me, "Once you get an idea on that hardheaded noggin of you, trying to change it, is just a waste of time." her saying was "Fools are hard to raised them up, but they kill themselves." She convinced me to calm down, and take it easy. At that moment before she offered me her help I was thinking where I was going to be that night, and what I was going to eat. At that moment I really appreciate what my mom offered to do for me, because the only thing I knew up to that moment is that I was going to take my faith and run with it. The rest was not up to me.
After that argument as days went by, my mom asked me every time she had the chance, "Are you still living?" My answer was the same every time, "Yes mom I am living." Then she will ask me, "Have you change your mind yet?" And my answer was the same "Nope!" After a few days she asked me very serious, "Do you have any plans about what are you going to do once you get there to your home town La Serena?" I said "Well the first thing I'm going to do once I get there, is going to talk to my mom Nieves, and then if for any reason she cannot have me there with her, thing that I doubt, I will go to my brother Ferdinand's house, and if for any reason he tells me I'm sorry I cannot have you here with me, honestly I don't know what I will do. I know one thing for sure though, and that is I'm not going to stay here in this town." If my mom Nieves said that is okay for me to stay with her, then I'll finish my high school, maybe I can find a job over there, I don't know for sure mom. All my friends here are not the same no more, they have a girlfriend or they are in college, some of them, the ones with money, they have moved away to go to a University, and I am not the same either mom. What can I say mom, I don't know. The only thing I know is that this town is doesn't have nothing good for me at this moment, and I asked her, "Mom how much money are you going to be able to give me?" She said, "Well I'll give you the money for the ticket, plus another $50 that is what I have in mind, and I hope I can do that. Don't forget that you have your older brother Ferdinand over there, and he owes me some money. Remember that in order for him to go to college I had to help him. She went to tell me the same story she always told me about the time when my brother Ferdinand told her that he wanted to be a professional, and she did help him behind my dad Luis back letting him keep some of the rent money of the house he left behind in La Serena, and on and on she went with the story. I don't know how many times I have heard that same old story, and she added "He is still mad at me, but I hope that he can give you a hand if you need it, as I did with him, and remember that I will be praying for you. That is the only thing I can do, and you know that if I had more money, more I will give you, but you know my reality. Oh and remember not to mention this to your father. You know what he thinks about education. For him once you are eighteen years old, you should be on your own, so please don't mention anything to him."
The day that she set to give me the money finally came and I asked her, "Mom do you have the money?" She said "Yes son I do have the money." And she passed me a roll of bills, I count them very quick, and she supposed to give me around hundred and fifty dollars, but there was only a hundred. Before I could say anything she said, "It's all I have son. We have to eat a whole month before I get more money. You know son. That's the best I can do." I said, "Yes mom I know. I thank you for helping me out and believing in me. Bye mom. I love yah," and down the road I went. I grabbed my sport bag; walked to the bus terminal, and there I was, on the side of the road hitchhiking to the buses that were going to La Serena. I had to hitchhike because the money I had was not even enough to buy the cheapest ticket to La Serena. My only hope was that one of the buses going to La Serena could give me a ride for less money. I have heard that sometimes the driver of the bus could give you a ride for less money, if they have some space available. I stood for hours on the side of the road a few blocks away from the bus terminal until I saw the right bus coming, I put my thumb up, and the bus stopped. The attendant opened the door and asked me where I was going, I told him to La Serena, and after a little bit of wheeling and dealing he did ask me, "Where are you from?" I said, "I'm from La Serena." Lucky me, he was from La Serena too and I was able to get in the bus for half the price of a regular ticket. I was happy to know that I was going to have a little bit of money left once I got to my destination.
The trip to La Serena from Arica city is about 22 hours long in a bus. When you travel like this you don't get any food, and sometimes you have to be a standing up. I got lucky that they give me a seat. They give me the last seat, on the last row, and it was right by the rest room. That is not a good thing especially in a long trip like that one, but at least I had a seat.
That night thinking about what was going to happen when I got to La Serena I could barely slept. I was thinking about what I was going to do if my mom Nieves was unable to give me a place where to stay. I wasn't counting much on my brother Ferdinand because he has been mad at my mom and dad for the longest time. They had a misunderstanding about some rent money that he was supposed to send and he didn't, and because of that for more than 15 years they have been holding a grudge. I was not counting on him as a backup plan really, but in the bus I the only thing I could do was to think about possibilities of what could happen, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. While I was thinking about all this scenarios, I was looking through the window at the stars and the uniqueness of the Atacama Desert landscape. Being so young I was excited that at least something was happening in my life. I didn't know if this act of faith was going to be something good or bad in my life, but at least I was doing something. Looking at the stars and the uniqueness of the landscape, I got lost in the magic of the scene until finally I fell asleep.
Next morning I woke up to the sweet smell of tea and the growling of my stomach. As soon as I opened my eyes I saw a line of people waiting for the restroom, and I really felt uncomfortable about the appearance of my hair and my face, but nothing I could do about it. A few minutes after the line diminished the attendant started serving breakfast, and for my surprise the attendant gave me a cup of tea and a sandwich, I was not expecting that. I guess somebody didn't want it or something but let me tell you that everything tastes so much better when you're hungry. At lunch time though, I was not that lucky, and I didn't get anything to eat until tea time that day. Anyhow sooner that I thought 22 hours later, once again I was in my hometown La Serena.
The bus terminal was right by the road I use to take to go to school as a child, and the scenery really brought me back to those days. I looked around and I realized that not much has changed. The old elementary school that was located right across the bus terminal looked exactly the same. Every place I looked brought back a memory. What a nice feeling was to walk again on the same path I did when I was a child.
The road I walked that day was the same way I use to take every time I walked to my Mom Nieves' house as well. More than 10 years has passed since I left my hometown, and as I was walking to my mom Nieves' house I remember that after all those years, no more than three times, have been all the occasions that I had written a letter to my mom Nieves. How ungrateful of me. Anyways there I was and there it was nothing I could do to change what had come to pass. I had no excuses.
That day was another cloudy day in La Serena. Partially cloudy is a very common weather forecast for that city. From the moment I put a food down on my hometown I felt something very special. I felt a very strong feeling of belonging to that place, and that was nice, very nice indeed. The fresh breeze from the ocean seemed to caress my face as I started walking, and it was so nice to smell the smells of my hometown. I never realized before that every city had its own distinctive smells. Besides the smell of the ocean, I could smell the aroma of fresh French bread being made, and in the air there it was a very characteristic smell of the wood being burnt by the "Panaderias."-Bakeries.
After walking through the Avenue of the Statues, and the city market La Recova, I finally got to Brasil Street. That's the name of the street where my mom Nieves' home was located. While walking that same path that I walked many times as a child, in my mind, everywhere I looked brought a memory back. I was having so much fun that I almost didn't noticed when all of the sudden reality hit me back, and I realized that I was right in front of my mom's Nieves house. I was there standing up right in front of that same old Spanish-style house. Not even the colors had changed. The house had beige walls, dark brown wood French windows, and the front of the house was right against the sidewalk in a narrow street typical of that city. I was one more time standing right in front of that same door that I have knocked before countless times. Standing in front of that door I saw myself riding a tricycle with the shape of a tractor, and I saw the vivid memory of me kicking the legs of Ercira's boyfriend at the time, because he got too close to my sister. In a fraction of time standing in front of that door, many feelings and many memories crossed my mind. I was overwhelmed with emotions.
Just a few doors down from that house used to be a liquor store, and in there my daddy Oscar had a beer once here and there. The clerk always use to ask me what I wanted to drink, because every time he asked me, I use to say exactly like my daddy Oscar said, "I want a cold one" and they will laugh out loud, and handed me my favorite drink as a child, an Orange Crush.
I knocked the door and a big dog started barking at me until one my sister came over, and she opened the door asking first, "Who's there?" I said "It's me Danny." She opened the door in a heartbeat happy to see me, and gave me a big hug saying, "What a surprise! They were all happy to see me, just like always. They didn't make me to the living room as it is the custom in my country they took me straight to my mom Nieves room. Her room looked exactly as I remembered, had a double French door facing to the garden, and right by the kitchen on the back of the house. There she was reading the newspaper on top of the bed and watching TV just like always. She came out of her room when she heard me, and when she saw me, she embraced me just like always. I could tell she was happy to see me as much as I was happy to see her. The feeling was exactly the same, looking at her was just like looking at my mom Mercedes, with the only difference that I haven't seen her in a long while.
After the commotion was over I sat by her side, and we started talking. In the mid-time my sister Ercira offered me a cup of tea, and I accepted it gladly. I was hungry, and I guess somehow she could tell. A few minutes later she brought me a cup of Ceylon tea, a piece of French bread with Goat cheese typical of the region, and there we wore, just like in the old times. We talked for hours and we catch up on all that time we hadn't see each other. It felt just like I had never left. At the end of that warm conversation I explained to her the reasons of my trip; that I wanted to stay in La Serena if I could, and finish my senior year of High School. I explained her that I didn't have a place where to stay, and at that moment I asked her if she could help me out. She looked back at me in a sad way saying, "Danny I'm so sorry, but I cannot have you here with me right now. At this moment I have a full house…" and she went to explained to me the reasons why she couldn't have me to stay at her home at that very moment. I was sad to hear the bad news and I said, "Don't worry mom I do understand. I should've planned this trip in advance, and I do apologize that I didn't let you know beforehand, that I was coming over."
At that time technology was far behind and pretty much the only way to communicate long distance was through letters in the mail, and only a few people had a phone, and that was a landline with a rotary dial up. I didn't mention why my trip was so unexpected; I kept that to myself.
After a little while after that I thought, "Well plan A was out the window, but I still had one more door to knock." And that was my Brother Ferdinand's door. We call him "Nano" he's one of the twins-Nano and Lucho-my older brothers. They are the oldest of my siblings and they are twins. Nano actually has nothing nano on him, he is 6 feet tall, and very strong. He loves to go fishing, hunting and he is very athletic. I always looked up to him, but we were not close at all. He was too old for me to play with, and when I was a kid I was always messing up his stuff. I remember one time he specifically asked me, "Please do not touch this little statue that I am sculpting. Please." He showed it to me and anyways as soon as he turned his back on me, I started playing with the statue, and I completely mess it up. Later on when I was about eight years old, he got married and moved out of the house. Me like always, I had serious trouble writing, so as I was walking to his house, I realized that after all this time, I had never sent him a card for his birthday or even a letter to say hello. I was very hesitant to ask him for help, but I had no choice. Walking to his house I realized that his house was far away from downtown, so after walking a bit I decided to take the bus. After half an hour I got to his house and it was almost sunset time. I was very tired, and it has been a day full of emotions, and all the talking with my mom Nieves and my sisters, was a lot to absorb for just one day. I didn't know what to expect, and I was getting really anxious, but whatever was going to happen soon I was going to find out. I did knock his door, and his wife Carmen opened the door. She barely recognized me. She said to me, "He is not home right now, but he should be here soon." After a half an hour or so he showed up, and I could tell he was suspiciously surprised to see me at his door. I gave him a hug and we started talking. I explained to him why I was there in a few words, and I told him that my idea was not to nock his door and bother him, but my mom Nieves couldn't help me at this moment, because she had a bit more than a full house. I did apologize to him for not planning this trip like I should've, and I ask him what he thought. He said to me that before he could give me an answer, about the possibility of helping me out, he needed to consulted with his wife first. He said to me, "My house is a very small house. We don't have a room for you." He said to me, "Here we have full house too, but for the moment you could crash in the living room in the couch." I was so thankful that at least that night I had where to sleep, I was so glad that I didn't have to sleep in the streets, because I was totally not prepared for that. Honestly, deep in my mind, I guess, I never expected that my mom Nieves having a big house couldn't help me out. I was such a clueless person at the time.
Next day when my brother Ferdinand came back home from work, we sat down in the living room and he said to me, "I have been thinking all day about this, and if you have good intentions, like finishing your high school, I might be able to give you a hand. At the same time, I hope you're telling me the truth, and I wish you understand that I'm not a wealthy person, so if you stay here you need to give me a hand with the shores of the house, and I need to give me a hand with my side jobs. If you are willing to do that, I might be able to keep you here, but like I said, I have to talk with Carmen first. If you help me out with my side jobs that would be a good way for you to cooperate with rent money. You could finish your high school at night, and give me a hand during the day with my side jobs. For you to help me with my side jobs, of course, you need to know how to weld. You need to know how to read blueprints too, so that way, even if I'm not here, you will know what to do by taking a look at the blueprints. If you are willing to do that, maybe you could stay. Maybe this could be a good thing that we both could benefit from. The other thing is don't expect any money from me, because with your work you will be paying for your rent and your food, are we clear?" I said, "Very clear." We went to the patio and he showed me what I needed to do next day. He tested my welding skills on his little, but very nice and well organized welding shop. After a short test welding he found my welding skills very sloppy, not good enough. He told me he could teach me how to weld like a pro in no time, at least I knew the basics, and he could work with me. In the mid-time he asked me to move a pile of rocks from one side of the patio to another side of the patio because he needed to make space. He had a big pile of rocks that were in the way of one of his patio improvement projects. After a few days he confirmed with me that it was okay for me to stay, clarified all the rules, and he took me to get registered to night school. That's how I started a new chapter in my life, back in my hometown La Serena.
After I got settle on my brother's house, and I found a moment of privacy I did thank God, and I said one more time like I use to say at the time, "My Heavenly Father, let it be your will and not mine."
I started working in my brother's little iron shop during the day, and going to school at night. I had to walk to school every day because I didn't have any money for transportation, and my school was kind of far away. I had to walk for about an hour each way. That was hard to do especially at the beginning, but soon I got used to walk back and forth with no problem. In the other hand that was my favorite time of the day, while walking I was able to set my mind free, free to wonder about anything that crossed my mind. The scenery was very inspiring, and I really liked the old Spanish style architecture typical of La Serena. Between my brother's house and my high school, there is a wide road with sidewalks on both sides, and a bridge that cross the Elqui's riverbank. It is typical of La Serena to see Gypsies around downtown, and they have their main tents in this riverbank. The city gave them permission to stay there. Is always an experience every time you have any interaction with a Gypsy. Most of the time they will approach you offering to read the destiny written on your hands or they will offer you a handmade copper skillet. They are they are very persuasive and insistent, as much as a button holder. As a kid I used to be afraid of them, mainly because you hear stories about Gypsies stealing babies, and selling them for money to the highest bidder. Those of course are nothing but fairytales, but I cannot deny that as a child they were the closest thing to meet in person the boogie man. Now as a young adult I looked at them as if I was looking to a living museum of culture. They live a very simple life, so simple that makes you wonder how simple life used to be, and I cannot deny that walking through that road, I thought about being a gypsy myself, especially when you see a mighty good-looking Gypsy girl walking by.
In my mind and in my heart at that age I use to believe that faith was the road that leads to heaven, at the same time, I use to wondered where heavens was? I used to wonder if Heaven was a physical or a spiritual place. Along with those thoughts, at that age, I used to wonder when I could call myself a man, because one thing is to do things that an adult does, but another thing is to know for sure the reason why you are doing them. Back then I knew one thing for sure, and that was the clear conviction that I was a young adult but I was still clueless. I didn't understand the world around me, I didn't understand society, I didn't understand the law, and definitely I didn't understand religion, but walking back and forth from school every night, these were the subjects made my way a lot shorter.
In my high school I met a lot of nice people, and it was easier for me to fit in. I guess what made the difference for me, was the fact that everybody around me was more mature, and I truly felt that I had more things in common with them. After all I was in my hometown, and I could tell the difference. That high school was great for me, because really helped me to feel like I was just one more in the group, and it really helped me to build up my self-esteem. The other thing that helped me a lot to get my self-esteem was the fact that I had people around me that really cared about me. I was living with my brother, and he was giving me the opportunity to finish my high school. The other thing that helped me immensely with my self-confidence was the fact that I was able to visit my mom Nieves and my sisters every now and then when I had a chance. To be around them little by little made me feel like a normal human being again.
Being in my high school was really good for me as well, at the same time our homeroom teacher was great. After a few months into my high school, we learned the news that our homeroom teacher got really sick, and he will have to be absent for a few weeks. In the meantime or while he was recovering, we were going to get a substitute teacher.
The first day that this substitute teacher showed up we were all inside the classroom talking to each other like always, and we didn't notice when the new teacher arrived. The new teacher was a University of La Serena student that needed to do the practice to get credits for her graduation. We didn't think she was the teacher because she was even younger than many of our classmates. I do remember that day very well, because she was a good-looking girl in her mid-20s. She had prescription glasses, and because she looked so young, took us a few minutes for all of us to be quiet, and start listening to her. She looked just like another student. In my mind I said, "Finally we get a good-looking teacher." All of the other teachers were quite more mature. She introduced herself and explained to us the reason why she was there, and reassured to all of us that soon we will have our homeroom teacher back. Right after she introduced herself, she told us that we could talk to each other, as long as it was not too loud, and she told us that she will take a little bit of time, to go around and got to know us a little bit better in a more personal way. Her name was Ximena with an x instead of a J, and she was tall, skinny and on top of all she was a teacher, so that fact did make her very hot for me. I guess from the moment I saw her I had a crash for her. She didn't look like a teacher at all, but of course, she was now my homeroom teacher, and I had nothing but respect for her. She was Mrs. Ximena for all of us regardless of her age. She started approaching student after student, talking to them, and asking them a few trivial questions until she got to my table. Standing up right in front of my table she asked my name, and why I was going to school at night. I introduced myself, and as soon as I started telling her in a few words why I was going to night school, she got a little bit closer to me, and she putted her hands on top of the table, and as I kept telling her my story, she kept getting closer and closer to me, she was looking straight to my eyes, and it got to the point where I kind of started leaning back, because she got so close to me. At that moment when I started leaning backward, she realized that she got a little too close to me, still it was about a foot away from me, but that was very unusual. Most of the time teachers keep around 3 feet of distance around them. As soon as she realized that she was probably a little too close, she straightened herself up and regained her distance. As I kept telling her my story, I was trying to make a long story as short as I possibly, because like always I was trying to tell the truth, and not just a story that sounded good. I remember she fixed her glasses and said to me, "I like your answer. Nice to meet you," and she moved on to the next table. That night at recess time after she left, everybody was asking me, "What was I telling her that she got so close to me?" I said nothing I was just telling her my reasons why I was going to night school. Everybody that night was joking with me, and talking about that moment when she got too close to me. People from La Serena are known for loving gossips. Gossip at least used to be the most popular sport in that city.
After that, of course, things were back to where they suppose to be, and I cannot recall, not even one instance, where something was out of place, after that first time personal introduction. About that time I remember making out with a girl after school, but that was it. One night I walked a girl to her home after school, and we had a hit and run. I call it a hit and run because I didn't follow up. She was a good girl and like a good girl, she gave me a change, one shot and that was it. I did like her, but even if my self-esteem was okay, there was one problem for me, and a very rational I must add. My thinking was, "What do I have to offer right now to a woman?" I made myself that question many times, and truth was, I didn't have not even a room for myself. I was sleeping in the living room behind the couch in my brother's hose. Don't get me wrong I was thankful, and grateful, and I considered myself lucky to have a place where to live at that moment, and I'll always be grateful to my brother, and my brother's family for giving me a place where to live when I needed it the most, but as a man, how could I even think of having a relationship at that moment in my life. Most of the time I didn't have not even money to buy me a pair of loose cigarettes on the street. I did make out with a couple girls on that night school, but I never followed up. That was it a hit and run and that's it. I was too poor to have a normal life according to my age. Was I too rational? Was I too serious? I have been told that same thing my whole life many times, and my answer always was, "I have been poor my whole life, and when you are faced with that reality things change." Your perspective of life is completely different to those who have nothing to worry about. Good thing I learned from my friend Manuel's mom one thing. I remember hearing her saying something that I'll never forget, "If you have to work, you are not rich, and you have to learn to live with that reality." She was a German lady, and as a ten boy I had a crush on her. I did find her so beautiful and sexy, that every time I saw her, I paid a lot of attention to whatever she was saying. That was very unusual on me, because most of the time I was lost inside my mind. I remember sometimes people saying to me, "Planet Earth calling Daniel" and they have to say it a few times before I responded. For many I was nothing but a "special kid" some people would say I was very smart, but I always thought they were just being nice to me. It was very hard to make me get out of my shell "Autistic" is the word that fits me the best. I loved to think and being inside my mind. I was mostly afraid of the world around me, especially from adult males, those serious ones that get aggressive very quick. I guess that was a trauma from my Dad Luis. To come to terms on accepting him as my dad, I had to think of him as a sick person, a very sick person that had diabetes, bipolar disorder, and unusual tendency for cruelty. I remember that thinking of him as exactly the way I didn't want to be. That's why for me to have a child was the last thing I wanted to do. I didn't want to pass that kind of genes to my child, especially knowing that my brother Luis had schizophrenia, and my Mom Mercedes suffered from severe depression. That's why any girl that showed interest in me, I would reject her, because that way I was saving her from making a huge mistake in her life. That is what I thought of myself at that age.
One of those days Mrs. Ximena gave me back a test after she reviewed it, and it had a very low score. She said to me when I went to her desk to pick up my results, "You need to improve your vocabulary, you need to read more. I have a book that I think will be a great book for you, because is about your level of vocabulary, but a little bit richer in the way that ideas are expressed in writing. If you are interested in reading this book, I could borrow it to you, and if you are interested come and talk to me after the class is over." I didn't say anything, I moved my head slightly up and down and that was it. That was my thing back then, that was a my sign of approval, I guess I was a man of a few words back then. Looking at my test results I started moving my head sideways in disapproval saying no. Many times I didn't talk I just used body language. I went to my seat, and I started thinking about starting to read a bit, I really needed to do something about it. Since I moved to Arica, I guess in a sign of rebellion, because I didn't liked the town or the school for that matter, I stopped writing, and taking notes in class, and whatever I did catch with my mind, that was what I kept. Many times that was enough to at least have passing grades. Talking about that I remember one time, when they had a teacher conference at my middle school, because they thought I was cheating on my tests. Every teacher had complained to the principal and my mom, about me not writing or taking notes on class. They called my mom and told her that if it was true, that I was not cheating, I should be able to pass a verbal test. They had all the teachers present that day at the principal's office along with my mom, and before they started the test they explained to my mom very clearly, that if I didn't pass the test, I was going to be expelled from the school. Mr. Sotomayor the principal started the round of questions, and I have to admit that was quite intimidating, but at the end, I didn't have a perfect score, but I did pass the test. I wasn't a bad kid, or disrespectful with my teachers, so I guess that helped. Like I said for me reading was the most boring thing to do. For some reason I thought that books contaminated my mind, because I was getting inside of another person's mind, and what good was to learn about others experiences, when in all reality experience is something that you cannot absorbed reading. True experience comes from living them, not for reading about it. What about Moses and Noah, they didn't have any books. I was such a weird kid, and I remember wanting to at least have my own particular point of view about life, so that's why I didn't want to read books. I wanted to experience life without others ideas inside my mind, and that was something very important for me, other persons ideas inside my mind, could cloud the purity of any of my own new experiences. For me to read a book was something to do after I had my own point of view, so I could experience, the experience of growing up on my own, without any outside interference.
In a way I was in no hurry to find out about life, and my question at that time about life was, "What about, if what I'm reading is completely wrong? How that will affect my life?" After all I have only one life, and if I made a mistake, I wanted to be my mistake. I never talked about this with no one, but this kind of thinking was part of my penetralia, was part of my rebellion. This kind of thinking was in the most inner and private part of my own temple of thoughts. If I was wrong or right, as long as I do not break the law, God will be the judge of that, and no one else.
And what about writing? Why I didn't like to write? Why write with a pencil if we already had computers? Hand writing was such a primitive thing for me to do. Why don't you teach your children how to write in stone…? Thinking about all that, at that moment I realized that Mrs. Ximena was right, if I didn't like to read and write was okay, but anyways it was evident to me, that in order to speak properly I needed more vocabulary, way more vocabulary, so at the end of the class, I did approach her and asked her to lend me the book. She borrowed me the book saying, "When you are done reading it give it back to me, and take good care of it please" Sure Mrs. Ximena I said, and I took that book with me that night. Back then a book was a lot more valuable than what a book is these days.
As soon I started reading that book I realized that I really needed a dictionary, and at that very moment I had an epiphany. It became obvious to me how much of an ignorant I was, and that was a good thing to be aware of, I knew right then, that if I can realized that I was an ignorant, I could then do something about it, and I was already doing something about it, I was reading that book. I thought, "Thanks Mrs. Ximena." And I thought, "The more I know, the more I realize how little I know," "I would change everything I know for just the half of what I don't." Now those words made sense to me for the first time in my life.
I was going to school and my brother Nano was working and working, we barely saw each other no more. The working hours in Chile are still forty-eight hours a week and honestly, after being here in the US since I was 26 years old, I cannot even imagine what it would be like, having to work six days a week, every single week of the year, for at least forty eight hours a day. Even though his work didn't leave almost any free time, he found the strength to go out and have fun doing what he loved to do the most, and that was hunting and fishing on the weekends. I really admire his strength, and even more when sometimes he took me along with him. One of those times we went fishing, and I do remember that occasion very well, because it was the time where I ate the best fish-sandwich ever. Chile being a long and thin country, every city pretty much is along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, so fresh fish is a common thing to find, but this time when I went fishing with my brother Ferdinand it was something else. Before dawn we were on board of this little wooden boat-a 22 feet long fishing boat, and just as simple as a boat can be. Five passengers on each side of the boat, plus the cook on the front, and the captain on the back in charge of the rudder. While in the middle of darkness, we set course to the captain's secret fishing-spot, and the cook started preparing the fire right in between the Mast thwart and the Steam post-let's say in the front of the boat-and we started getting our lines and baits ready. As soon as we arrived at the fishing spot the Captain turned off the little off board engine, and he said that it was okay to throw our lines in the water. He emphasized very clearly, "No talking." There we were in the middle of the ocean, so we thought, because as the Sun started to come out, we realized that we were in the middle of a bay. It was a beautiful place. You could see the lights of the city being reflected in the water, and you realized that you are far away from land, and that made me feel uneasy, and completely out of your comfort zone, but I guess that is what you're looking for when you want to experience an adventure, right? I was glad that the ocean was very calmed that morning. I have been before out into sea in a fishing-ship, and I remember being a common thing, to be riding waves over 10 feet tall at least. Is quite the experience to enter open seas in a small boat, especially the first time, it seems like the ocean is going to swallow you whole. Once you leave the bay the waves hit you, and you find yourself in the top of a wave, and then going dawn as if it was a frightening roller coaster. Like I said, I was glad that the ocean was so calmed that morning. After about fifteen minutes of complete silence where the only thing you could hear was the cracking of the wood burning, and the water making a soft splashing noise around the boat, I started to get skeptical about fishing anything at all. Many times in many of my personal experiences, I went fishing and come back home empty handed. I started to get skeptical because for a while the only thing we were doing was looking at each other. We had all the lines in the water with the right kind of bait as the Captain suggested, but nothing was happening. I was getting bored but as soon as you could say for sure it was dawn, the fish started to bite the bait. We started pulling one fish after another out of the water no stop, it was unbelievable! We did stay busy for a good half an hour, doing nothing but catching one fish after another until the captain said, "Lines up" and the game was over. The cook got busy really quick, and by then he had everything ready to start cooking the fish. The oil was almost boiling in a deep copper skillet. He had a mix of flour, salt, pepper and cumin on a plate, and as soon as we caught the fish he skinned and fillet the fresh caught fish. He got the flour mix on both side of the fish fillets and started deep frying it. As soon as the fish was cooked he put it inside of a French bread, and started passing it around with a glass of red wine. That was all we did on our way back, nothing but laughing and talking about the experience while enjoying the most delicious fish sandwich ever! Just imagine the picture of being in the middle of the ocean, looking at the bay, and watching the sunrise over the Andes Mountains. What a great time that was.
With my brother Ferdinand for sure I had more good times to remember in that short period of time, than in my whole life with my Dad Luis, hard to believe but truth. We went fishing, hunting, and I learned a lot with him. He is the kind of tough love kind of man, but for sure my time with him was a good time in my life. It is fair to say that I do have many memories with my Father Luis as well, and he taught me a lot of things, but I guess because of his battle with diabetes, and bipolar disorder leading many times to rage, it tends to cloud those good times we spent together. He was like that great dog that you have to put to sleep because he snapped at you when you list expected. Sometimes it doesn't matter how good somebody can be, if that person becomes violent. Even if it is one time, one time sometimes is all it takes to change you perception forever. Actually it doesn't matter if you have been a hero many times, if you kill somebody you are an assassin that needs to be put to sleep, period. This argument, trust me, is ancient as humans are on Earth. On true democracies is clearly stated in writing what is the course of action in these situations, sad but true. My dad Luis never killed anyone, but many times we thought for sure we were dead meat when he got mad.
Many times little things do make a big one, and that was the case when one day, my brother Ferdinand told me, that he couldn't have me anymore at his house. I have always taken a long time in the bathroom, and seems like every time I went to use the bathroom at his house, someone else needed to use the bathroom as well. The house had only one bathroom, and on top of all that I was sleeping in the living room. Sometimes somebody will come to visit my brother's wife in the morning, and most likely I was still sleeping. That was kind of messy for them, and very uncomfortable for me. My brother got fed up with the complaints, especially those coming from his two daughters-my nieces Sofia and Silvana. They were at the time nine and six years old. Almost every time I got to the restroom, they wanted to go to use the bathroom too. I know my brother put up with the complaints for months, but it got to the point where one day he sat me down and said, "I personally like to have you here, you have been helping me out a lot with my side jobs; you're a good hand for me but, I'm having problems with my wife Carmen because of the girls, they complain to her almost every other day, about you staying too long in the bathroom. I know they are just being kids, but at the same time that this house is too small for all of us. This house has only one bathroom, and in all reality the living room is not a bedroom to sleep. You don't have any privacy, they have lost their privacy, and the complaints keep coming at me. Do you understand me brother? You don't have to leave right now; I know your situation, and I would love to have the means to help you more, but you know my situation as well. Talk to your mom, and ask her what we can do about it. All what my brother was saying to me was true, and I did understand exactly where he was coming from. I didn't know what to do in a case like this one, and I was suspecting to finish my high school first, and then tried to find a job, and move out. I didn't want to go back to Arica, and I wanted to leave in my hometown La Serena. Now I was back to square one, and I truly didn't know what to do. The first thing I did was to call my mom Mercedes. I was very skeptical about she being willing to help me, on top of all that my mom Mercedes didn't have a phone, so communication with her was a very slow. I had to write letters to her, and it took about two weeks to receive an answer back from her, if she answered right away that is. I explained to her my situation in a few words, like always I was terrible at writing, so I tried my best to make my Mom Mercedes understand my situation. Finally when I received her answer back in a letter, I was surprised to learn that she was willing to help me out to finish my high school. She said to me in the letter that she was proud of me finishing my high school, and because of that reason, she will try to send me some money every month, so I could finish what I had started. She wrote as well to ask my mom Nieves if she could give me a hand. I explained the situation to my mom Nieves too, and she said to me that she will try to do her best. My mom Nieves said, "My situation has not changed much since last time you asked me though."
My mom Mercedes promised to send me about a hundred dollars every month, and that was not much. To rent a room did cost about two hundred and fifty dollars a month at that time, and I remember looking around for a room, and the cheapest room I could find, was a hundred and fifty a month. My Mom Nieves aware of my situation she said to me, "You are not going to find any place to live with that amount of money that your mom is going to send you. I talked to one of my neighbors, and she could rent you a room as a favor to me, for eighty dollars a month. That way you will be living very close to me. You could come over on the afternoon, and you can have tea with me. That is the best I can do for you. If you rent that room from my friend, you need to behave accordingly okay? Don't let me down son, "Avilosito pue."(Meaning be always wise. That was a phrase she always said to me.)" I said thanks Mom, and we had tea that day in her room. That day was extra special for me. I was seated in a chair by the side of her bed, while she was reading the newspaper on her bed, with the TV on, just like always when I was little.
After that as soon as I saw my brother, I let him know what was going on, and he was happy for me. I was happy as well to know that for the first time in my life, I was going to have a room of my own, a room all for myself. Weeks went by and no signs of the money. I started to get worried and I wrote another letter to my mom Mercedes, asking her what was going on. Finally after a few weeks, I received an answer from my mom Mercedes I received an answer but no money. In the letter among excuses why she couldn't sent the money, she went to tell me a story that I had have heard many times before, and by the way my mom Mercedes and my brother Ferdinand, were still not talking to each other after all those years. They were still holding a grudge and all because of a money misunderstanding, they had long ago, when my brother was in charge of renting the house that my parents left in La Serena, when we moved to Arica. The story goes, "When your brother finished his high school. He came to me and told me that he wanted to be a professional, and like you know, your father Luis, he thought that as soon you were eighteen-years old, he was done and through with you guys. It has been always a fight with your father to try to help you especially when it comes to education. At that time I let your brother Ferdinand to keep part of the rent, so he can use that money to pay for his education, and that is how your brother became a professional. I think he should return the favor and help you to at least finish your high school. At the same time, he has that old car that it belongs to your father and is not his. Tell your brother that I say that now that car belongs to you. You can sell it and use that money to keep going to school, while I try to put things together over here, so I can send you some money as soon as I can, because I am having a hard time coming up with the money. Tell him that I say to give you the car. Sell the car and rent the room with that money. That should be enough money to get you started, while I organize myself here, and start sending you the money I promised you."
My mom Mercedes does not know the word sorry and she have been always so proud. After I read the letter, I felt terrible about having to tell my brother Ferdinand about what my mom Mercedes asked me to say to him. They have been mad at each other for so long, and now I was right in the middle of this argument, an argument that I wanted no part on it. My brother Ferdinand kept taking part of the rent money for a little bit longer that what he should've, and my mom Mercedes got so upset that said to him, "From now on you are dead to me." That's what she used to say sometimes when she got really upset with someone. When my mom Mercedes said that to my brother Fernando he took it to heart, and since then they haven't said a word to each other. Even after a few years after that misunderstanding, my mom Mercedes wrote a letter to him, not with an apology, but a letter saying hello to him, and my brother Ferdinand responded to her with a post card made by himself, "Dead people does not talk."
I cannot deny that I was afraid to talk about the letter with my brother, but I found the courage and the right time to talk to him. We sat down and talked about it for a little while. I thought he was going to get very upset but he didn't, he was not happy either, but at the end he said, "Take it. You can have it. You know all the work I have done to that car, and the only reason why that car is still running, is because I have put a lot of work into it." Nobody else knew better than me, that what my mom Mercedes was asking was not fair, not even for a minute, and my brother added, "I'm glad that after that car is gone, that is the last thing I have between me and my parents." When I heard that from my brother I felt terrible, but not much I could do about it. After a little while I sold the car in three hundred dollars, and I can say that I did get lucky getting that much out of it. That car was already old when my dad bought it long ago, and now it was almost nothing but a piece of junk still running.
I used that money to pay for the rent, and I bought me a couple of things that I really needed at the time, like a pair of shoes, a jacket and a pair of jeans. Oh! And I bought me a whole pack of cigarettes too.
When I moved out of my brother's house I said to him how much I really appreciated all the help that he has given me, especially during a very difficult time of my life, and that I was sorry for all the inconveniences I might have caused him, and I really meant it. I said good bye to him and his family, grabbed my small sport-bag, and I moved out. That small sport-bag it was all I had.
The room that my mom Nieves had reserved for me with her neighbor, really helped me out, and I was so glad to know that I was going to be able to finish my high school. This little room at the end of a long narrow hallway, came with a bed and a dresser, and that was pretty much everything I needed at the time. I was very happy with my little room, a room all for myself. Funny thing was, that this room was the first time ever I had a room all for myself. It didn't take me long to put away all my stuff, and organized the few things I had. While I was doing that, in one of the pockets of my sport bag, I found the book that Mrs. Ximena had lent me awhile ago. I almost completely forgot about it. I didn't finish reading it all the way through, but I read most of it, and that book really helped me to improve my vocabulary. That day I put the book inside my backpack and I took it with me to school, thinking that I was going to be able to give it back to Mrs. Ximena.
For my surprise that night when I got to my class, I found out that we had no homeroom teacher that night. Mrs. Ximena had stayed with us way longer than originally we thought she was going to stay, and now we have learn through one of the school principal assistants, that on our next period of class we were going to get a new substitute teacher. Our original homeroom teacher was completely recovered from his illness, but he was taking some personal time off. We were going to have a new substitute teacher because Mrs. Ximena had completed all the time she needed as an interim, and she was now ready to graduate. That's why we were going to get somebody else. The principal's assistant apologized on her behalf, for not being able to let us know in person what's was going on, and before we could ask any questions, the principal's assistant left the room in a hurry saying, "Be quiet while you are on your own. You are grow ups now." And she left. At the beginning of the next period, the new substitute teacher arrived, and just like Mrs. Ximena she was a very young University of La Serena student doing some time as an interim. I saw a stunning full figured girl, walking in a very feminine and sexy way. It looked like she was walking almost in a slow motion. She was our new substitute teacher and she wasn't wearing a dress as you might expect from a teacher. She was wearing nice black boots and a pair of tight jeans. She even went to say, "Excuse my informal attire, but just like Mrs. Ximena, I am a student of the University of La Serena, and I got called in a hurry to replace the missing homeroom teacher. Like you may know I'll be the person replacing Mrs. Ximena, until your original homeroom teacher comes back to work." She introduced herself to the class, her name was Veronica, and she went straight to business asking where we were at, and where Mrs. Ximena left of subject wise. At the end of the class, she did take a few minutes to let us know, that Mrs. Ximena was sorry that she didn't have the time to say good bye to all of us personally, and that has been nice to meet all of us. Mrs. Veronica went to say that Mrs. Ximena wish us all the best, and so on and so forth. To hear her saying all that gave me the impression that she knew Mrs. Ximena very well, so as she was living the classroom I approached her and ask her if she knew how to get a hold of Mrs. Ximena. She asked me why, and I went to say, "Well she lend me a book and I need to give it back to her." She said, "I could give it back to her if you want me to." Then I replayed, "I would love to give it back personally, so I can say thanks to her in person." Mrs. Veronica said, "You must be Daniel right?" I said, "Yes I am." She took a piece of paper and gave me the address saying, "She was right" Before I could asked her what she meant with that, she was already on her way saying, "Sorry. I have to go to my next class. Nice to meet you." and she left in a hurry. Talking about living someone in a total state of, "Hello?!"
After a few days I finally decided to personally return Mrs. Ximena's book. The address was pretty much in the same path I used to take to go back and forth from my mom Nieves to my mom Mercedes, and for my surprise the address of Mrs. Ximena's house was right behind the city soccer stadium. Walking on my way to her house, I realized that the city has not changed much at all. Pretty much it was the same old town, with the exception of a few new businesses here and there. Everything was almost exactly the same, and before I knew it I reached my destination. The address was a two story townhouse with a very flat front, and clay tiles on top of the front façade. I stud right in front of the house for a few seconds before I knocked, because I got stomach jitters, and I could not explain myself why I was feeling that way. I looked to this house that started right off of the sidewalk, because they have used every single centimeter out of that property. I couldn't explained why I got so nerves all of the sudden, but there I was, debating in my mind, "To knock or not to knock." Finally I did knock and a lady opened the door asking me what I wanted I said, "I am looking for Mrs. Ximena" The lady said, "She is not here at this moment." I asked her, "Do you mind if I wait for her?" She said "No, not at all come in, you can seat here in the living room, and wait for her." She let me in and I sat in the living room. I didn't want to have to walk all that much just for nothing. The distance was not that far away, but it was at least a good thirty minutes walk from my place to hers. For what the lady told me, I thought she was going to be back soon, but man was I wrong. I ended up waiting for hours, literally I waited for hours. I waited and waited, and good thing the living room a comfortable one, but it didn't have a TV set. The only thing to my disposal was Mrs. Ximena's book. I was kind of frustrated with that book, because every few words I read, I found a word I didn't know, and I knew that the book was just sort of freshman year level, so as I kept reading it, I imagined in my head a whole stadium chanting to me, "You are dumb. You are dumb…" Frustrating it was, but as I was reading through this book, and painfully slow I must add, finally the front door opened, and Mrs. Ximena and Mrs. Veronica were together. That was a big surprise to me. We said hello and I did find out that they were roommates. What a surprise. We started talking for a little while about trivial things, and I found out that Mrs. Veronica was from Arica. That was a big coincidence and we talked about Arica Vice for a few and such. Soon after I gave the book back to Mrs. Ximena, I said thanks and we said good bye. That day I learned that Mrs. Ximena was from Viña del Mar-another beautiful touristic town just south of the capital-and that soon she was going to go back to her home town to finish her thesis. Then she was going to come back later on to receive her degree on Universal History and Geography. It was clear to me that these two girls were very smart, and on top of all that very good looking girls. As I said good bye to them, they encourage me to keep reading, and wished me the best of lucks. I wished them the same and before I left Mrs. Ximena asked me for my address to send me a post card from her hometown, and I gave my address to her and I left.
Walking back home in this very familiar path I started walking and thinking. Walking and thinking has been always one of my favorite things to do, especially in this quiet and serene town, where the yellows and browns mixed with the greens of nature, are predominant in the array of color tones found in this town.
As I was walking and thinking, for some reason I always ended up thinking about two things mainly, God and my perpetual motion device. For some reason there was a connection in between this two. No matter how or where I started thinking about these two subjects, they always ended up together. In my mind at that time in my life, I thought that Genesis was some sort of a formula, a formula of matter leading to the beginning of energy. God said, "I am the beginning and the end." So if God was the true beginning, everything we could see with our eyes, it comes from one common beginning, and God mentions, "I am the end as well." So how eternity could exist if there is an "End" What a pickle, one thing was for sure though, everything I could hold in my hands, it was in a way a little bit of God. For me every material had different properties, even though throughout science we know that they are in essence made out of the same common thing "Atoms".
What I liked the most thinking about these two subjects, was the fact that the time went by really quick. Thinking while walking was a way for me to get where ever I did go way faster, so in no time I was back in my little room again. There inside my little room, I did practice for hours my other favorite thing to do, playing the guitar. At the time to play the guitar, I really needed some privacy, because if there it was something that I didn't have any skills for it, it was music. I was tone deaf; I had no rhythm; plus I had a couple of trigger fingers, and no money for music lessons either. Anyhow it was a healthy pass time where the only way for me to attempt to play any music, it was blindly copying what I heard, but because my tone deafness, I was never totally sure if what I was doing was right or wrong. While struggling with music, I always kept in mind the words of one of my best friend's mom-she was a music teacher and she gave me a few free lessons Mrs. Lugarda- she always told me, "If you don't have a musical ear, keep practicing because eventually you will develop it. Just make sure that your instrument is tuned right, and listen to classical music." At that time in the late 80's there was no electronic tuners, so my guitar was always way off tune. Once in awhile one of my sister' husband tuned the guitar for me, and like always every time I asked him, he did it shaking his head in disapproval like saying, "What for? This is a waste of time?" but he did it anyways. That was Anita Maria's husband. I should thank those with patience for the less gifted.
That day back in my room I thought about the conversation that I had with them, and how well they were able to speak the language. Their vocabulary was amazing and many times while listening to them, they made me feel like they were speaking a complete different language. Inspired by this moment I grabbed the guitar that day-an old guitar that the landlord lend me-and I started writing a song. You can imagine what kind of music that was, but I was inspired that day.
That time in my life financially speaking was very tough. La Serena is known for being one of the most expensive cities to live, but regardless I was glad to be away from Paste. After all with my brother Fernando I learned how to weld, how to read blueprints in different scales, and to be more responsible. He was a good role model for me and I really appreciate the fact that he was there for me, when I needed him the most. My mom Nieves besides of giving me emotional support, she allowed me to go over and have tea with her. I went over her house almost every day, and many days that tea time was the meal of the day. I was very skinny back then. What I appreciate the most to my mom Nieves was the fact that no matter how many times I went to her house, I always felt loved and welcome. In my heart she was my mother, and to be around her was a priceless time for me. Many times we didn't even talk, but it felt great to be by her side. She was reading or watching her soap opera, and I was by her side reading, studying or having my tea, just like when I was a little one.
After a couple of weeks since I dropped that book to Mrs. Ximena, I was in my room when the landlord came over and said to me, "Somebody is looking for you." I went to the door and I could not believe my eyes, the person looking for me was Mrs. Ximena. She come over to say good bye before she went back to Viña del Mar, and she had in her hands the book she lend me awhile ago. We said hello and she said, "I would love you to have this book" I said "Thanks Mrs. Ximena" She interrupted me and said, "Just call me Ximena or Xime like my friends do. You always so formal and so serious, may I come in?" Sure I said, and she came in to my room. There we were in my room, like good old friends, talking about everything and nothing at all. After a little while she saw my guitar and asked me to play something for her I said "I have to warn you that I'm learning how to play" I don't care she said, and insisted, so I play something for her trying my best. At the time I was learning how to play a very difficult song from Silvio Rodriguez called Ojala (I wish). So I played that song for her, and It wasn't that bad, but after I finished she said "You started okay, but you changed tones in the middle of the song." Honestly I didn't have a clue about what she was talking about, I didn't hear it. I was tone deaf at the time remember? And she said, "The guitar part was not bad I liked it." At that moment we looked at each other straight in the eye and we kiss, and we kiss again, and we kissed that afternoon away.
I was in complete disbelieve! To make out with my night school teacher was my secret fantasy, it was my secret wish. For sure that moment was like a dream come true, just like Jimmy Fallon put it, "The male student that had sex with his teacher, has been taken to the psychologist countless times, to be treated for spontaneous bursts of happiness and euphoria." That was my fantasy and what a nice fantasy that was. We started dating after that, and I knew she was going to leave soon, but I couldn't care less. I haven't had that much fun in awhile, and I really didn't care. I just wanted to live the moment.
Dating her without a phone and without money was a real challenge for me. Good thing she could leave a phone message with my mom Nieves, and I could do the same at her place. The messages had to be very short, and all of them have to be less than one minute long. Phone was too expensive those days. A phone was a true luxury back then.
After that afternoon I started to walk a lot more often, well not that often as you may think, but we started to see each other a couple times a week. Never on the weekends or Friday nights though. That was a bit suspicious for me, but I didn't care, and I never complaint either. One of those days I went to her place and she was not there, but Veronica was, and like we had a lot in common, we started talking and kicking the time away. After a little while into our conversation she asked me if I wanted dinner, sure I said. Back then food for me was a precious thing, and I was always hungry. Before she started cooking she said to me, "I have something to tell you. Is nothing bad, so don't worry, but like you are from my hometown and I like you as a person, I'm going to share something with you about Ximena. Is nothing bad, so don't worry, but I'll tell you later, let me cook dinner first. While I'm cooking you could help me making my cooking more entertaining. Why don't you tell me a little bit more about yourself? Who are your friends over there in Arica? Maybe I know them."
Arica is so small that if you don't know somebody personally, at least you have seen them before. While she started cooking I started talking about people I knew back in Arica, and indeed there were more than a few people that we both knew very well. Like they say, "What a small world," she knew "Bam Bam"-the guy that pulled my arm and broke my clavicle, and others.
I have never been the kind of guy that talks a lot, but with her, conversation was something that flowed naturally. As she was almost done with her delicious homemade spaghettis dinner she said to me, "Ximena is not the kind of girl you want to fall in love with. I don't want to elaborate on that, because she is my friend, but to put it in a few words, "You only need to use a few words with those who are good at understanding." I moved my head up and down while eating my spaghettis, and I kind of smile, and that was it. We never touched the subject ever again. We ate that spaghetti in the kitchen, seated in a very small table, and as we were done and Ximena still didn't show up, she invited me upstairs. She needed to finish reading a book. The book was about 600 hundred pages long, and she needed to finish reading it, because that book was going to be the main subject in one of her finals. We went upstairs to their room, and she sat on her bed and started reading the book. I grabbed a magazine, and I started to look through the pages while seated in Ximena's bed. All of the sudden she said, would you like to have a joint? No thanks I said, I don't smoke pot, just cigarettes thanks. Do you mind if I do? Not at all! Go ahead I said. While she started rolling the joint I started telling her about the one time when I tried marijuana for the first time. "I was in an arcade playing my favorite game of all times Pinball machines, and a guy that I just knew from playing on that place, got close to me and asked me almost whispering, "Hey do you want a puff?" I hesitated but I didn't want to disappoint the group of guys I just met, so I went outside and I took a puff. Literally one short puff and I went back to playing my game. I was just about to beat the high score on that pinball machine, and I couldn't wait to get back to my game. After a couple of minutes after I smoke that puff, I really got into the game. Everything slowed down, and I could see the ball hitting the targets and going down turning the lights in a way I never have seen before. I could see the bright colors one by one, and I could hear every single sound and vibration coming out of that pinball machine with amazing details, but I couldn't play well at all. I started losing badly, and I started laughing at my stupidity. I couldn't stop laughing. That was my first time smoking pot. I was laughing so much that was contagious, and I had not laughed like that since puberty. I went to confess to her that I was afraid of messing with my brain, that's why I was reluctant to smoke, and at the same time because of my older brother Luis. I told her that my brother Luis had schizophrenia, and he had his first episode of schizophrenia, after the assassination of his best friend Carol, by the Pint-of-shit regime in 1973. As Veronica started paying attention to what I was saying, I started telling her about the first time I meet my brother's Luis friend Carol. The only memory I have from his friend Carol was a time when I was five years old, and they put me on a small Honda scooter 50ccs, and Carol and my brothers gave me instructions on how to drive the little motorcycle, but they forgot to tell me how to stop. I went for a ride around the block crossing a busy double lane avenue back and forth, and when I came back they were shouting at me, "Stop, stop" I told them, "I can't stop" They said to me, "Just slow down." Fortunately I did slow down enough where they were able to grab me, and take control of the little motorcycle. They never thought that I was going to be able to drive the scooter or maybe they thought that I was going to chicken out, but for their surprise, I prove them wrong. Later on I remember my older brothers getting in trouble because of that. A few neighbors told my mom Mercedes that they saw me crossing one of the busiest streets, very fast, on a small motorcycle, and all by myself. The neighbors told my mom Mercedes that I didn't stop at the stop sign, and they had to slam on the brakes otherwise they could've run me over. For me that ride was one of the best rides of my life, and for sure could've been the last one. I was just only five years old.
I could tell that Veronica was having fun listening to my stories while she was smoking that joint. For some reason it was easy for me to open up to her, and from being a really quiet person, with her, I started talking just like that. She smiled, chat with me for a bit, and she went back to read her book. I could tell she was a very fast reader by how fast she was turning the pages on the book. I could not believe my eyes. She was flying through that book. I guess practice makes perfect.
Ximena finally got home and she started talking with me for a few, but she needed to study as well for one of her finals, and she was tired, so I left soon after that.
Sometimes Ximena made me feel awkward, I could not tell in what kind of relationship I was with her, but whatever it was, it was okay with me.
In one of those few occasions that I visited Ximena's place, I remember meeting Veronica's boyfriend. His name was Sebastian Adrian, but they call him by his last name. The few times we saw each other, was surprising for me to realize how well we got along together, it seems at times like we have been friends for the longest time. The few times we hang around I remember having a nice conversation with him, and what I remember the most is how nice he was.
Not even a month after I started dating Ximena she was gone and everything went back to normal. After that little romance with her, I didn't know our relationship status or what kind of relationship that was, but one thing was for sure though, that short but exiting time with her, was a dream come true.
The only thing I have left of that time in my life, besides the thrill of having a dream come true, are a few poems that I wrote while missing her in my room. Out of that time the only thing I have left is one of the poems I wrote about what I was going through at the time, and that poem for some reason got stock in my mind.

Fountain pen that has betrayed my heart throughout an inaccurate translation,
a translation done by a brain that struggles to make senseof something that he cannot understand.
How can you pretend brain of mine, to put in words the mood of my essence?
The mood of my essence has taken decades to achieve such beautiful state.
The mood of my essence is a state only comparable to a wild flower blooming under the blue sky on a beautiful day of Spring.
The mood of my essence is like a flower thriving in the wild, full of life and completely unaware of its own beauty.

Fountain pen that has betrayed my heart
Stop your madness trying to put in words the essence of my soul.
Because there isn't enough ink in this world,
To accurately described the miracle of life blossoming in my heart.

Soon Ximena was gone, and I went back to my old routine. The time went by fast, and I struggled. It wasn't easy, but I did graduate from hi school. Thanks to my brother Ferdinand, my mom Nieves, and my mom Mercedes I did it. I was proud of myself, and I wish I could've stayed there in my hometown, but without a job and no money in my pockets, even if I really wanted to stay I couldn't. Like it or not one more time I had to leave my hometown. I had to go back to my mom's Mercedes house, and all considered I should consider myself lucky to have a place where to go. So after I received my high school diploma, back to Arica Vice I went.
Arica Vice was the name that a group of my friends and me come up to refer to the dark side of our town. That town that had so much drugs on the streets, and where in many places you could stop your car and had people showing you cocaine or paste cocaine by the grams in every window of the car. I knew every single one of those places, and I can't deny that I was in a way afraid to go back to Arica Vice, that other Arica that hides in plain view, but once again I had no choice.
The nickname Arica Vice was born among us the day that we were smoking paste, and we came up with money for more paste, but we had no transportation. The anguish for more paste was so big, that on the wee hours of the night we found nothing better to do than steal my father's car. It was my idea and as we were going to our rendezvous destination, we started playing a tape that had the theme song of Miami Vice-a very popular TV show at the time-and we played it over. Since then in memory of that unforgettable moment, we named the dark side of our city: Arica Vice. I have to mention that we pushed the car back to its parking place from half a block away, we left it exactly how it was, and without a scratch. Good thing nobody ever found out what happened that night. No one knew what happened that night except for the ones involved, otherwise I would've have my rear end kicked hard, and for a good reason I must add.