Thursday, June 29, 2017

Dead butterflies in Mexico


Continued from Breaking Mennonite

I hadn't slept yet when it was time to get up and help mom put the Christmas gifts into the bowls for my siblings who were all sound asleep. I tiptoed my way to the kitchen in the dark. I turned up the flame of the oil lamp and went right to work helping mom disperse roasted peanuts, oranges, candy bars, and store bought cookies equally into each bowl.

My sisters all got a new pleated dress, and my brothers all got a pair of slobbaxen (overalls) that mom had sewn for them. My younger brothers got a small toy. Everyone got a box of sparklers, a coloring book, and crayons. My older sisters got a set of dishes, and my older brothers got a set of tools. I got material for a dress, a coloring book, and as many peanuts, candy bars, oranges as I wanted.

After we had finished, I said good night to mom and quietly made my way back to bed. It seemed like I had just fallen asleep when my little sister jumped up and shouted, “Wak opp wak oop de nikolaus es jekomen. (Wake up wake up, Santa came.)”

Before the kids were allowed into the kitchen, my sister, Sara made a fire in the wood stove and put the kettle on it to heat water for coffee. I sat by the wood fire stove and watched my sibling look at what they had gotten from Santa. Observing their excitement and the lingering smoky smell from the wood-burning in the stove in the kitchen, overwhelmed me with acute nostalgia for the time when that was me.

While it was still dark outside, I joined my siblings outside and watched them light their sparklers. When they ran out of sparklers, we all went back inside and sat around the stove to eat the peanuts, oranges, and cookies we got from Santa. My three older brothers slept through the whole thing. They didn’t care about Santa's gifts enough to get up at the crack of dawn to see what thy had received.

The neighbor's kids came to see what my siblings had gotten from Santa. Sara and I made our beds tidied up and swept the floors in the bedrooms. Mom left Agatha, Sara, and I in charge of our younger siblings, clearing the kitchen table and setting it for lunch while she and dad went to church to join other community members to sing even though there were no ministers to preach a sermon.

When my parents come home from church, I was surrounded by my whole family again except my oldest sister who was married. There wasn’t an empty spot at the table, Uncle Jake joined us and filled the empty spot that my sister Susan would have filled. It had been a long time since I sat around a table with 14 people. A thought crossed my mind, “This right here could be the very reason why I have eating problems.”

In the midst of all the noise, I had an oh no! moment, when I was able to connect some dots in my mind. I remembered George’s words from the New Years Eve party the year before, about my ‘sexy dress.’ “How can you simply change something that has been part of you your entire life, just like that?”

As much as I enjoyed the time with my family, remembering George made me miss him so much that the butterflies in my stomach a moment ago, suffocated. I began to wrap my head around the idea that I might be torn between two worlds, but I didn’t know what that meant or what I would do with that information. As the day went on, my torn feelings got worse as the grandfather clock loudly ticked away the seconds, minute and hours. 

My younger siblings went with my parents to a gathering on my mom's side of the family. My older brothers got picked up by their friends and went to the mountains, or at least that’s what they told us. My sisters, Agatha and Sara, went with their group of friends to sit under the same hopeless tree I sat under when I was young and part of a youth group. Only that tree didn’t seem as hopeless anymore. Now that the colony members were driving motorized vehicles, the tree was surrounded by many pickup trucks full of youth from colonies all around Nuevo Ideal. The tree itself looked happier than it did back when I was its company.

Mom tried as many ways to group Low German words together she could to convince me to come to the gathering with them, but for many reasons, I declined. Most of my cousins that were my age were married or lived in some other part of the world. Based on what I had heard and how I was treated by some of my aunts, I took it upon myself to decide that all of my aunts and uncles would object the idea of my company around their impressionable young daughters. I might corrupt their innocent minds with ideas that I had learned from that tattooed, long-haired shweenagel I had been hanging out with in
Canada. I thought to myself, “I know George. This too, I have no control over. Thanks for reminding me!”

And just like that, there I was in the same situation as I was in the first time I went to the job finding club. I sat on those stairs outside the library watching people rushing around as it seemed everyone else knew where they were going and what they were doing, except me.

I sat in the kitchen where a moment ago I had felt like I belonged, alone, because I didn’t belong. I was torn between two worlds, not fully belonging to, and the tick-tocking sound of the clock was pressuring me to figure it all out, to make up my mind about which world I wanted to be part of for the rest of my life. I felt like I had to make a decision, this or that. It couldn’t be both.

While I thought, “Should I stay here and do this for the rest of my life? Or say goodbye when I go back to Canada and never look back?” I felt my suffocated butterflies making their way up my throat. They had died because of this sickening feeling, and now they too had no place in my stomach anymore. I ran outside and threw up.

I went back inside, grabbed my toothbrush and a cup of water, went back outside and brushed my teeth in hopes of washing away the bitter taste I had in my mouth. As I spat the water out, I felt the warmth of the sun on my back. It felt like the Mexican sun was hugging and comforting me during my time of lonely sorrow. When I brought my toothbrush back inside, I grabbed the magazine that I had tried to read in the dark the night before and went back outside.

My parents had an old buggy seat with a Mexican serape over it under a tree in front of their house. I slid the buggy seat into the sun, sat down on it and read all about Tom Berenger in an article about the film One Man’s Hero. I studied Tom’s face in the photo and thought, “Now he’s a good looking man, but I wish I could see his teeth in this photo.”

I decided to accept and embrace the warmth of the Mexican sun. I lay down on the buggy seat and placed the magazine over my face. And a warm, gentle wind hugged and lulled me while the calm water rocked me toward Posen Land again. The smell the geraniums drifted over me on the warm breeze while the crows glided in circles in the clear blue sky above, watching over me. Before I reached my destination, I heard a deep familiar voice saying words I had heard spoken to me not long ago, “Despierta Anita, despierta! (Wake up Anna, wake up!)”

“No dejes que el sol quema tu hermosa piel. (don't let the sun burn your beautiful skin.)”

I opened my eyes, and there he was, the same cowboy that was on the bus, on his knees waking me up again. I was confused about where I was and jumped up to a seating position.

Lo siento, no quise sorprenderte. (Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you.)”

No, no, está bien. (No, no that's okay,)” I replied as I rubbed my eyes.

Vine a hablar con tu hermano Patas, ¿está en casa? (I came over to speak with your brother Patas, is he home?)”

No, no esta. (No, he’s not home.)”

Bueno, me alegro de haber venido porque creo que acabo de salvar tu piel de ser quemada por el sol. (Okay, I'm glad I came over because I think I just saved your skin from badly getting burnt by the sun.)”

I tilted my head and giggled as I searched through the language files of my memory for the right words. But I couldn’t find any appropriate words to say back to him. It was a familiar experience that I had lived through, many times before. An attractive man was being nice and saying nice words to me, but I couldn’t respond the way I wanted to because I didn’t speak his language fluently enough. And he too knew and handled the awkward situation perfectly by continuing the conversation with smaller words.

¿Cómo estás? (How are you?)”

I wasn’t going to say I was fine just because those words were easier to say in any language when I wasn’t fine, so I said what I always said to George, “No estoy seguro. (I'm not sure.)”

“Okay, Anita, it’s my turn to speak your language or one of then anyways. Please don’t laugh at me. I try to speak English to you,” he replied.

“Okay.”

“Okay Anita, tell me, why are you here alone on Christmas day? But I think I know the answer to that question and knowing that que lastima me da (it hurts me,)” he said and made eye contact.

I quickly dropped my head down and looked at his shiny ostrich skin cowboy boots as I mumbled, “What? But why? Why does that hurt you?”

“Because I just so badly want to take you out and show you the many beautiful places in Mexico that I imagine you have never seen. But I know, I would get in big trouble and then you would get in big trouble.”

“You want to take me out?”

Muchísimo. (Yes very much.)”

Too embarrassed to make eye contact, I just stared at his perfectly smooth olive skin peeking through the color of his plaid shirt as I worked up the nerve to ask, “Where would you take me?”

“The coleadera (rodeo.)”

“That would be really nice, but you're right, that would cause nothing but problems for me.”

Entonces, ¿qué hacemos? (Then what do we do?)”

The left side of my brain where my human desires and dark vocabulary were neatly tucked away surfaced and thought, “F#ck this shit! I really want to experience going out with this incredibly handsome cowboy!” But the right side of my brain said, “Just fight that urge, Anna! And stay put to keep the peace in your family.”

To shut down that voice on the left side of my brain, I knew that I had to change the subject and answered, “I wish I knew.” Then I asked, “So, where did you learn to speak English?”

Pues en Los Estados Unidos. (Well, in the United States.)”

“How do you know my brother Patas?”

“Patas fixed my truck, and ever since, we have been friends.”

“Okay, I think my brothers and uncle Jake are at that coleadera you know. ”

“Yes, I kinda did.”

“You did?”

“Yes, okay Anita, I have a confession to make. I didn’t come here to see Patas. I came here to see you.”

I blushed and didn’t know what to say.

“Would you like a drink? I’m going to make us a drink,” he said and walked to his truck.

“Okay,” I answered as I felt a butterfly come back to life in my stomach.

“Have you ever had a Vampiro Desdentado?”

“What?”

“A toothless vampire, it’s a drink without alcohol.”

“No, I have never had one of those, but okay, I’ll try one.”

He pulled out a cooler from the back seat of his pickup, brought it up to the buggy seat, sat down beside me and mixed drinks. He handed me the drink, turned to look at me, held his drink up and said, “Salud.”

I smiled and said, “Salud,” back and took a sip of the drink. It was satisfyingly cold bubbly and refreshing. It was a perfect savory-sweet blend with the hint of spice in the salty rim around the cup. It was perfect.

“How is it, do you like it?” he asked.

“It's perfect. Thank you.” Click here to continue reading my story.


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