Continued from Moonlight misery
Near the end of the song, when fireworks began lighting up the sky above us, El Guero looked at his watch and said, “Okay, Anna it’s time for the countdown.”
He put his arm around my waist and walked me back to the crowd at the campfire, where I met up with Paula and Alexandra.
I stood back and watched as everyone counted down the seconds to the new year. Cheering, clinking glasses, and shouting of Feliz Año Nuevo echoed through the banging of the fireworks around the campfire.
I stayed behind with Paula and Alexandra while the men went to the back of the property with their guns to shoot away the old year.
I wanted to know why the men were shooting up in the air, but Paula and Alexandra were more interested in learning how to say Happy New Year in Low German. I practiced with them a few times and explained why ‘Freelich Niejoa’ sounded so unnatural. It just didn’t roll off the tongue like Happy New Year and Feliz Año Nuevo. I explained that it might be because we never said Happy New Year to each other in Low German. Other than the church service in the morning, New Year’s wasn’t that big of a deal in the colony.
We made our way back to the bar, where Paula mixed us drinks.
“Paula, why aren't there more women here?” I asked.
“The dance in Nuevo Ideal, that’s where all the women are tonight.”
“Okay,” I answered.
I took a sip of my drink, trying really hard to keep a smile on my face, but it was becoming difficult work, knowing how far away from the colony I was.
When the gunshot sounds stopped, the men came back to the bar for drinks. I went straight to my brother and said, “It's time to go home.”
“Okay, just let me go grab my jacket,” he replied.
As I said, “Okay, I’ll wait here,” I heard a familiar voice behind me. “Happy New Year, Anna.” It was my friend Javier.
“Hey! Happy New Year! Are you having a good time? It sounds like you missed a good dance in Nuevo Ideal,” I said.
“Yes, I am. I still plan on going to the dance. It’s going on all night; you wanna come?”
“No, sorry, I have to go home.”
“Okay, did you have a good time tonight?”
“Yes, well, most of the night. This is all kind of strange to me.”
“I bet it is,” he said as my brother came back.
“Ready?” my brother asked.
“What, you are leaving?” asked El Guero as he approached us.
“Yes, we have to head back to the colony,” explained my brother.
“Okay, but can I steal your sister for a bit before you go?” El Guero asked my brother.
“Claro que si carnal.” (Yes, of course.)”
“Let’s go for a walk,” El Guero suggested.
We walked along the laneway toward the entrance gate.
“I’m sad that you are leaving, Anna.”
“Me too, but I have to get back to the colony. I can feel how worried my mom is right now.”
“Okay, yes, I understand. Could I see you again, maybe tomorrow, or I mean later today?”
“Maybe. Won't you be sleeping?” I asked, and we both laughed.
“Maybe a little. How about I come to Hamburgo?”
“I’m not sure if that’s a good idea. I don’t know what my family will be doing later today.”
“Okay, how about I drive by and see.”
“Do your parents know that you are here?”
“Yes, but they think I'm just having dinner with Paula.”
“I know! By now they must be thinking that we are eating a whole cow,” I said, and he laughed.
“Bueno pues (well then), let 's get you home,” he said.
We turned around and walked back to meet my brother at the pickup. El Guero opened the door, helped me up, and closed the door. He walked around to the driver’s side and spoke to my brother before we left.
On the way home, my brother turned up his favorite tunes by Ramon Ayala. I was glad, because I didn’t know what I wanted to talk to him about. I was happy just listening to music while looking out at the moonlit desert as he drove back to the colony.
My brother turned off the music when he turned onto the dirt road entering the colony, and turned off the headlights as he slowly drove onto our driveway. We carefully pushed the doors closed on the pickup, so we wouldn’t wake our parents.
My heart pounded out of my chest as we snuck in on our tippy toes. The kitchen was dimly lit by a twinkling oil lamp. Just as I thought we had successfully snuck in without notice, dad asked, “Wea kampt nu? (Who’s coming now?)”
John and I both instantly froze in our tracks. I held my breath until John answered, “Ekj and Onn.”
“Fuatz schlopen gon! (Go to sleep this instant!)” yelled Dad.
“Nah jo we woaren (Okay, we will),” answered John.
The next morning I woke up to the smell of Pine Sol and my little sister playing with my hair. Everyone else was up, mom and dad had gone to church. Sara and Agatha were washing the floors and prepping for lunch.
I quickly got up; Maria helped me make the bed. I washed my face, combed my hair, and put it in a bun. My sisters stopped working and sat down beside me at the table while I had a coffee and a piece of banana cream pie for breakfast.
“What are the plans for today after lunch?” I asked.
“We are going to a far away lake with our aunts and uncles to have a fish fry. You should come too.” Explained Maria. “Can you swim?” she asked.
“No, I can’t swim. Can you?”
“No, but I want to learn,” she answered.
“Are you girls going with?” I asked Agatha and Sara.
“No, we are going to the mountains with our friends,” said Agatha.
“Okay, I think I will just stay home,” I said as mom walked in. I didn’t make eye contact with her. She went straight to her room and changed out of her church clothes. My sisters and I began setting the table for lunch.
I was relieved that Uncle Jake joined us for lunch. It was a good distraction. Dad didn’t say much, as usual. Mom was very disappointed; I could feel it. She just hadn't had an opportunity to tell me.
While cleaning up after lunch, mom offered that I could come to the lake if I wanted to, but I said, “No, I don’t mind having a quiet afternoon to myself.”
After everyone left, I went outside. I sat down on the buggy seat and embraced the warmth of the sun hugging my skin. It was a perfectly still, beautiful, clear, sunny afternoon. I couldn’t stop thinking about the experience I had had the night before. I was exhausted. It felt like I had experienced a whole month of emotions all in one night. I was still processing it and not sure what to do with all of it or how to find my place in it.
I went back inside and lay down on my sister’s perfectly made bed. I tried hard to push everything else out of my mind and just focus on how much more attractive El Guero had gotten after spending all that time with him. But my thoughts just couldn’t leave me with that. I dozed off, and had an out-of-body experience similar to the one I had when I learned that I had to have a SIN card to open a bank account in Canada. And Aaron Newdorf was the man who was suffocating me.
I heard voices and footsteps. “It's El Guero! No, it’s Aaron! It’s El Guero! No, it’s Aaron!” My thoughts went back and forth, but I couldn’t move.
A loud knock at the door startled me enough to jolt me awake. I sat there thinking that it was all a dream, but then I heard another knock at the door. I slowly made my way to the door on my tippy toes, fearing that I would see Aaron Neudorf's face. But when I got closer to the door, I saw the Beuckert sisters standing there giggling.
I opened the door. They were so happy to see me. “Anna, wot shofst? Wes guecht mat uns makoom up de goos supen? (Anna, what are you doing, don’t you want to come and join us on the street and drink?) ”
“Ahhh…Um… I would like to, but what will people think?” I asked.
“Nobody cares. We are the only two girls in Hamburg today; everyone else went to the mountains.”
“What? Why didn’t you go?”
“We are too old. We don’t fit in with the younger crowd.”
“But where are all your friends?”
“They all went to the mountains with their boyfriends.”
“Oh, okay, I get it, you know what? I will! Just let me change into my other dress.”
While I changed into one of my pleated Sunday dresses that I had left behind, I thought, “If El Guero actually comes to the colony to visit me, he won't recognize me dressed like this,” followed by, “He's not going to come anyway.”
As we walked to that tree where we had made so many memories, I had to fight back the tears, as it felt like I had woken up from the longest dream. It felt like everything that I had lived was not real. At that moment, I happily drank the drink Helena had poured me. It was mescal mixed with coke, and it was about half and half. I instantly felt the warmth travel through my veins. It was a pleasant, numbing feeling. It helped ease the thought in the back of my mind that Aaron Neudorf could show up at any time. I was mentally preparing myself to face him again, knowing that he was probably triple pissed off at me. In the colony, I had no one by my side defending me against him. In Canada, I had a ‘schwenagel’ protecting me, and outside of the colony in Mexico, I had a ‘narco’ protecting me.
I wanted so badly to share that with those girls, but I couldn’t risk it. I thought that they might see it as me trying to poison their minds against the Mennonite way. I didn’t want to chance it, especially after thinking that I would never see them again when I left for Canada. I grew fonder of those girls by the minute; not only did they share their mescal with me, they also shared their sunflower seeds. It eased some of the guilt I felt for leaving them behind.
I smiled so much, knowing very well that I was lucky to have that experience with those girls one more time. I wondered what they would say, or if they would still speak to me if they knew where I had been the night before. I knew full well that it would be impossible to put my experience into Low German words.
Since they had been part of the ‘watermelon seed’ crises we experienced during our youth, I thought I would test the waters a little to see what might happen if I brought up another taboo subject. Even though we had matured in different areas since then, I thought if my ideas were too far out of the colony, I could still write it off as silly talk.
I felt my face turning beet red and my heart pounding out of my chest as I asked, “Since there aren't many men left in our colony that are our age, would you girls ever date a Mexa (a Mexican)?”
“Noooo!” they both answered.
“Well, some of them look very nice and all, but what’s the point? We can’t marry a Mexa anyway.”
“Yeah, I know. But what if you just did?”
“Oh, Anna, don’t you know? We don’t mix!”
“Yeah, I know, but what would be so bad about mixing?”
“Aside from it being the biggest sin we could commit, we wouldn’t be able to live here in the darp (Mennonite village,) and we heard that when a Dietsch woman receives the seed of a Mexa, she pays for her sin during childbirth, and she could die. It happened to a Dietsch woman while you were in Canada; she suffered the worst horror any woman has ever experienced during childbirth. She almost died,” they explained.
|photo credit to Plautdietsch Lowgerman|