Abuelita loved telling chistes colorados, especially the one about the parrot that Dona, a churchgoer, bought from a pirate. Dona taught it church hymns and invited a few parishioners over to show off her talented pet. A guest sat down and the parrot saw her underpants. It salaciously reported the event. A horrified Dona jumped out her seat and whacked the parrot across its head. The dizzy parrot repeated that it saw many red panties. By this point, Abuelita laughed so hard that she’d rush to the bathroom to avoid an accident, and we, her grandchildren, would be in stitches.
Dora, pale and small, rose slowly. She clenched her fists and opened her mouth wide. All the pent up, hurtful words that had festered within for years rushed out. At first they buzzed like annoying moths but quickly intensified to a feverish pitch. The louder and meaner the words, the rosier her cheeks became so much so that her face turned beet red. Holding back words had taken up too much energy and depleted Dora’s stamina. Now the words flew. They zinged. They screamed. They would not be kept in darkness any longer. Their ferocity, however, made everyone’s ears bleed.
My Dad recently found his two diplomas. The first one was for grade school and the second at completion of ninth grade. He was the first of his siblings to finish middle school. It was expected for boys to quit school after sixth grade, but he wanted more for himself. He begged his parents to remain in school and in turn worked the fields evenings and summers picking off wireworm from tobacco plants. Then, the middle school graduate went off to San Juan seeking fortunes. The newfound diplomas brought a huge smile on his face reflecting a life well lived.
“You’ve always been my superstar,” the woman whispered, then turned on her heels the way she had learned at modeling school so long ago. Except that instead of strutting with pizzazz and purpose, she dragged her feet. She stood in front of the nurse’s station and stumbled over her words. Something about she’s gone. The nurse pressed the bereaved woman’s arm with sympathy, but she didn’t feel the soothing touch. Instead, she collapsed onto the ground as if her legs had been whacked from under. I watched the crumpled form bawling and realized the sounds emanated from my strained throat.