|You Can’t Pick Up Raindrops (page 2)|
You Can’t Pick Up Raindrops
Aurora, way less than five feet tall and plump, her long, fly-away, black-dyed hair with silver streaks tied back in a fat bun, looks up at us through her dark, brown-eyed years and her sun-baked wrinkles. She says seriously, “I have to speak to you, Juan and Roberto. Cirilito’s baby girl died in the hospital after six days of something the doctor calls colerín. He and his wife, Dulce, you know, la gordita, want a picture before they bury her.” Cirilito and Dulce are Manny’s parents.
“Dulce wants the picture to remember her by; they have none. They lost two other children and don’t have pictures of them. Cirilito knows that you have a camera and asked me to talk to you.”
Bob doesn’t want to do it and, being a philosopher, nervously comes up with all sorts of theoretical cross-cultural excuses not to go. I briefly tell Bob the story of Rosemary Clare and my mother. “They need this picture, Bob.” Yet, despite what I say, I feel strange also.
He relents and comes with me past Aurora’s house where women are sewing and gossiping on a covered palm-thatch back patio. We wind our way down a twisting, narrow dirt path through a plantain patch, past running, squawking chickens and grazing goats, around big old mango trees, and through stands of coffee and orange trees. Chucho Fernández, squatting in an opening by the side of the path readying his rooster for the cockfights, waves with a toothy smile. At the tobacco drying sheds, Ramón and Eusebio look up from threading long needles through tobacco leaves ready to hang up to dry. Bob moves slowly along with his elevated bouncing and loping stride. At times he drags his feet, plough-like, not really sure that he should be coming.
Arriving at the house, we are greeted by the family. Cirilito and Dulce have eight children, ranging from about three to seventeen years old. There are five boys, Manny, Miguelito, Juan, Flavio and Mauricio, and three girls. Adela, the oldest child, is always giggling. She has a crush on Bob because of his blonde hair, blue eyes and six-foot plus height. The other two girls, like their mother Dulce, are so shy I don’t yet know their names. Cirilito and Dulce are dressed up, not city dressed up, but in their best freshly washed and ironed farm clothes, the ones they wear to church.
Cirilito struggles day and night to support his family. Despite arthritic hands and arms, he works with his machete in his small fields, planting, weeding, harvesting or taking his few bony cattle from one grassy area to another. How can he support his family of eight children in Puñal? I admire the way that he and his older sons work together to provide for the family. He is a leader in the local country church, organizing the frequent religious processions that wind ceremoniously through the fields and pathways of the community.
Sadness fills his greenish-gray eyes and long, narrow sun-creased face. He, like his father, old Cirilo, has the residual hawkish nose and high leathery cheekbones of pre-Spanish Hispaniola. Taller than most of the men in the area, he moves about with a determined walk, doing what has to be done.
He speaks to me briefly. My Spanish is getting better as I become more involved. However, the feelings coming out of his heart can’t really be translated into English.
“Juan, please understand that this is not for me so much as for Dulce. Our baby is beautiful, isn’t she? Look at her blond hair and blue eyes. She will be the most beautiful little angel in heaven don’t you think?”
The baby, eight months old, rests in a small white wooden coffin, dressed in her christening gown. Surprisingly, she has pale white skin, blonde hair and blue eyes. I have sometimes seen such eyes in the area, probably old northern Spanish blood. Some of Cirilito and Dulce’s other children also have light colored eyes.
It seems as if death is not present. There is a lot of activity as kids run about, chasing each other and shouting.
Dizziness sets in on me while we sit there in the dark interior of the wood-slat house with its woven palm frond roof and small windows and low doorways. It is mid-morning, yet the faces around me are dark except for the high points. I suddenly remember another dark room from long ago.
There are too many people in here at one time; it’s oppressive and gloomy, I say to myself. Bob is getting to be quite restless; his feet kept twitching as he sits in the chair, ready to jump up and run off with a quick goodbye.