2.3 Isla de Los Varados
My mother belongs to Casadina, an island in the northern tip of the archipelago. She gave birth to her first daughter in 1960 and divorced that man who is from Los Varados. This daughter, I call Donna, lives in Fresco Town in a house she got from her father. My mom married my father in 1965 and I was born on 16th October in 1966. In the meantime, my parents lived in Safa in the ancestral house of Keré. Often my father is called Keré Manik in the cop shed where he works. Then when the top guys in the national guard got housing lots from Salt Waters, one top ranking officer insisted on my dad to interchange the lots. Salt Waters at that time was not a dream. Hence, he took my father’s original land and renamed it. My father entered Salt Waters and called his place Blue Heaven.
We lived here near Sunrise Villa, Sophie Nadz’s place, until my father divorced my mother and we moved to Futtaki by the other corner in 1973. I was the only child for my mom and dad. Every road and every house have a name but in recent time, Mayor Brando gave numbers and called them by Calles and Carreras but I wish to use some old forms of names.
In the 70’s my father was a caporal – a foreman – in the national guard with three stripes on his sleeves. I remember very well when I was seven one day, I saw my father in action supervising a task force whitewash the walls of the defence house.
After their divorce, mom lived a life of a beggar, literally, cleaning houses and sweeping walkways. One of the households she maintained was Sophie Nadz’s place, working for her parents in the ancestral house; not like the building by the corner facing the coastal road. Sophie Nadz told my mom that she detained me and undressed me for punishment.
What did he do?
He touched my breasts.
Sometimes, I helped her sweep the roadsides in the early dawns. I joined her to pick garbage. One day, I surprised my school buddies by arriving at the park on a big Raleigh bike to play football wearing a mackintosh in the blazing sun.
What happened to your shirt?
Mom washed it.
During this time, my mom told me that she had a dream about me. I asked and she described that a dark cloud covered the sky and villagers were out looking for me.
“What happened then?” I asked.
“Nothing!” she hesitated to say, “They dispersed when they saw you safe and sound with me.”
I hinted immediately that she was not telling the truth. She was hiding something.
My mother did not lose her charm. She married few years later to a third man from Los Varados and we moved to this new place called Ottadi. This Mister Ottadi wasn’t all that smooth with me. My stepfather would pull me out of the road. As soon as I got summoned into the house, I kicked my shoes, released the brakes and off I go back to the road.
He was raising seven kids and later my mother gave birth to two more children: a half-brother and a half-sister to me. In late 90’s, Lafya, my mother, divorced him and returned to Casadina. I was homeless but working in the tourist retreats. I left school at my age of seventeen. I left without completing school as a ninth grader. Twice I repeated Grade Seven and Grade Nine and hence at such a late age.
I lost my identity. I didn’t belong to Casadina or Los Varados so I enrolled in the Registrar of Citizens who claim born in Los Varados which was a bungled state mismanagement.
In 1999, I acquired a 1500 square feet old house in Safa on lease from a friend. I was able to make a living from letting small apartments which I modified from this old house while I kept a tiny cubicle for myself. My toilet was 3 x 6 square feet located in a footpath between the boundary wall and the house.
Last time I saw my father, some six years ago, I cut a corner on my motorbike avoiding a collision with a gold-plated car, or brown, and pitched off gripping on the throttle. Colonel Keré Manik slammed the brakes to bring it to a halt. Then realised it was his son. In other words, I realised it was my dad. He remains in service as a veteran holding the rank of a colonel.
I reached Rainbow Road and turned the corner at fast speed dragging a foot and collided with a pregnant woman who stumbled face down on the pavement. There were too many people on the road. A traffic jam, office-goers and others honking the horns. It was eight-thirty in the morning and the bloke who sold the dope had not got up. There could be a hundred of them who couldn’t break the fast. Among them, a couple of school kids and a peon on a mountain bike, a magistrate of a court and a cop in uniform, all flocked there. Nothing would kickstart a day without a piece.
I climbed down in my damp shorts, nylon white, horribly increased in the bulge and nude tones revealing. Those ladies dropped their gazes right on it and looked up into my eyes to grasp a better visage of my face. I was focused on a shortcoming to get my morning break. I did not give a damn about the Soleimani passers.
In a moment, there came the boss on a Kawasaki Ninja motorcycle and rather professionally brought law and order to the crowd. Lined up one by one on the road in a manner not to disturb the pedestrians. We were then passed in one after another through the gate. I purchased my piece and headed home. A tiny drop of heroin set the day in working order. Ninety percent of the society was drawn into drugs.
I returned to my room, two blocks from Rainbow Road. This cubicle accessed through a narrow passage by the gate, three feet wide, under the gutter and water often poured from the ceiling when it rained. A tiny glass-fitted door that stood jammed between the toilet and the wall led to this chamber, 8 x 10 square feet, with a single bed. A 21” CRT television set hang on a wall mount. It was hot and an overheated ceiling fan continued to buzz above. The walls and insulation boxes stained with nicotine and dirty pillows.
I care not to close the door and normally nobody pops up at the door. I dropped heroin on foil and drew a shot. That breaks the dawn of the day.
This was an old single-storey stone house, well plastered, that stood by the corner of Kala Hara Lane and Kamana Boulevard. Main section of the house stood deep with an entryway facing the gate. And the former lawn on the east where I erected a single room apartment, leased to a guy with a bird nest. This young bloke from south slept with half a dozen girls in the room. I was renovating the main section of the house. A large bedroom, a small bathroom and a sitting with a kitchenette. Sabo proposed a relative to his wife to have this new apartment on rent and that was few days ago. I told him that I would collect five thousand bucks as a security deposit though it was not a condition imposed upon him when he rented.
I managed a small saving after paying the rent of the house by keeping these two apartments. Right next to my cubicle, there stood another tiny cubicle, 8 x 10 sq ft again, where I placed a table and a computer, did my cooking and laundry.
Land became scarce in the city, lots divided and tiny cubicles accommodated large families on high rent. In former glory, these lots were generous gardens in front of their ancestral houses. A practice of dividing the lots to their sons and daughters over the generations brought chaos and disorder. At present day, there was no way to reorder the mess. It was messy inside every block.
This compactly populated City of Azul claims an area of two square miles and accommodated a hundred thousand people and doubled by migrants. Now people resort to a solution of high-rise houses and construction of such nature took place at rapid pace and massive scale around the island.
Forty years he said correctly. I am still single and I have not thought of life seriously. Sometimes I wonder if life was worth living it.