Friday, January 7, 2011

CHAPTER TWENTY: Señora Comes, Singing in the Key of Eternity!


September 29 Old Vallejo Jail


Oh Teresa, how can I explain what happened here, this miracle last night?

I felt myself waking during the night, the light was murky in the cell, and there she was --

I am writing this in my journal, I am writing this all down to ensure that it really did happen, I swear it did, I swear that my eyes came open, and the light in the cell was greenish white, but there above me, I swear it was Señora right there, standing above me. I gasped and was overwhelmed by the smell of the fresh roses. "Mi'ja," she whispered, and there in her arms was a giant bouquet of the most magnificent yellow roses I have ever seen. Each of them is tipped in red, as if they have lips!

“Si, si, mi’ja, for you," she whispered. I sat up and she laid them in my lap.
I don't think I ever felt happy the way I did sitting there with the roses in my lap.
"But how did you...how did you get in?"
She shrugged and looked up at me with the most beautiful mystery in her brown face.
Without another word, she opened the basket she was carrying and brought out a fresh loaf of bread, and a hunk of cheese, and two fresh apples.
"Espero que tu tengas hambre," she said, and I laughed, happily. Me, hungry? Of course, and especially now, here in the cell.
I felt happier even than before.
She sliced the apple -- "but how did you get a knife by the jailer I cried?" -- but she eyed me and continued in silence. I watched her, recalling all the meals she fixed for Antonie and me when we were children.
When she and I finished our snack, she picked up the guitar and sat here beside me on the bench and took me so many years back to the music she used to play for me, including those sad old tientos when I first arrived at Antonie's hacienda as a child.
Her lips part. Her cheeks wobble ever so slightly as she begins humming and then I am singing the words I heard at her knee as a child:
"What kind of bird is that
Singing in the olive tree?
Go tell it to be still,
Its song makes me so sad!"
And then she switches to one that is so much sadder, a siguiriya:
"A la luna le pio
la del alto cielo
come le pio que saque a mi pare
de onde está preso."
I implore the moon
up there in the sky,
Implore it to help my father
Escape from his prison cell.
I am crying now. I don't know how she got here, but I know how much I want her to stay.
Now she sees my tears and changes gear. Now he is singing a gay and witty sort of palo which has a never ending number of poetic verses.
She sings:
Just imagine. What I. Did. Just imagine. Where I fled to.
Only the stars can tell you. Only the sky can guess.
So now sit down and I will try to tell you.
You will see it all come clear.
When the water goes still as a mirror,
And we peer inside.
Do you see now, why I appeared here?
Do you see now, why you must
Tell the world my story? Yes, tell the world
Just sing it, shout it out,
how we turned the past. Together,
We moved her story, Renata’s,
and his false history, Antonie’s,
Around.
She is just about to start into a second verse when there is commotion in the hallway. The jailer is screaming it seems and all of a sudden the outside door to the prison swings open.
It is Antonie. And he looks just terrible. His normally long black wavy hair has been chopped off. In spikes. Wet and matted. His eyes are dark and empty. And he has lost a lot of weight. Her black pants are baggy.
But now, now how DID I MISS THIS HE HE IS HE IS BLEEDING AT THE NECK, his throat is gashed, Dear God, his head, his head is hanging, his head is
swinginggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg back and forth
And then, blink, he is gone and Señora is holding the guitar and singing softly to me here again, she sings the carcelera, again, and again, she sings:
"Ya van tres días que no como
má que lágrimas y pan:
estos son los alimentos
que mis carceleros me dan."
I lay my head in her lap. Señora tells me to sleep and she gently rubs my back. She keeps singing and singing, and as I fall asleep, I think, she will sing into eternity.
I wake up and my cheek is resting on the sleek curve of the guitar's body. Suddenly, I smell roses.
When I open my eyes, Teresa, as God is my witness, there was a single rose -- yellow with bloody red tips -- on the floor beside the door to the cell.

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