Hola mi gente,
“Happy Holidays!” for those who don’t. J
The following is fiction. It is based on actual events and is the foundation for one of the stories in my book of short stories I’ll never finish tentatively titled Ataques de Nervios (Nervous Attacks) or 704 E. 5th St. (or some shit like that). However, I have taken huge liberties with parts of the story, the characters, and time line.
Moral indignation is jealousy with a halo.
— H.G. Wells, The Wife of Sir Isaac Harman
It’s so cold she can’t feel her feet. She’s wearing slippers in the midst of a raging Nor’easter. She’s afraid and her threadbare coat can’t protect her from the 40-50 mile per hour winds. It’s the night before Noche Buena and she’s alone, keeping vigil outside a home in a white section of lower Manhattan, but she’s here because her kids are in need… there’s no one around and she despairs. Her hands are numb from the cold and her feet ache.
It seemed as if it were hours ago when ‘Galo left with Gangster with instructions that if she saw anyone, she should whistle. In actuality, only minutes have passed. Now she wonders if she can whistle, her face is frozen, and they’ve been gone so long. What if the police come?
Finally, they come rushing out the building with stuffed pillowcases and as she starts to run with them she falls, she can’t feel her toes. Gangster and ‘Galo pick her up and they make their way hurriedly back to the Puerto Rican section of the Lower East Side, which takes too long and she’s crying, she’s in agony. ‘Galo stops to look at her feet and mutters, “Shit!” under his breath.
They hurry home.
They finally get home and by then, she’s crying in agony. ‘Galo takes off the slippers and thinks she has frostbite. She weeps, but tries to stifle her cries, fearful she’ll awaken the children. Unbeknownst to them, her oldest son, all of five-years-old, watches through a crack in the bedroom doorway. He’s afraid.
They call ‘Galo’s sister, who takes one look at the stuffed pillowcases and looks down at the young mother, as if noting her lack of moral standing. What kind of mother are you? Her looks seems to say. ‘Galo asks her to look at her feet and the sister says it’s not frostbite, but that she should go to the emergency room anyway. The young mother refuses, afraid. Afraid of the consequences of the act she just helped commit and afraid of what they may say about her toes that throb with a dull pain now.
They give ‘Galo’s sister a gold watch from the stolen loot, and she’s delighted. It’s an expensive watch, very pretty. She gives the young mother another look condemnation and admonishes her for behaving in such an un-Christian manner. The young mother says nothing and thanks her for looking after the children.
That Christmas was a good Christmas, or at least the children thought so. There was food, there were gifts under the tree, and the young mother seemed so happy though her children asked when they noticed that she limped a little when she walked. She had a brand new pair of boots, the only concession she made for the oldest will always remember the James Bond attaché case, complete with gadgets and it even shot rubber bullets if you pressed a hidden button. He also got a chemistry set that he used for hours upon hours… She made sure her children got our gifts before ‘Galo and Gangster would leave with the bulk of the loot, returning only when the money was spent on drugs. She didn’t even get herself a decent coat. However, her children got warm coats, gloves, scarves, and long underwear.
Her son never knew why she was crying that wintry night all those years ago. He thought they were fighting. But he was not surprised at her sacrifice — the choices she made so that she could make sure her children were and had what they needed. Somehow she always made it right, even if it meant compromising her values or her reputation. She didn’t care, only her children mattered. Still, she was ashamed and part of the reason why her children had perfect posture is because she taught them to walk tall, with their heads held high. It was the last bastion against the shame — that she made certain her children would walk proudly.
Most importantly, she taught them what really matters.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…
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