My mother and my uncle’s wife pretended to like each other. But they were so terrible at hiding their mutual loathing, that I never understood why they didn’t stop the farce and tell each other to go to hell. Or, at least, they should’ve had the decency to slap each other around until their ill-camouflaged glares bled some meaning into the world.
We traveled to the city to visit with my aunt and uncle every year. I had a love-hate relationship with the trip. My uncle was a fun military man, who always had a story for me. I was in awe of him and his white uniform. But his wife annoyed me. I wasn’t crazy about the fact that she would make my mother and I sleep on a plastic-covered couch in the living room. I wouldn’t have minded the floor. But she always said that she was afraid that “the kid would pee” on her carpet. The kid was almost a prepubescent!
The last time we visited my aunt and uncle was a somber affair for almost everyone involved. Except for me, I was a bundle of jolliness—my uncle was in the hospital, so I would get to spend some time with him without having to sleep on his wife’s horrid couch.
All the happiness was ripped out of my heart, when we got to the hospital and a doctor told me that I could not stand too close to my uncle. “He is very sick,” she said to my mother. “And her allergies,” I had a skin disease that blessed me with a childhood covered in oozing sores… I have no idea why they called it allergies, “her allergies make her vulnerable.”
“But… can I talk to him?” I began to cry. Not because of what the doctor said, but because my mother was trying to hide sobs behind her hands—few things are scarier to a kid than the sight of a grown up crying. “He’s supposed to tell me about the time he ate his boots.” All of my uncle’s stories were like that.
“You can speak to him from the side of the bed, okay?” The doctor squeezed my shoulder. I looked at the floor and bit my lip, so that she wouldn’t notice that she had just touched a particularly angry sore.
In front of my uncle’s hospital room, my mother helped me put on gloves and a facemask. “Don’t bother him,” she told me. “He can’t talk too much. You’ll say goodbye and wait for me outside.”
I didn’t say anything, just followed her into the room, and almost retched when the hot and thick scent of decay ripped through my nose and gut.
My uncle’s wife sat in a metal chair by the door, her arms crossed, her eyes red. She stood up to kiss my mother on the cheek. They began a whispered argument, and I walked closer to my uncle’s tiny bed.
His face was yellowish and swollen. “Tío?” I said, but his eyes remained closed as tightly as his cracked lips. I leaned on the mattress, and whispered a little louder, “Tío, are you awake?”
I’m not exactly sure what happened next. But my mother was dragging me out of the room. I couldn’t breathe. And my breakfast had hurled itself from my stomach to the front of my dress.
The bus trip home was a confused dream, a nightmare that wouldn’t be fooled by open eyes. I didn’t talk to my mother. She hadn’t spoken to me when she helped clean my dress. But through the stink-soaked veil of my nightmare world, my ears heard my mother tell another passenger about maggots eating my uncle’s back, and about how “The bitch that tricked him into marrying her was to blame for the rot.”
the wee notes…
– I’m almost sure that this was one of the experiences that nudged me towards joining the military—I really wanted to know what sort of circumstances could make a girl eat her own boots.
– Linked to Prompt Nights: “To travel is to take a journey into Yourself,” Sanaa said. “Life is a long road on a short journey during which we gather a bundle of good and bad” that can “break us or make us stronger. In the end it’s we who decide the outcome, and let the wings of fate take us where they may.”
“My Colorful Dream”, by Magaly Ohika
(find more of her wonderful work on her Etsy shop: The Itsy Bitsy Spill)