On Lotus Pond Part 2: The Queen
Sorry for the delay but I’ve been trying to make this as perfectly written as possible. This chapter was quite different because it was written in another person’s point of view so I hope readers would like it. And since it’s my first time to write this kind of story, I admit that it’s prone to grammatical or historical errors so pardon me.
The lady in the photo is Latin American Folk legend, Mercedes Sosa. I found her pic to be quite mesmerizing and depicts my idea of Carlos’ mother in the story.
Vol. 1 of the Mixtape can be accessed here.
Again, the usual disclaimer: The following literary attempt is purely fictional. The names of the main characters happen to have real life counterparts in the form of very very gorgeous people. Any incident, character or anything that happened in the real life are purely coincidental. While I am somewhat obliged to say that I don’t own these real people, I am just informing anyone not to copy this story and make a buck out of it. Just read and try to enjoy if you please.
My name is Sita Acevedo Rios. I originally came from a small village in Latin America in the early 20th century.
Both my parents are peasants, like their parents and ancestors before them.
At the age of 16, I managed to save enough from selling crops for a ticket to North America with hopes of finding a more decent job to help my family.
Along with a distant cousin, we traveled on road which is long and difficult until we ended up in the big city of New York.
Life in the big city was hard but somehow, through meager wage I earn as seamstress, I am able to send some money to my parents while most girls of my age would spend all their money for fancy clothes, jewellery and make-up.
Occasionally when there’s some spare amount, I would go to the theater to watch movies.
More often times, I just pray just to help me combat homesickness.
As well as the hope that someday, when I am able to earn enough money, I will be able to return home and buy a big house and a reasonable parcel of land for my parents.
I was working in a tailoring shop when I met and fell in love with Alfred, a pianist working at a nearby jazz club.
He was originally from Austria and was tall, slightly slender and pale skinned with a bushy moustache which made him looked like Charlie Chaplin the first time he walked in to the shop and handed over his suit for repair.
It was funny to think that we managed to fall in love with each other despite our limited knowledge in speaking English.
Perhaps homesickness has led us to find solace with each other. Or perhaps love itself is a language of its own.
Alfred and I married in a simple church ceremony witnessed by a handful of friends and fellow immigrants and moved to a small two bedroom apartment in the working class neighborhood situated near my workplace and about a bus ride away from the jazz club where Alfred works.
Two years later, I gave birth to our little pride and joy, Carlos, whom I named after my father.
The moment I first laid my eyes on him, I noticed that he inherited his curly locks, pale white skin and sharp nose from his father while he got his dark eyes from my side of the family.
A few months later, Alfred and I decided to go back to my home country to formally introduce him and our son to my family but I learned that a civil war broke in my homeland and it would be very dangerous for our little family to travel there should we insist.
A bit heartbroken, I could only hope that my parents and siblings are safe. But I never heard from them ever since.
In a neighborhood of immigrants from various countries, I tried teaching Carlos some Spanish which he managed to speak quite well although he would rather speak English most of the time like all the immigrants’ children born in the area.
Alfred didn’t taught us his own language and never tried to. Perhaps because he deemed its grammar too complicated to learn or it’s because it reminded him of his mother country losing in the last war.
Carlos was around five years old when Alfred developed a bad cough. And it got worse and worse until the cough medicine proved little or no relief at all.
Then Alfred started to lose weight terribly until he looked no more like a skeleton.
I tried to coax him to see a doctor but Alfred was stubborn. He was more concerned of earning more money than to spend it on himself.
Then he began to cough with blood. In some nights, his night shirt would be soaking wet with sweat that I have to change it frequently in the early hours of the morning.
One day, upon coming home with laundry basket in one arm, I felt a strange eerie presence hit me like a cold wind.
When I walked in, I saw Alfred, lying on the sofa, paler than usual. Eyes shut. Carlos was standing beside the sofa and tugging on Alfred’s arm.
“Papa, papa, read me that story again…” I heard Carlos’ small voice but Alfred remained unresponsive.
I dropped the laundry basket as I knelt and held Alfred’s hand. His hand was starting to feel cold and began to feel stiff. Tears began to well in my eyes as I started to sob.
“Mamita?” Carlos spoke and I turned to see him looking back at me with puzzled eyes.
“Why is Papa still asleep? I tried waking him up but he won’t open his eyes.” he said.
I wiped my tears as I stroked his hair.
“Carlitos,” I answered as I held him tightly, “Your papa is not going to wake up anymore.”
Alfred was buried in an unnamed grave because we don’t have enough money to have one for him.
All that’s left of my husband’s memory was the book of Tennyson’s poems which he bought from a cheap second hand book store which we used to read when we’re learning to speak English and the old, battered piano which he salvaged from a rundown club.
But most especially, Carlos, our son.
Shortly after Alfred’s death came the time of the Great Depression when jobs suddenly became scarce and poverty prevailed in the land.
While most women would simply lose all their sensibilities and offer their bodies on the streets, I vowed to be stronger both for myself and my son now that I am all that he had in this world and he is the only family I had left.
I managed to find work as a helper handing out bowls of soup to the long queue of unemployed men. The pay may be barely enough to make ends meet, but I am able to spare some soup and dry bread for our meal.
Eventually, I managed to find and balance two jobs as a seamstress and as a canteen cook which is good enough to help me support my son’ education.
And I am also glad that Carlos was also a diligent student which makes every hard day at work worthwhile.
“Someday, mama,” Carlos told me once, “I will build you a beautiful house. That would be your castle and you will be my queen.”
I just smiled as I stroked his hair.
“You little dreamer. Now be a good boy and finish your homework.”
When Carlos was 16, he told me he found a job as an assistant for this fashion designer. As much as I want him to become a doctor or perhaps a pianist like Alfred, maybe he is destined to become his own person.
And I am glad I supported his decision because I saw how he worked his way to become a successful man in his chosen career.
What surprised me more is when one day, he suddenly took me to a ride in a car. We both sat at the back as he beckoned to the driver and the car began to move.
“Carlitos, where did you borrow this car?” I asked as I looked around the fine interior. The leather seats seemed too precious to touch that I kept my hands firmly on my lap.
“Mama, this is my own car now,” he smiled as he placed one hand over mine. “This is your car too.”
Then he made a hint that he had more surprise in store for me. I tried coaxing him to tell me but he just smiled and said, “Just wait.” and to my surprise, put a blindfold on me.
After what seemed to be a long journey in the car, we finally stopped.
“We’re here,”he said as he guided me out of the car.
My eyes lit up in surprise after he took off my blindfold. Standing before us is a grand house. Perhaps, the grandest that I’ve ever seen in my whole life.
“What? Who…” I tried to speak but words came tumbling out of me.
“This is your castle now, my queen,” he smiled as he led me to the steps.
That day was very overwhelming for me. Coming from having almost nothing to all of a sudden to have something that’s even beyond my dreams.
Carlos even had Alfred’s old piano moved in the parlor area and he had it polished and restored to its former glory. I cannot help but cry with tears of joy. I do hope that Alfred, bless his dearest soul, could see that moment.
One day, while I was cleaning by the stair steps, I suddenly felt the world spin around and then blackness suddenly engulfed everything.
The next thing I knew, I woke up to find myself in a hospital bed and unable to move. My face felt numb and I am having difficulty uttering a word.
Carlos was sitting beside me as the doctor told us that I suffered a massive stroke. As much as I want to get up and do something, the disease rendered me permanently bound on a wheelchair which Carlos managed to purchase for me.
I know that my physical state had rendered me useless from taking care of my son and anytime soon, my heart will cease to beat and I might utter my last breath but I will be glad to leave this world knowing my son had become successful in his career. My only regret is not having the chance to go back to my motherland. Of dying not having to catch a glimpse of the familiar mountains, the scent of the warm air, the sounds of the people and the surroundings, and not getting covered by its soil once I am laid to rest. People say that no matter where one might wander, there is a map of his beloved country in his heart that will never be forgotten no matter how long one is away. Perhaps that is true.
And perhaps my son will never know how much I respect how he chose to become but I guess, such things are never meant to be spoken but felt by heart.
(To be continued)