Thursday, June 17, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
“What! To reject my nephew! So many limeñitas would love to marry this boy. There is nobody better in all of
A Ring for My Fiancé (Una Sortija Para Mi Novia) by Humberto Padró (Puerto Rico)
That morning (it was already eleven!), José Miguel woke up and decided to buy a wedding ring for his girlfriend. This, for José Miguel Arzeno, who was rich, young, unemployed, would be the easiest thing in the world. All it would take would be him getting his “roadster” from the garage and in a flash he could go to the most accredited jewelry store in the world. But we should note that nothing was as easy as it might seem, because before he could obtain the ring, José Miguel would need to find somebody to give it to. To say things in a clearer way- José Miguel did not have a girlfriend.
Nor had he ever had one. Of course, we shouldn’t consider him a saint… There you have it, as a matter of fact, his “cohort in escapades” (this is what he called his automobile), was his partner in many a grand and daring an adventure.
Nevertheless, it would be reasonable to believe that this decision of his to buy a ring for his fiancé, was making him, without doubt, give up his restless Don Juan sort of lifestyle to devote himself to a final, definite adventure. But… where would his fiancé be?
In the city, José Miguel entered “The Emerald,” which was considered the most aristocratic shop in the city. It was the first time that he had visited a shop of this kind, because, despite his enviable position, jewels had never really attracted his attention.
While he waited for somebody to assist him, José Miguel was content to look, without admiration, at the profusion of jewels in their various forms and hues that stood out against the velvet backgrounds of their cases, like constellations of stars in a velvet black night sky. In his innocent, disinterested browsing, José Miguel went so far as to leaf through a sales book that was on the glass counter. The name of the saleswoman was written across the cover.
“What can I help you with, gentleman?” asked a young woman, who seemed to be the saleswoman. But what a saleswoman!
“I wanted to find a ring for my fiancé,” José Miguel responded, and at the same time he hurried to drop the sales book onto the table which he had absentmindedly taken from the counter. And afterward, as he was handing it to the young woman, embarrassed, he asked:
“This is your sales book, right?”
“Well, yes, and yours if this is what you want…”
“No, thank you, I don’t need it,” said José Miguel, smiling.
“Well, of course,” added the lady with wit. “You see, in this sales book lies my happiness.”
“Well… the greater the sales the greater my earnings,” she responded, not having found another way to answer.
They found each other with their eyes and smiled.
“Well, let’s return to the ring,” the saleswoman said, who –is it necessary to say this?- seemed to José Miguel to be exceptionally beautiful.
“Yes, could you be so good as to show me a few?”
“What size are you searching for?”
“Oh, how silly am I! I don’t seem to remember,” José Miguel tried to excuse himself.
“Well, does your fiancé have fingers that are somewhat like mine?” asked the sales woman, showing him her hand innocently.
“Let me see,” said José Miguel, daring to caress her fine, long fingers, which were crowned with long polished nails, lightly. They were made (without a doubt) to touch sapphires and diamonds.
“Oh! You have dangerous hands,” said José Miguel after a while, letting her hands go.
“Really? Why is that?” she asked with interest.
“Oh! Because they can be capable of driving whomever they so desire to distraction.”
“You don’t say.”
And they continued laughing.
“Well, and you believe that since the ring fits me so well that it will fit your fiancé?”
“Yes, it is likely.”
And the beautiful sales woman went to get the case of sample rings. Meanwhile, José Miguel studied her fabulously modeled figure with devotion.
“Here you will need to choose… Don’t you think that this one is especially beautiful?” said the young woman, showing him a beautiful ring made of diamonds.
“It must be, if you think so. Here, try it on.”
“It fits me like a glove,” she said mischievously.
“And how much does it cost?” asked José Miguel.
“One thousand two hundred dollars.”
“Very well. I’ll take it.”
“And wouldn’t you like to engrave it?”
“Oh! Of course, I forgot.”
“What are the initials of your fiancé?”
José Miguel looked at the sales book that was on the counter. He said:
“Perfect,” said the sales woman, writing the three initials onto a yellow card, which she tied to the ring.
“When can I come back?” asked José Miguel.
“For the ring… you mean,” she commented.
“Well, certainly. That is to say… if you don’t decided something else.”
They laughed again.
“You can come back this afternoon at five.”
“Very well. Until five then.”
“Goodbye and thank you.”
There is no reason to be surprised that at , José Miguel had still not presented himself in the store to reclaim his ring. The watch and the hours were two things that had never preoccupied him. It was lucky that his “friend in escapades” was flying down the road at that time, like one possessed by the devil.
The shop was almost closed by the time that José Miguel entered the jewelry store, breathless.
“If you had been a moment later, you wouldn’t have found us here,” said the beautiful employee who had sold him the ring that morning. And, handing him the case with the ring, she added:
“Here you are. I am certain that she will be pleased.”
“Thank you,” José Miguel responded, as he put the case into his vest pocket.
And, seeing that the sales woman was getting ready to leave, José Miguel asked her:
“Would you allow me to give you a ride to your house? After all, you lent me your hands…”
“If it’s not an inconvenience.”
And they left.
A Disbelieving Fiancé
“Miss, forgive me that I have to tell you one thing,” José Miguel was saying to the beautiful young lady as the automobile was gliding smoothly along the avenue.
“Provided that your fiancé will not hear,” she responded with witty irony.
“Rosa María, you are a simply adorable creature…”
“But… how do you know my name?” she asked with surprise.
“Rosa María Estrades… is that not your name?”
“Exactly. But how did you find this out?”
“I read it this morning on your sales book.”
“Well, how clever! But be careful with your compliments, because your fiancé’s ring is listening and she might reveal them to her, and well, if this should happen…!”
“Rosa María, for God’s sake! Don’t make fun of me. You are the only one I could ever want. I don’t have another fiancé.”
“Ha! Ha! Ha! How silly! And then, if you don’t have another fiancé, then how could you explain the initials on the ring?”
“Very easily. They are yours.”
And, saying this, José Miguel found the ring in his vest pocket and showed it to her, adding:
“This ring is for you, Rosa María Estrades, R. M. E. Rosa María Estrades… Do you understand the initials now?”
And Rosa María, doing all she could to understand, asked, not believing:
“But… is this possible?”
“Yes,” responded José Miguel with a triumphant smile, “as possible as saying that all my wishes would be fulfilled with a single kiss of yours.”
I bear witness that she complied, over and over again, with his wish.
The rest is left to the imagination of the reader.
While we packed the dishes, pots, and pans from breakfast, Papa left to start the “Caranchita”. This was the name that Papa gave to his old black
Papa parked the car in front of the shack and left the motor running. “Ready!” he cried. Without a word, Roberto and I began carrying the cardboard boxes to the car. Roberto carried the two larger ones and I carried the two smaller ones. Papa carried the mattress and secured it onto the roof of the car with ropes so that it wouldn’t fly off.
Everything was packed except for Mama’s big cooking pot. It was an old pot that Mama had bout in a secondhand shop in
I kept the door of the shack open while Mama carried out her pot carefully, grasping it firmly by its two handles so that she would not spill its contents: cooked beans. When she got to the car, Papa stretched out his hands to help her. Roberto opened the back door and Papa carefully placed the pot on the floor next to the seat. We all got into the “Caranchita”. Papa sighed, wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeves of his shirt, and said tiredly: “That’s all.”
As we were leaving, I got a knot in my throat. I turned and looked at out shack one last time.
When we arrived there, Mama walked toward the house. She walked through the fence, through rows of rose bushes, and up to the door. She rang the bell. The porch lights turned on and a tall, heavy-set man came outside. They talked briefly. When the man went back inside, Mama hurried to the car. “We have work! The man let us stay for the entire season,” she said, a little choked up with pleasure, and pointed at an old garage next to the stables, where we would live.
The garage had been run down by the years. The walls had been eaten away by termites and they barely held up the torn roof. There were no windows and the floor was a dirt floor covered by dust.
That night, by petroleum gas light, we unpacked our things and began to make the garage livable. Roberto swept the floor with energy; Papa filled the holes in the walls with thin sheets of tin. Mama gave my little brothers something to eat. Papa and Roberto brought the mattress and put it in one of the garage corners. “Viejita,” he said to Mama, “you and your little ones can sleep on the mattress, and Roberto, Panchito, and I will sleep under the trees.”
Around , the temperature climbed to one hundred degrees. I was soaked with sweat and my mouth as dry as if I had been chewing on a scarf. At the end of the row, we would open the jar of water and drink. “Don’t drink too much- you’ll get sick!” Roberto yelled at me. He had not finished warning me when I felt a sharp pain in my stomach. I fell to my knees and the water jar slipped from my hands.
I could only hear the buzzing of the insects. Little by little I began to recuperate. I splashed water onto my face and neck and watched the black mud seep down my arms and boil when it hit the earth.
I still felt sick at lunchtime. It was two in the afternoon and we sat under a large walnut tree that was at the side of the vineyard. Papa wrote down the number of boxes that we had filled. Roberto was tracing designs in the earth with a stick. Suddenly, Papa grew pale. He had been watching the road. “School bus,” he whispered in alarm. Instantly, Roberto and I ran to hide ourselves in the vines. The yellow school bus stopped in front of the Sullivan house. Two very clean, well-dressed children got off. Roberto and I left our hiding spot and returned to where Papa was waiting. “You must be careful,” he warned.
After lunch, we went back to work. The pungent scent, the buzz of the insects, the sweat and the dust made the afternoon seem eternal. Finally, the mountains surrounded the valley and swallowed the sun. An hour later, it was too dark to continue working. The grapevines covered the grapes and it was very difficult to see them. “Let’s go,” said Papa, signaling that it was time for us to go. He took a pencil and began to calculate how much we had earned the first day. He added numbers, erased them, and wrote more. He raised his head without saying anything. His eyes were sad and sunken, and wet with tears.
When we came home from work, we washed ourselves outside with cold water from a hose. Then we sat at a table made of wooden crates and hungrily ate a soup of noodles, potatoes, and fresh flour tortillas. After dinner, we lay down to sleep, ready to begin a new day of work with the arrival of the sun.
The second day, when I woke up, I felt beaten; my whole body ached. I could hardly lift my arms and legs. Every morning that I woke up I felt the same way until my muscles got used to the work.
When Papa and Roberto left for work, I felt a great relief wash over me. I went to the top of a slope and watched the “Caranchita” disappear into a dust cloud.
Two hours later, around eight, I waited for the school bus. Finally, it came. I climbed into it and sat alone. The children were all playing and yelling.
I was nervous when the bus stopped next to the school. I looked out the window and saw a crowd of children. Some carried books, others carried toys. I got off the bus, put my hands in my pockets, and went to the principal’s office. When I entered I heard the voice of a woman asking me: “May I help you?” I was startled. Nobody had spoken to me in English for months. For a few seconds I was unable to answer. Finally, and with a lot of effort, I managed to tell her in English that I wanted to enroll in the sixth grade. The woman asked me a few questions that seemed to me irrelevant. Then she walked me over to the classroom.
During the rest of the hour, I was angry with myself. I should have read that, I thought.
During recess I took the book to the bathroom and opened it to page 125. I started to read quietly, pretending that I was in class. There were many words that I did not know. I closed the book and returned to the classroom.
Mr. Lema was sitting at his desk. When I entered, he smiled at me. I felt much better. I walked up to him and asked him if he could help me with the unfamiliar words. “With pleasure,” he answered.
For the remaining month I spent my lunch studying English with the help of the kind Mr. Lema.