around 1950. Image thanks to our friends at
By evening I was still following my tutor’s every move as we combed the city streets together. It was still early and the weather was rather mild. As was usual with me, I began remembering images of my early childhood on Calle Mariano Arosemena as I walked the streets of my neighborhood in Calidonia with my teacher. Teacher Ana had hardly conversed with me as yet and before I could really get into my daydreaming again we found ourselves entering a Chinese Store.
The business was located on the same Central Avenue I knew so well, and it was not far from the school I called home. As soon as we entered the store we were met by its proprietor, who was sitting by the door. My teacher delivered the same spiel to this man as she had delivered to the previous proprietor not too long before.
“Sure teacher!” said the Chino. “Just go in there and pick out anything you feel will help the cause.” He was quite energetic in his offer although he never once budged from his post at the entrance to his business. He and his employee seemed totally unconcerned about letting this little committee of two browse around their shop for things to be donated to our Fair.
As we picked out some things that we thought could sell nicely at the School Fair it occurred to me that here I was helping with fund raising and I didn’t even know the particulars of this event that my teachers were planning- like when it would be held. For the moment, however, my attention was more focused on the assortment of shiny chrome plated flash lights that any boy would have liked to own at the time. Then, I saw one of the Chinese men come to the back where we were with a large paper bag to help us pack everything we were picking out.
Once we were done he followed us to the front of the store. As we walked towards the entrance Teacher Ana piped up, “Can we leave these here and pick them up sometime later?” “Sure Señora, we will be happy to care for them until you pick them up!” the Chinamen responded as cheerfully as had the other proprietor we met shortly before at the top of Avenida Central. And so this scene would be repeated that day, our first day out canvassing the local businesses for donations.
As evening lightness turned to dark the “Committee” was seen lugging back to school armloads of donations we had thought we would be able to carry. Burdened down with stuff, we trudged all the way back up Central Avenue to our school. We had walked our legs off that day and when we got back to the school we discovered that the students had long ago left for home. The pair of eager fundraisers walked into the Director’s Office and we deposited all our hard earned treasures right there.
After taking quick inventory we discovered that we had carried a variety of donated items from canned foods, clothing items, specialty goods, to school supplies like notebooks. The people in the Director’s office immediately made some space to store all the special items that would make up the loot at the raffle booths at the School Fair.
That evening I walked home slowly remembering that I hadn’t been this tired since when my uncle and I had almost single handedly built the house over in the Paraiso bush. The way home aroused in me suspicious feelings such as I had never felt before. I climbed the three stories of stairs in that familiar Magnolia Building, thinking about a fair I had never been told about. “A School Fair?” I said to myself still wondering how come none of my cronies at school had ever said anything to me about it. At any rate, I didn’t plan on attending any fair or dance, since I would never be able to enjoy myself.
Upon landing on our floor I was met by my younger Aunt who scowled at me like a strange she-dog whose territory had been invaded. “I’m sure that you will shower before doing anything else?” she said sarcastically. As I silently moved past her into the two room apartment, I was sure that I heard her say under her breath, “Basketball…I bet he’s been playing basketball again!” I had long ago decided that it was futile to even try to reason with my younger aunt.
As I prepared for a trip to the communal showers and restrooms at the back of the complex of housing units that had seen me grow up, I could still look over into the board building next door I knew as “War Zone Building.” I showered for a long time enjoying the fresh water massaging my whole body and relaxing my every muscle.
I was actually enjoying my shower this time. I never could enjoy the morning showers in the single shower stalls that were stationed on every floor to be shared by the residents of each floor. The mornings were just rush, get showered and be out for the others, who were always waiting to do the same, to take their turn at a morning bathe.
This story continues.