The reality of the night before, of dancing all night and of having had the best time of my life, had vanished with the quiet of a Saturday morning that took its effect on a budding fourteen year old boy. I awoke to find that self that I, again, had to deal with- the Westindian man child, an individual of the Negro race whose peers in the barrios would still have problems dealing with.
Actually, that would be the essence of what my mentor Miss Ana Sanchez worried so much about, I thought; that overriding issue that I noticed had had her so worked up that she even made me swear- take an oath right there on the street that I would go away as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
“She don’t really know what she’s talk ‘in about,” I thought at that late morning hour when I still had a quiet moment to think about the whole series of events before anyone woke up; think about what Ana had encouraged me to do. What had occurred to me that Friday when I had obediently followed Teacher Ana around the city we both knew would open new perspectives for me. The fair and the dance in which my teachers had a hand in insisting I attend, for me, was a psychological departure from all that I had known about the teachers at that school.
In the five years I had attended Pedro J. Sosa Primary School I had gotten to know them all very well at that Spanish School which, after all, had become my refuge. I did a mental review of all my teachers with whom I had sat for over five long years and decided that I would rather forget most of their names as I was still suffering from the scars they had inflicted with their nearsighted meanness.
I considered the physical scars I felt in my head covered by hair now, scars of mistreatment produced by my father and, later on, by my uncles. I then compared them to the scars I felt in my very soul as my fourth grade teacher Señora Blanca de Navarrete heartlessly tore up my essay in my face. I remembered how I had worked so diligently on the essay for over a week only to have my teacher hatefully and thoughtlessly tear up every shred of self esteem that I had invested in writing it along with the paper.
Before I had finished making my mental review I suddenly remembered how my fifth grade teacher Miss Martinez had kept me back a whole year out of revenge for one silly childhood prank. From then on, every moment spent in that classroom for the rest of the year made me mistrust the judgment of all teachers at that school.
But, Ana Sanchez had been different, I thought. We had known each other since I was only four years old when I used to go over to her one room apartment she shared with her two young daughters just to listen to her eldest daughter sing. Her name was Trini, and I thought she was brave to be practicing singing out loud with me as her only audience.
It had been uncanny how Teacher Ana had acted that evening on Avenida B. She had sobered me up about the whole issue of my education and she had done it in a sincere and loving way. I’d not only sworn to her but to myself that, for the rest of my life, I would make my education a priority as soon as I had finished with primary school.
I had slept enough, I thought, as I ended my musings and sprang to my feet remembering that my father had mistreated me even up to the day he left Panama bound for his new job in the Merchant Marine. I remembered all over again the physical torture I had withstood many times while my grandmother did nothing to stop it.
In fact, to me, Fanny had been a person who had probably seen people cruelly treated when she was a child back in Jamaica and felt that she could do nothing about it. At least that is how I observed her reactions during these abusive “events” between my father and me. Her face would go blank as if she didn’t feel anything for me, the victim- as if she wasn’t there.
I continued to ponder these things as I started to dismantle the army cot I slept on by choice in the living room of our two-room apartment in Magnolia Building. I had started using the cot voluntarily to sleep away from my aunts and grandmother in the room next door since I thought I was too grown up to be sleeping in the same room with three adult women.
My thoughts then turned back to Ana Sanchez who inspired pity in me as I thought of how she smoked and coughed herself into spasms. But, then I said out loud “¡Pero yo no voy pa’ ya!” As if the Spanish words I invoked would have some magical powers to deter the inevitable, meaning that I would not go to any United States.
I finally folded up the U.S. Army surplus sleeping cot and leaned it up against the corner of the wall and proceeded to ready myself for my new life as an almost adult.
This story continues.