“It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Proverbs 21:19
By my second year in the National Institute my situation at home had not improved any in so far as how I figured in the scheme of things. I still felt the sting of rejection from all sides, home and school and now in the media, like the newspapers of the day. Even the Black Christ had been excommunicated by the Bishop of Colon.
It was becoming a habit for me to replay in my mind the constant internal wars with myself as I would labor obediently to please all the women at home. But resentment had started to sneak in especially when I remembered the vital tasks I carried out.
I did all the shopping at the Silver Commissaries nearby. They knew me by now in all the commissaries as I was a regular customer at the Ancon, Curundu and Paraiso Silver Commissaries. Since both my working aunts would never be home I would find myself down at the produce markets in Panama at both the Calidonia “Little Market” and the Big Market up in Santana District.
Then at home it was an endless round of washing large quantities of dirty dishes even and especially when both my working aunts were home on their days off. Meal after meal, without complaining, I would also be expected to clean the house and do the cooking while I noticed those three women leisurely sitting around enjoying themselves while they chatted.
Oh yes, and added to those responsibilities I also had to take out the garbage daily and keep the old icebox supplied with a small block of fresh ice which I had to travel to the ice plant in Watchipali to pick up. This was almost my daily chore until they purchased a refrigerator from Sears and Roebuck in the States.
At any rate, I had done all of these things without uttering a complaint and all for a semblance of recognition from any one of my aunts and even my grandmother with whom I passed most of my time at home.
By this, my second year at the Institute, I had even been willing to forgive the Panamanian educational system for its share of the humiliation I was enduring, the worst being that year when the Rector had threatened me with expulsion from any school in the country. Although my aunts and grandmother seemed impervious to my feelings of rejection, all I ever wanted to see in those days was that, along with enjoying the help I was providing, they would show just a wee bit of appreciation.
As sad as it made me feel to never once hear them utter a word of thanks to me or commend me even in the most superficial way about my behavior good or bad, I still held out a small hope. In fact, even the occasions when I had to stay up late to study had become a bone of contention with my youngest aunt on her days off from work.
My Aunt Gwendolyn would admonish me bitterly saying, “Why are you using up the light we are paying for…and why couldn’t you do your homework by day light?” By then I could hardly speak to my young aunt whom I found to be increasingly irritable and cantankerous. By now she embodied for me all the qualities in the kind of wife that I would swear to avoid.
This story continues.