Now nestled among the other passengers traveling on the Chiva that night, through the dimly lit night, my eyes focused through the window at the now quiet Cinco de Mayo Town Square which was usually crowded and busy. I turned to see the International Hotel, the old Lesseps Park that saw me grow up, the restaurants at the corner and all the marquees of the night clubs for the first time.
For me those cabarets that served tourists were places I would never enter even when I became of age. But the large park and the area of the shoe shine boys were the most familiar to me because those boys knew me; we had grown up together on San Miguel Hill and the streets of Calidonia and Marañon.
Suddenly the night air caught me feeling deserted on a Panama night that became so important to me in that month of March of 1953. As the bus wound through the streets I started to miss those kids at the shoe shine stands, the same kids who made me feel as if we had been family, the kids who always welcomed me home from school daily and would hail me with a “Shout,” making me feel how important it was for them to see me wearing the National Institute band uniform and parading behind its colors in the school band. This became my special moment to say goodbye to this Panama City, the city that I had known and had become familiar like Lesseps Park which the shoe shine boys had named “The Kremlin,” a spot on the map like the brave Russia of our days.
A mixture of emotions invaded me suddenly and I seemed to hear voices as if I were in a dream hearing those guys saying the usual, “Hey pelao, wha happning? Let me shine your spikes man! ” I recalled that it had been there that I had also graduated from going to Mr Grant’s barber shop on “M” Street to get one of them to give me a good haircut on occasions, when I felt like staying sharp.
In the gloom of that hour, however, I started feeling the agony of losing the love of my life, my grandmother. I thought that she had made her choice and I also made my choice that I would not be able to go back to my class at the National Institute. At any rate, it was a far fetched hope now, to finish my secondary education and to return to a Panama that I hoped not to see for a long time. Everything that had occurred began to look more like a nightmare that would, hopefully, disappear when I awoke from this horrible dream of being free from my aunts.
But, back to reality. I settled down to travel the nightmare to the distant Colon in the dark of the night. I felt like looking around the darkened vehicle but I could not see any of the passengers, as the engine rumbled and swifly moved as if someone had stolen something very valuable and was making their getaway.
I couldn’t sleep and my thoughts haunted me about losing everything that I had worked so hard for in the dental lab, and all I had achieved in Spanish School, and I thought about missing my dear grandmother and my aunt Bernice. Everything seemed to have gone down the drain and would be history for me after this night. The ride became long and tedious, and I disappeared into the night along with the rest of the passengers but with the good parts of my fortune shattered, as if I had never had a life or a God, as though at that time in my life I had nothing to show for what I had been carrying, since the day I departed from my mother’s womb.
Sitting in that darkened bus and feeling desolate had made me suddenly dwell on strange things, things I knew and had never heard as an earthling. One of many feelings overcame me that night that made me feel that I indeed had a mission to be or do something important in this life. It was something that I had to do or help with for someone in this life, something to give life and not death. I concluded that I would serve to replace a living soul, be someone who had the mission of trying out life in that “Christic” mode.
This story continues.