I would first meet different groups of Abelistas in, of all places, the shop classes. In fact, I loved all the shops available at the time at Colegio Abel Bravo. Since it was one of the original goals of the school’s founders, we were given the opportunity to experience all the trades for soon we would have to make up our minds about what trade we would dedicate ourselves to.
But, going on to the University of Panama was my secret dream and I was not sure at the time if I would pursue a career in dentistry, automobile mechanic, or become an electrician, businessman or even a cook or a butler like my Aunt Berenice had encouraged me to become at one time. All that I knew then was that I was a good writer and that the arts fascinated me ever since I’d taken art classes at El Instituto Nacional. By this time in Colon I was less sure than ever of how my life would end up.
I had not met China’s parents as yet and the thought of meeting a roomful of Chinese people terrorized me. My imagination would run away with me about such an eventuality for, although she spoke “Westindian English” very well and Spanish equally as well, she never talked to me about her parents. I was also terrified of getting her pregnant and then having to meet her parents, so my plan was to ditch her in the most effective way I could.
As I came to understand it, in Colon we were encouraged, more by our peers than anything else, to make friends, almost like a part of the teaching methodology. I soon made acquaintance with Boyzy the Dentist who tried me out at the wax-up work table and liked my work. But he kept saying, “Juni, man, I don’t get enough work to keep you busy.”
So, I made friends with guys at the stadium; they were athletes trying out and training as runners, weight lifters, and body builders, who had their own gym equipment. My collection of new friends and acquaintances was becoming so broad in Colon that I sometimes forgot where I met people. “Where did I meet this or that guy?” was a question I would often ask myself the minute I’d meet up with someone as we stopped to enjoy conversing.
At one time I even thought I would be better off staying at the Gym and try my hand at boxing, which would have been better than nothing at all. But I stayed in school because of Profesor Grant’s Choir. Thanks to my occasional jobs at Simeon’s detail shop I could hold on to some change to feed myself, even if it were just a Royal Crown soda and a nickel bun at the Chinaman’s shop.
By now, though, I had determined in my heart never to go back and live with my grandmother in Panama because of the experience I had before leaving and I continued to blame her for fostering that indifferent and cruel attitude towards us, the vulnerable kids, in my aunts and uncles.
Dances with Victor Boa and The Armando Boza Orchestras gave us many periods of relief from the inevitable boredom that teenagers always seem to suffer. They came frequently to Colon to play for us youths, and, coupled with the dazzling floor shows in many of Colon’s bars and night clubs, it was enough for us boys and girls to keep us thinking that we were part of the glamorous life.
This story continues.