The ferry that we took from what the natives called “Bocas Town” and the Spanish-speaking people I would later meet called “Isla Colon” or Colon Island, could be described as very large or similar in size to the one I had become accustomed to in Panama City that we all knew as the “La Boca Ferry.” The only difference between them was that the La Boca Ferry transported automobiles while in Bocas our ferry only carried human passengers and it was much more picturesque.
That night, after meeting my future mother-in-law, I would discover that she was the only waitress on the midnight to seven AM shift at the only Chinese restaurant, in fact, the only restaurant, in Almirante. This left Pug and me with the only option to put up with her mother at the restaurant/hotel owned by Chinese.
That night I paid the lodging and we had Chinese food for dinner. As we ate in the small hotel room, there was a sudden knocking on the door whom we discovered to be Carmen, my mother-in-law offering us another plate of fried rice. I watched her in silence and wondered about this sudden act of kindness after the harsh reception we had received when we arrived in Almirante. Since Pug had never really mentioned her mother in all our conversations, I began to reflect on my own mother’s mental illness and wondered what my mother-in-law’s problem could be. I had very few future contacts with this unpredictable woman for the remaining time I spent in Bocas.
As small a town as Bocas was at that time it wouldn’t be long before I would find out just how much my soon-to-be-wife knew about the oldest trade known to mankind, prostitution. That night, however, I kept the conversation centered on going looking for work “up the line,” as my little wife had told me. She also begged me to take her with me but I was reserved about doing that as I wasn’t sure about what challenges I, as a man, would meet up with and what I would have to do to get and keep a job with “The Company” as most people called The Chiriqui Land Company in those times.
In response to her entreaties I said, “Look you, I’m taking you back to Bocas Town to ask your aunt to take care of you until I get back with a job and a place for both of us to live in and the baby that’s on the way.” The next morning we took the ferry back to Bocas Town and made our way to her aunt’s place which she shared with James, her husband and a slew of kids. I explained the predicament I was facing to them and since it was still the weekend, I told her that I would have to leave alone to make the Monday morning train “Up the Line” to go find a job and somewhere to live before I could make any arrangements with her to care for her niece. This would be until I could find a place for us, I emphasized. Soon, after getting approval from her Aunt, I left the house for a short walk with Pug and ended up at the beach nearby. We talked about her trying to get along with her family until I could get her a place of her own and she passively agreed.
If I were to tell my true feelings, it had not been a good beginning for us, what with her mother’s less-than-civil introduction. The more she implored me to take her with me, the more I refused. “You just try to get along with your Aunt Roberta, and make life easier for us because I will be making all efforts for you to have your own place. I know that you will have to put up with all those kids (six in all), but you can do it,” I assured her. “But, Juni take me with you!” she said and I almost relented. “Look you, I don’t want any trouble out of you because you are going to have this baby and I want you to know how much I am going to miss you until I get a job and a place we can both stay in until the baby arrives,” I said and ended the conversation.
That evening I had to leave to insure I’d get a room at the Chinese Inn in Almirante and, come morning, I could board my train to Baseline. The ferry landed at its usual berth and I took my time in getting to the hotel to make arrangements for a room for the night. Before I could get there, however, I heard someone calling me by my nickname, “Hey Juni! Juni!!” Since I knew no one in Bocas, I ignored the call and kept my mind on the business at hand.
This story continues.