On the train ride to Almirante I was eager to tell my story to Pug and her Aunt of my good fortune at getting a job with Chiriqui Land Company and, what was even better, that I would start work on the following Monday morning. It had been a long day for me and the train rides had helped me recover. I felt very good, however, about my experiences so far and, frankly, I liked the country people I met.
When the train got to its last stop in Almirante Town it was almost six in the evening and the familiar ferry out of Almirante was awaiting me and the other people who were a mixture of mostly working men traveling with a few women who also traveled home on weekends. I started to wonder how early I would have to leave on Sunday evening to catch a train that would deliver me to Baseline late that night in order for me to get some sleep and then rise early on Monday morning for a fast breakfast. I then pictured the short walk to meet the gated truck that would take us to our work site. Later on I would discover that the gang boss was always on that truck taking note of who all had showed for up work.
My thoughts on that warm evening in January then turned to Pug’s birthday, something that we almost never spoke about although it made me reflect on the events of the previous year of 1955. I recalled the fate of our President Remón Cantera, the graduate of the National Institute, whose funeral we had attended at the Merced Church in the old sector of Panama City. But, the shock of his assassination was overshadowed by the total shock to me to be suddenly on the street with a pregnant girl. She was not showing signs of pregnancy yet but, my intention was to cover our bases. I had made it to Bocas del Toro and secured a job thus far. So far, it looked like I would be able to meet my obligations and responsibilities in preparation for the arrival of the “baby.”
The boat docked in Bocas Town or Colon Island, where I had left the pregnant girl in my charge. Everything pointed to me seeing as how I had handled the matter on my own. I wasn’t afraid of any of them- the family that is- although I too was homeless.
Although her mother and grandmother had made me responsible for this pregnancy I started to doubt some of the actions I had taken on various occasions to get her off the streets of Colon and away from her intentions of becoming a street walking whore. And so, in this uncertain mental state, I entered the small apartment of Pug’s Aunt Roberta and her husband James Campbell. At the time they were raising six kids. My knock on the door woke everyone up in the house and they all got up to welcome me.
“I got a job!” I announced, “But, I don’t know when I will be able to get living quarters or even when is pay-day!” I said as I was surrounded by a bunch of kids who knew me from my last visit. “I must leave tomorrow to make sure I have a place to sleep and meals and to make ready for Monday morning to be with the crew that will show me where I’m to work and introduce me to my supervisor.” “I cannot take Pug with me,” I said formally. “Not until I get some place for her to be safe and be able to await the coming of the baby.”
I then heard, “That’s OK with us Juni. We are going to be all right; don’t you worry!” Then I asked my charge or wife to follow me outside since I had something to discuss with her. As we walked we talked about frivolities when, suddenly, the girl-wife started to cry and became a dependent child again.
“Look you!” I said sternly without thinking, acting the role of a husband. “Your safety is what I am concerned about. Don’t you put more worries on me because I have to get up there and prepare a place to sleep and how to pay for my meals!” Then she said, “Juni please take me with you.” Tears started streaming down her face as we stopped to talk and I hoped that no one who knew her would pass us by and see her weeping.
“Please stop your crying,” I said rather harshly, “because you have no idea what I have been through today!” She continued to plead. “But Juni, I could help you!” she said trying to convince me of her knowledge of Bocas. “Now stop the crying and let’s walk and talk like people who can take care of things!” I siad. We continued walking going nowhere really as she got a hold of herself.
After a little while she sarted to listen to me. “Look honey I know that you are a big girl now and probably can care for youself, but there are some things you must not do now since you are waiting for another human being to come, someone who will be helpless and you will have to take care of.” The lecture worked, and I was able to convince her of trying to get along with her family only until I could find a place for us to be on our own.
She suddenly brightened up and said to me “You go and don’t worry. I will try to get along and wait for your return.” “That’s my girl!” I said encouraging her. “It is just until I can work something out with the Boss who I don’t know too well as yet. Then I will come to get you for us to live together. I just hope it will be before the baby arrives. Ok? So, let’s get back so I can talk some more to Roberta and James.”
This story continues.