Suicidio. Suicide. What do these words mean in my four-year-old head? The word is being pushed at us from every angle. I can see my dad, lying on the floor with all the blood, and yet this word keeps being repeated. I don't remember the funeral. I don't remember anything immediately after finding my dad. Not a soft word of comfort, or a tender hand brushed across my forehead to let me know it would be ok. He was simply gone and the army was saying he killed himself. The scene replayed itself in my childish brain, as if on repeat mode. As a grown man, I would ask my ma what happened. Her proud Aztec face would wrinkle into a soft, faraway look. "No recuerdo, hijo – I don't remember, son." The only thing she could pull out of the past was that they said he killed himself. I remembered the gaping hole in his back and the hot blood pumping out from underneath him and I knew it couldn't be suicide. It was burned into my memory.
The Mexican military is a corrupt body that has a special way of softly scooting things under the rug. If they said it was suicide, arguing would only prove futile. Did it matter to them that you couldn't shoot yourself from behind with a huge rifle? I wish I could give you a description of what happened after we found him. I wish I could say that there was a grand military funeral, that many flowers were laid on his grave, and people came to lavish us with food and comfort. Instead, I will tell you what memories push at my brain.
|George's Dad, Maximo, is on the right.|
I'm still four and I'm sitting at a chair by our table. Only a few weeks have slipped by since pa's death. I smell the delicious aroma of tamales being cooked in a large pot. Ma has a strange look in her eye and is quickly and hurriedly assembling the tamales to take out into the streets to sell. We have been given some money by the military, because of pa's death. We are strangely alone, though. No one comes by our cottage anymore and it feels swept of all emotion. The joy my pa brought to our house has been stripped away, and the stigma of "suicide" remains. I'm sure my older brother was at the house this particular day, but he remains on the fringes of my memory. My ma called out that she was leaving with the tamales. "Take care of your little sister," she said. I look at my sister Maura, who is laid out on the kitchen table. I climb onto the table and sit beside her. She is 3 years old. I stare at her face and notice something white coming out of her nose. All I know is that I'm supposed to be taking care of her, so I pull that white thing clean out of there. It is a long white worm. My sister is dead.
You might be thinking that I'm too little to remember. This segment of my life is choppy and disjointed, and my ma had slipped into an irretrievable world from which we couldn't pull her back from. Within another two weeks, my baby brother Porfirio is also dead. In a span of a months my pa, and my little sister and brother were dead. Chucho and I were the only ones that remained. My ma, who is and was the most devoted mother to Chucho, myself and the four siblings she would have in the future – was lost in a haze of misery. She had buried a husband and two children. Mexico is a land of aching beauty, but filled with endless superstition. There were many whispers of what had actually happened to my pa and siblings. Dark rumors of unmentionable things, things that could hurt and inflict harm and even death were being spoken on quiet street corners. To this day nothing has been proved or disproved. My mom can't remember how they died. The next set of memories comes quickly. We were taken from our ma.
|George and his mom summer 2014|
My feet trod carefully under the cactus archway that led into the cool interior of my abuelita's home. My dad's parents Fausto and Elisa had taken us away from my mom and whisked us to Valdeflores, Oaxaca. They never had approved of my ma and pa's marriage. When they met, my mom already had Chucho by a man who had left her alone and pregnant. This man later becomes my stepfather. My ma is a full Aztec Indian. She speaks mixtec, a language that curves itself over the tongue. Spanish is her second language and one she had to learn. The warrior-like vibrancy of the Aztec Indians of Mexico are a book unto themselves. My ma was small, with shiny long black hair. Smooth dark skin complemented her high cheekbones and her smile was infectious. My pa's parents disliked her. They were, for lack of a better term, highborn, and an Indian girl with another man's child was not good enough for their son. My pa didn't care, and he married her. I envision him as strong as his given name, Maximo. He cared for Chucho as his son and soon I followed along with my two younger siblings. Information is sketchy, but after all the deaths occurred, my grandparents stepped in and took us away from my mom. This left her all alone with the grief she was enduring, no sympathy from those who should have given it to her. Once past the cool interior of the cactus-surrounded courtyard, I don't remember much of my grandparents' home. It was big, much bigger than our tiny beach house had been. I didn't know where my mom was and I missed her. We were wild with the emotions of death and how it had pervaded our wonderful existence. My four-year-old mind wanted things back to normal. My grandparents tried to make me feel at home, but for Chucho it was harder. He wasn't their grandson and they let him feel that. Bribery works when a small child is mourning for a lost father and a mother who's been taken away from you. Toys were purchased, candy was given, but it didn't really work because worst of all, my ma was not allowed to step foot in that house.
The cool terracotta tile felt good underneath my feet. I was playing in the courtyard, my four-year-old mind trying to find an escape from all that was pressing in on me. Weeks had gone by since we had come to live there. My brother came in and abruptly pinned me to the wall with his hand. "I just talked to ma," he whispered, "She said she's going away and if we want to go with her we have to be at the bus stop by 2. When I say it's time to run, you better follow me. If you don't, you'll be left behind." My heart started beating rapidly. My brother was six and he knew everything. How or where he talked to my mom I'll never know. I just knew I didn't want to be left behind. We had lunch inside the warm adobe walls of my grandma's kitchen. I couldn't look her in the eye because I was afraid. I thought she could see right through my soul and find out what we were planning. I felt the minutes ticking by and soon became absorbed in the game I had been playing. As an adult, I replay the next minutes and sometimes let them run through my mind. All of a sudden Chucho was running out the door and into the street. I saw his dark eyes flash by the cactus fence and saw him mouth the words "RUN"! My heart swelled up in my chest, and it was if my body couldn't get up. My legs were fumbling beneath me, but the desire to run was stronger. I was closest to the fence and knew I wouldn't make it to the entryway or my grandma would catch me.
|Ma, Chucho, and I.|
We never saw my grandma again. The bus pointed us into an unknown future. For me, though, what would happen next I could never have imagined.