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Dulce Olvido ran her fingers over the print, delicately trying to feel the space between text and skin. The letter was an open wound, the last one she had received from her husband, the last one smuggled out anyway. When she finished, Dulce neatly folded the letter, tucked it in her battered purse, pulled out her timecard, and clocked out.
The onslaught of workers congregated at the entrance of the maquiladora, waiting for their camion to pass and deliver them home. Dulce Olvido joined the throng. With one hand held tightly on the handle bar, a boy no older than eight leaned out the doors of one of buses and bellowed as loud as he could: “Centro! Centro! Todos los que vayan al Centro!” As the air cleared, the cluster of workers fragmented from the middle, like windshield glass struck by a pebble.
After a day of sifting through the never-ending piles of garments and sewing, folding and stitching, Dulce, like many of the workers, scrambled to her bus so she would not have to stand the whole ride home. The older women scurried home to play chef, waitress, and bus boy. The younger women stealthily snuck off to partake in thievery, stealing a kiss from their lover before scampering home under the guise of innocence, trying to avoid the watchful eyes of the townspeople, the chismes.1
It was a time of transition in Sacamuelas. The mayor had taken the liberty of changing the town’s name to Ueman. The inhabitants were the last to know. Not that it mattered, as everyone still referred to the pueblo as Sacamuelas.
The landscape remained relatively stable, as Sacamuelas still had one of everything they needed: church, school, bakery, tortilleria, butcher shop, lecheria, barbershop, shoe store, factory, and la tiendita, which sold all the other products everyone needed. La plazita was still the center of the town, where the fiestas de mayo and diciembre, religious festivals, and posadas were held, and where formal couples went on their dates. There were three differences, only one of which was visible from the snapshot of Sacamuelas ten years ago: the garment factory, the passing of a generation, and the resolve of a pueblo. The most significant had been the last because with it a burden of memories was cropped, then stripped like sugar cane.
The woman flung her badge from the factory inside her purse, and in a feverish march, hurried towards her appointment. She moved about the city streets of Sacamuelas like a taxicab, dodging and weaving out of traffic desperately trying to avoid being late. She spat on those in her way, making even the stubborn ones shuffle and swerve. Once a year, for the past ten years, this had been her private ritual.
When Dulce Olvido finally reached her destination, she slowed down to a normal pace. Oblivious to her surroundings, she sat at the edge of the pier and serenely placed an orange next to her. She studied the rhythm of the waves, taking in the peace afforded by these few moments away from the commotion of the factory. She then commenced to take off her clothing, carefully placing her belongings next to the orange, and was soon completely naked, letting the air pinch her skin, causing the hairs on her arms to curl.
Without formality, Dulce flung herself in the water, lay on her back, and began to masturbate with rhythmic thrusts, playing joyfully with the roof of her clitoris, stimulating all her senses while the ebb and flow of the tide synchronized with the rhythm of her fingers. She took her time, letting herself approach her climax and then restarting. She worked front to back, massaging her labia, slowly penetrating her personal cave of memories, and finally plucking at her clitoris like a guitarista stringing a melody of notes on her guitar. She patiently found the right note, and played her chord the way she liked.
The townspeople were immune to such behavior and simply disregarded her as a crazy old lady. “Es una mujer sin verguenza,”2 the women in Sacamuelas gossiped. “Es La Llorona,” mothers told their children in an attempt to frighten them and suppress their curiosity.
The people were without memory, not being able to fathom a time when this behavior did not occur. It seemed to them this was the way it had always been, that she had always been crazy and disgustingly brazen, causing mothers to squirm with embarrassment whenever families passed her by on the street. Some, without disguising their attitude, would dramatically move to the other side of the street. Others merely turned a protective shoulder towards their children as she passed.
Ten years ago…
Che was in Bolivia and people were not afraid to die.
Ten years ago, the people’s voice rose up in resistance.
Ten years ago, the poor sang for the first time, their voices carried by the wind, on the wings of the revolution.
Ten years ago, iron shackles no longer disrupted the rented dreams of children. Hope was polished in the eyes of the poor like a scuff on a shoe, and not confined to the carbonated skeleton of a coca-cola bottle. Hope glazed in the hearts of men, foaming at the mouth like a river carrying the deposits of the chingados, while the people learned to utter the resounding “no” of the oppressed.
Ten years ago, the ground itched underneath the townspeople’s feet with anticipation, with a yearning, not for the illusions of riches, but with the simplicity of a poverty tolerable and endurable, like the bitterness of mid-winter. Indifference was tamed and a refusal made, a refusal to form the scenery of history like extras in movies, a resolve not to be forever secured into the coffin of history.
Ten years ago, those who were too sensitive went crazy and burst forth like a collective orgasm, unleashing a river of blood through the town and spreading throughout the surrounding countryside. The waters sizzled when a man and a woman, a town and its country, made love to each other for the last time, like two dogs in heat, embracing and enveloping each other in the waters of rebirth.
Ten years ago, a man made a widow out of his wife, his heart torn between two: his wife and his country. His double passion brought about his end. His soul he gave to his wife eternally; his ass and blood belonged to the revolution.
Ten years ago, a woman and her town were left barren as the preservers of democracy supplied the army of their dictator with the weapons necessary to ensure the victory of democracy, and the government of the people continued to rest in the hands of a talking, walking, breathing puppet. They arrived on foot and on horseback and left paddling through the blood shed in the name of democracy.
Ten years later…
A blanket of amnesia had swept over the town like a fog, purging memories, and with it history.
Ten years later, people, no longer afraid to live, are instead afraid to die.
Ten years later a woman returned to the spot where she and her husband had made love for the last time, and she masturbated.
Ten years ago, this woman had been looked upon as honorable and people held her in high esteem.
Ten years later, es una mujer sin verguenza. She is an apparition, an image refracted in a convex mirror, the wife of a “disappeared,” reduced to waiting, waiting.
A soldier in full regalia passed along the pier, noticing a woman in the midst of orgasmic bliss, walked over to her and exclaimed, “Esta puta es lo que esta mal con nuestro pais. Es por que simepre estaremos subdesarollados.”3 And with a glance of disgust and smile of pity he added, “La gente que se vuelve loca esta muy sensible.”4
He picked up the woman’s orange and started peeling and eating it as he walked away. The dispossessed woman watched her dinner disappear and the orange peels fall slowly, realizing that underneath the peel, in the seeds spat onto the ground, lay the fruit of tomorrow.
- She is a woman without shame.
- This whore is what is wrong with our country.
- She is the reason why we will always be underdeveloped.
- People who go crazy are too sensitive.
Marko Gutierrez writes fiction and poetry, and he is especially interested in the marginalization of underrepresented groups. He is an ethnic commuter, fluctuating between two cultures. He teaches English and AVID, and he smuggles social justice into the curriculum in San Ysidro. He lives in Chula Vista, California, with his suppotive wife.
This story is included in issue #42: The Artist in Wartime. Copyright © 2009 by Fiction International. Authors of individual works retain copyright, with the restriction that subsequent publication of any text be accompanied by notice of prior publication in Fiction International. Please contact the editor for reprinting information.
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