Written in Spanish.
a vision of life in fragments.
Copyright © Genoveva Serra Caselles, 2007
All rights reserved.
Deposito legal V- 1109 - 2007
Valencia, August 2007
Translation, cover-design and layout:
One day by surprise, while I went for a stroll keeping my dog Tom on a lead, I saw the train from far away and felt that it disappeared in the distance and that there was nothing more my retina and my brain would keep of it. One instant. I then knew I would write a novella because I as well would disappear and liked to leave something in the soul of those who read my novella. Because, after all, that was me, was my life and was my path on earth. And because in the end I am the ostrich-woman.
the ostrich-woman, a fragment
My parents had a farm north of Kingsville. It wasn't one of those enormous plantations like there were in the valley, but it had enough cultivated areas and the harvest periods worked out fairly well for us. So my father felt happy and realized, he always behaved properly towards my mother and that was what my brother and I liked about it. Every now and then we commented it during our large strolls, as well as we used to think of the opposite of the lives we were living to make us suffer a bit, then come back to reality afterwards knowing that ours were so nice and cosy, without discussions at home and the lit up fireplace was illuminating a real home. A bit more to the south we could see the mountains of Queensville and we used to imagine names for them. We spoke to them, we told them our sufferings and they answered us.
My mother wasn't coquettish, but she appeared to be. That was what her friends were saying and she only laughed. Me on the other hand, I really was.
We used to put make-up on together in front of a mirror, then we laughed, asking us who had done it more originally or even worse. Then we left the bathroom and showed our progresses to the two men at home, who were looking bewildered, as if they saw us for the first time.
When we were sitting in front of that big fireplace during the winter nights my father used to tell us stories. That was how he called it, I used to watch the changes of his facial expressions produced by the light of the fire. I think I never listened to his stories in its entirety. I often finished visualizing my father how he was transforming, becoming different, with a beard or without it, with glasses, tall, small. My mother ended up sleeping, my brother listened with his eyes wide open and I gave free rein to my imagination. And gradually I felt located in another world, that happened once and again. I withdraw mentally form the place. I don't have an explanation but I was no longer there sitting together with my family, my father wasn't the same either. I was thinking of my mother clothed in long dresses with curly hair or plaits and imagined my brother crossing Africa in search of I don't no what, may be his destiny, his love or just a real adventure to tell of his grandchildren some day in future.
That was the way those nights passed, full of warmth and tenderness. Suddenly I looked at my dog who as well was listening attentively and I asked me if he as well understood what my father was telling or if he possibly was transported towards other animals, friends of his.
And that way, bit by bit, we all relaxed until we had to go to bed in a hurry for not to fall asleep at the fireside.
At harvest time my father obligated some men to help him gathering the wheat. They were day labourers who went from farm to farm. They came from everywhere and left their families for months to earn some wages and then go back home loaded with vegetable. Some of them with too much liquors because they had been separated from their families for so much time and were not able to stand it.
I could occasionally understand the unhappiness of those men. Their eyes and their enthusiasms working to bring it to an end and to go back home the sooner the better.
Our next-door neighbour, Mr. Zin didn't treat well the men who worked for him, that was the reason why they always came running towards my father so that he might give them work instead of requesting at the farm close by. And so throughout the years my father had no need to search other labourers, they were always the same to come and it was like a big family. My father appreciated them. They were respectable and strong men, not complex-ridden, free and human. There was always some friction between them but didn't use to last long. And it was the only directive my father gave them. He didn't like quarrels.
Before my grandmother Teni died she told me that my father hated quarrels because he grew up surrounded by discussions. His parents argued when he still was a child and he used to run to nowhere when voices were getting loud. Sometimes the little boy didn't know how to come back home after having entered one of the nearby woods. That's what always persued my grandma Teni. To feel this pain that her little son hadn't had a happy childhood. There was this sensation that she possibly hadn't been a good mother or didn't back up her son enough to find his way through life with reference to her husband and his disputes.
Grandma Teni was a good woman, very good. But her husband, my grandfather, was a taciturn, gruff man, he didn't like the words, only used them during his quarrels remaining silent afterwards for days. So my father seemed to be a stubborn and introverted child. For years he didn't speak with his father and didn't have friends. Until he got to know my mother, and his life changed forever.
I used to go to town for strolls with my dog Tom. We used to meet many familiar faces on the way. Their welomings were always of good cheer. There was only one that wasn't. Mr. Zin. He possessed the biggest wheat-plantation in the area. He was a rough, stout man capable to frighten people in a night without light. The first time I saw him he had shouldered a rifle. And so, together with his boots I even thought that he was a spirit of another world because his moustache didn't have the appareance of any of my father's friends. And that seemed very strange to me. My father used to say he only was drinking beer once a week and never invited his friends. He didn't assist in any feast either after harvest and he didn't look the other persons in the eyes. The latter wasn't true. I afirm on the contrary that he was taking close looks at me and my dog Tom when our paths crossed.
My dog Tom and I had our walks marked, as well where to make a pause, to have a break or just to give our legs a rest or to count ants. He never left me and I loved him as much as he loved me.
We always ended up visiting my friend Magda, a girl from Kenya who lived with her family near our home. Her parents helped the farmers south of our house but remained there living all the time.
Her father had built a little house near the one of the plantation owners, where you could always find them.
Magda was my best friend. You could share all with her. Really all. She never made fun of my affairs. She never laughed at the way I put on my make-up and we both had decided to become painters, we wouldn't go studying but would travel around the world we would have the best paintings of landscapes and animals that nobody had seen so far and wouldn't ever linger over a place.
With Magda time was nice and the flowers, too, and Magda thought the same of me. She didn't understand how my hair was so black having a white skin, whereupon, and for the fun of it, I answered that my ancestors had been black and white, that they had interbreeded and that, as a result, emerged what she had in front of her. She used to laugh much about my stories. She laughed so much that she started crying what made us laugh even more.
I felt affection for Magda and her parents. Before all for her mother. She always stroked my hair and I liked it. She said my hair was like the hair of a horse, black and strong. With the years I learned to understand the importance that had for me the comments of Magda's mother.
That woman only bestowed praise and affection on me, both my way of being and my looks as well as my charm. And I returned it to Magda with interest. I told her I'd like to have her skin together with my hair. That was the way our visits passed and I can't remember neither one single incident of argument nor that we were speaking of something transcendental in all tose years. That had to be so. It was possibly good to be able to fly and to laugh from inside out.
I can remember very clearly that night in April. The thunderstorm, the sky getting dark at once, all that hadn't been fixed to the ground flying about. The dust raising around and heaven opening intended to announce that rain was near, getting dark instants later with a heavy thunderstorm.
I was finishing my homework and my brother went on observing lost in thought, I don't know what, through the window.
Fres, one of my father's labourers hadn't left together with all the others that day, he felt sick since several weeks and my father asked him to take some days off.
My mother had prepared a warm soup for him and said she would go and take it to the hut where the men used to cook and to rest while my brother and I would stay inside the house.
The trees shook in all directions swaying so much that their branches hit the house. As it was getting dark and my father hadn't come yet I thought I could go together with my dog to meet him following simply the path of the road as it still hadn't begun to rain, although a heavy thunderstorm would not be a long time coming. So I started looking for my dog everywhere but couldn't find him. When I asked my brother if he knew, he was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn't even answer me. I thought he would be at the back of the house. So I left to search for him but he wasn't there either.
I started worrying me and entered into the house again. At that moment I thought he possibly had accompanied my mother when she was leaving, so I got out again running to the hut, I didn't call for him, only whistled, because I didn't want to frighten Fres if he was asleep. My mother hadn't returned what made me think she still would be there and hopefully my dog with them.
I saw light in the distance and thought my father and the men would be near. That soothed me. When I was approaching the hut there was only few light so I looked through the window on the western side. But I couldn't see anybody. Therefore I went to have a look from the corner. At that instant a thunder nearly together with a lightning resounded in my head. But in spite of that I could see my mother embracing Fres with all her might. I carried on looking. I couldn't turn my eyes away from it and he kissed her hands and forehead. Fres was a tall and thin man. He had come from the south. Not like his companions. It was the third season that we saw him. That means that we didn't know him too well.
I didn't go through any surprise, neither disgust. I remained ther looking until my mother came out. I'm shure she saw me but she didn't say anything.
It was at that instant my legs started trembling and I wished to run away and shout. The thunderstorm was approaching and my father as well. I know I looked pale and my hands had gone numb. She didn't even look at me, she didn't even tell me word. At that moment I didn't exist for her.
I wanted start crying but I couldn't. Her coldness when I discovered how she was double crossing my father didn't allow me to hit the roof so I bowed my head, looked to the ground and walked home as slowly as I could.
I think I walked several hundred kilometres because I never reached. Or was I wishing to never reach there?
At that moment I heard my father calling and so I turned back to reality. I understood why I had left and started again looking for my dog everywhere. But there he was, happy, may be he had accompanied my father what amazed me. He never took himself off from me, but my dog knew very well that day would mark the rest of a lot of restless, gloomy days full of intrigues.
The days that followed on from the thunderstorm, that in the end wasn't as heavy as forecasted, took a normal course. But I noted that my mother didn't speak to me, although the most cruel was that she didn't even look at me.
I tried in vain to draw her attention and to demand some words of her, but it was all pointless. And so it went for a long time.
I didn't misinterpret the fact that my mother was cheating on my father. I knew those things happended but I didn't understand the silence and callousness towards me from that moment onwards.
One afternoon I tried to strike up some conversation with Fres while he was keeping tools of the truck, but he only uttered few words and I realized he didn't want to speak with me. Days passed until the harvest season came to its end and all men went back home.
I remembered Fres every time we went shopping to Queensville. I feared to run into him and his family there without knowing what to tell him. I became a bit jumpy and what seemed to be streets full of kindhearted people started to be places with individuals who possibly knew about my mother's story. But then I thought it wouldn't be possible because they hadn't exhibited their love all over the place.
The day I crossed Mr. Zin's path it had been raining and my boots were spattered with loam. I was just cleaning them on a little doormat to enter a shop when, because of a hurriedly gentleman, as I suppose, he stepped aside and brushed against my back. I turned round, he fixed his eyes in mine before he started looking down on my body slightly cool. Bit by bit his coldness turned into warmth and in one moment we became friends. There was no need for words of us both, but he helped me to enter with the rest of the shopping and then we had a chat.
When he introduced himself his voice was rough and nearly hoarsely. But when I shook his hand I understood I never would be lost if I was near to him.
It was like he showed me the way, as if it was written down.
The path was marked and I had to follow it.
We only talked a short while. He invited me to look at his animals and to pay him a visit, I as well invited him to come and see us but I don't know too well why I did so. It simply happened. He made that things were easy and that time only passed beyond us. Inside us he brought time to a halt.
From then onwards I started to call him. When he accompanied me to my father's car I asked me why he was so considerate with me. But it really didn't matter to me, I was feeling so comfortably that afternoon and didn't know exactly why.
When he went off with firm and decided steps he turned round his head to greet me again I thought Queensville had changed colours and that his smile would never leave me in spite of many people who thought he was serious and wouldn't pay attention to nobody. However he was cheerful and I knew it. Why then did he want to pretend exactly the opposite?
1st I want empancipation - not destruction
2nd I say : ahead - not : back
3rd I want respect - no rivalry
4th I want caresses - no smacks
5th I want patience - no slavery
6th I want understanding - not conditions
7th I want one step down - tomorrow one step up
8th I want to expect - and to be expected
9th I want individuality - not submission
10th I want love to be loved - and to be loved to give love