Monday, October 20, 2008

Portraits - I

They'd run out of orange wedges and fortune cookies at this rundown restaurant in chinatown thirty years ago, and Lourdes wouldn't leave until they'd given her something to wash down the chopsuey with. They asked her if she'd take a baby. How the baby got there, I don't know. Lourdes agreed, and a few minutes later, boarded the bus with a box of General Tao/sticky rice in one hand, this chinese baby cradled in the other.

It was past midnight by the time she got off the bus and walked the remaining three blocks. Her apartment building was boarded up from the outside, except for a retractable metal gate at the north-eastern corner. All three tenants had their own keys to this gate. She set the baby and the chopsuey down on the pavement as she jiggled the key to the gate. A cone of orange light from a buzzing street-lamp lit the area. The gate opened noiselessly. The tenants took turns keeping the gate oiled. You couldn't have it jam when there was trouble on the street. Oiling the gate was also a mirror of how they lived in that neighbourhood - smoothening edges, beating the rust.

That was thirty years ago. This past week, when Lourdes died, her son couldn't afford to bury her. His skin itched, flies swarming about the dried blood on his body where the skin had cracked open. The desert heat sizzled off the concrete roads where he lay, his mother's body beside him, under a cover of tattered cardboard boxes. She probably died of old age, though she couldn't have been more than sixty. When the mind gives in, the body soon follows.

1 comment:

Ranjon Ghoshal said...

What a good start......!!!