I sigh without looking round. It’s villager F, Enraged Enrique’s mum. “How dare you work on the day of the lord! How dare you!” She shouts at my back. Just to make a point I continue shoveling the earth a bit longer before turning round. I smile at her. “I am not working.” I point out. She’s opened the gate to the veggieplot and does a few steps towards where I am standing. “Don’t step there! I’ve sown there!” I warn her, while she looks at the earth, worried expression. “Over there, step over there.” I point to a patch covered with grass cuttings.
I have my control back. It’s pure manipulation from my part. I hate getting my zen disturbed. I’ve not really sown there, but it’s fun to see people jump and get all worried and make them stand where I want them to stand. “You shouldn’t work on a Sunday.” she continues scolding from the sideline.
“How can doing something you enjoy doing be considered work?” I ask her, leaning on my hoe. She cannot really answer me. I feel mean. I shouldn’t be mean to villager F. She is a friend. But she disturbed my zen, telling me I cannot be in my veggieplot on a Sunday. I scan her face. I remember seeing her the first time when she arrived on my doorstep with half a pig’s jaw as a present and we didn’t have a clue what to do with it. We ended up cutting the meat off it and cooking that, chucking the bone away. I know different now.
“Shouldn’t every day be a holy day? Isn’t every day a miracle really?” I half tease her.
It is one of the last conversations I will have with F. We’ve had them before. She has a radar for me working in the veggieplot on a Sunday.
A few months before this she accused me of having washed clothes in the fresh drinking water tank for the cows. I’d never seen her so angry. I had been washing near the water tank but made sure the soap water didn’t get in there, but she screeched she’d send her son down to have a go at me too. You didn’t want to get on the wrong side of Enraged Enrique. I yelled back at her that I hadn’t done such thing and we both ended up in tears. It turned out a villager’s daughter having washed her muddy trainers, not knowing the cows drank there.
The last time I think I see her is when the ambulance arrives to take her away. She looks too small for the bathrobe they’ve swathed her in. She is still walking, held up by two villagers. I go up to her and ask her jokingly where on earth she is going. The fluid in her lungs prevents her from answering. She kisses me, we embrace each other and her eyes tell me this the last time. “Come back soon F. You better come back soon.”
“F won’t come back.” I tell the other villagers.
But against all odds she makes a recovery, and is allowed to return home. Her bed is too big.
“I thought the last time was the last time.” I say to her, smiling. “I did so too.” I hold her hand. It’s not often you can say goodbye to a person twice.
I burst out in tears at her wake. Villagers are a bit surprised. Villager F was old. She’d had her time. It was hard for me to explain I couldn’t stand seeing Enraged Enrique that fragile and now I had no one to come and disturb my zen on a Sunday.
Two Sundays ago I was sitting under a large oak tree with villager O and M on either side, me basking in the sun while they shielded their eyes with hats and handkerchiefs when we noticed an old frail lady at the top of the lane.
“That looks just like F.” Villager O commented, and in the silence that followed I allowed it to be her. “She always used to rant at me.” I said finally, when we had verified it really wasn’t a ghost but a visiting relative of someone else. “But not nastily though.”villager M said. “No. Not nastily. But always and forever telling me to put my hoe down. She turned up with this pig’s jaw when we’d only lived here a few days. Didn’t have a clue what to do with it.” we laugh. It’s odd. I am part of retelling history now.
I knew only little about her. Illiterate, someone had told me she had never learnt how to read or write. Devout catholic. Nosey. Intrinsically part of the village. Someone who had never met a foreigner in her life. Yet we clicked.
She who disturbed my Zen.