“Abuella,” I say, sitting down next to her. “Tell me a story.”
I rub her shoulders, I can feel the bones through the black sweater. It’s 30 degrees yet Abuella wears a black sweater. She’s always cold, she says.
She glares at me as far as it is possible with her one working eye, not in a nasty way, she just glares, she always does. I guess too, when you only have one eye, the other maybe tries to take in more and that gives out the impression of glaring.
“Oh I don’t know.” she protests. “I don’t know any stories.”
“You must do.”
“No. We just used to have lots of cows and we used to take them to the fields and we had to give them water. And we didn’t have running water so we had to get the water from the well, from over there. And we got up early. Very early. Have you made dinner yet?” I lie that I have.
“‘But you must have other stories, good stories, things that have happened.”
“I can’t remember them.”
Villager C walks past, accompanied by the noise of his squeaking wheelbarrow. I greet him with a ”C, what.” Not because I’m rude, but that’s how one greets each other. A head jerk and mumble in reply. I want to ask him if it is different now without his donkey. But I think better of it and watch him pass. He’d got rid of the donkey last week. I was in the childish belief it had been sold. But my neighbour’s donkey had gone too. To the same place. “The man who took them has lots of dogs so he could do with the meat.” My neighbour told me a few days later.
I’m not sure if it means I’m hardened that I didn’t cry about it.
“I better be off.” I get up and touch her shoulder again, that last bony relic of the village.
“Yes.” I smile.
I walk back past Enraged Enrique’s house, the door of the stable which he painted a new blue last year but I preferred the old blue, past the neatly stacked firewood, his oxcart, his hysterically sad and at the same time happy dog which leaps up from behind the low wall as always.
I find my daughter playing with M’s granddaughter. ”Sit down.” M says. Her legs are stretched out in front of her. ”It’s hot.” I sit down on the what was once white plastic chair next to her.
We talk medical stuff. It’s one of those subjects which always lingers, even when it isn’t directly talked about it is always present in the form of sighs and moans. Legs, backs, she broke her leg last year. And nerves. She needs to go back for a check up. Her nerves are better though.
“I always think of him you know.” She says. He’s always there, whatever I do, he’s always there, in my thoughts.” Her husband died 15 years ago, only in his late 40’s.
“How did you meet?”
Those words time warp her and I feel instantly guilty for having asked her, but she’s back there. “At a village party.” she says, “We danced together.”
I can see her back there, it can all be read in her eyes when she continues her story, a warm smile on her face.
“I never go out anymore.” she told me earlier this week while I was doing my washing at the big stone tank which is in the middle of the village. “I’ll take you to the next party.” I promised her. “My legs will hurt but I want to dance.” She laughed.
He’ll be with her too, no doubt, if only to relive those times.