Today is the last day of the fast so I sit here reflecting a bit on how I ended up here of all places. I am thinking if my life would have been any different if I had not travelled so much , if I was not exposed to so many cultures along the way and all those different factors which invade your brain at the crack of dawn.
When I was six years old, my parents moved to El Salvador. I knew little of what that meant, only that my grandparents and aunts did not agree and would start a war against “that country”that they never have fully reconciled on. As with most things in my life, I found out by accident that I was leaving. A man in my community was boasting about how excited I must be about leaving to a foreign country.
Because my grandparents thought of this as the end of the world, I too began to cry on the steps thinking how bad it would be. I am not sure why this was different from other times. For we had gone to Bolivia and Peru when I was very young and the first year of my life was spent in a trailer near a Native American reservation far away from the realities of Boston. I had not stayed in the same place since, and we had also jetted off to Europe to see my mom’s family as well. But because I was precocious child who picked other people’s suffering I was apprehensive to leave.
I remember little of going , only that I wore my Scottish kilt and my stuffed Care Bear with me. When we arrived, the city seemed alive , congested with smog and cars and people. A boy, the color of mahogany a color I would know so well later on shoved his face on our window yelling incoherently and shoving a fruit onto our window. I remember how it sounded like gibberish to me.
We arrived at a man’s house where they had lunch served for us.
One of the girls, Marta, gave me an exotic fruit. It was bitter and sweet and tasted like roses and all sorts of exotic flavors. I looked at Marta and asked her “What is this?” “It’s a rose apple”she told me. And I knew , perhaps that it was not all that bad.
They handed me a white ball of fur. Her name was snowball and she was small with grey streaks like a white tiger. They told me it was mine. We went to our new house in a shiny green pickup. The house was nothing like back home, it had shiny tiles and felt cool to the touch. My mom tucked me into the large empty room which still smelled of fresh paint. The kitten lay beside me and was meowing hysterically. She echoed how scared and alone I felt so I soothed her to sleep. The first night I was home I fell asleep with her tiny meows which cut into the darkness.
And with that, snowball became my cat. Snowball, who sucked her tail when she was happy and took care of our dog like it was her child. Snowball who brought in pigeons and began to sniff everywhere from all the accumulated handballs. She was my companion for my whole childhood, who tolerated me throwing her into a basin of water to see if she could swim. Snowball, who pounced on the dog when my baby brother stole the dog’s bone. When I left for college, it felt odd not to feel the warmth against my leg when I fell to sleep. Snowball died when I was 21, a very old cat.
I remember receiving the phone call, and feeling like a part of me had died with her. That innocent sweet part , the part that belonged to El Salvador entirely. She died quietly, behind a tree and was buried in my backyard. After she died nothing was ever the same.