You can’t imagine the tranquility with María gone from our house. The tension between us came to the breaking point a couple of weeks ago. The issue was partly cultural, mainly economic, and a lot to do with disrespect.
She was sixteen when she quit school earlier in 2011. She had no thought about what she was going to do. I talked to her like a father about her future. All she had on her mind was Milton, her 23-year old suitor. The age difference at this point in her life was one cultural obstacle. The other was her mother´s inability to view the broader picture. My advice was to get a job and get independent. Men in El Salvador do not have a good track record for fidelity or responsibility. Her mother, of all people, should know that. She reminded me that I had promised to care for her four children when we married. I foolishly assumed that an “understood” was that as long as they were in school or working to contribute to the household that was agreeable. But “´til death do us part” didn’t include a love struck child. I certainly wasn’t looking to include her horny swain and any issue they might bring forth in my mental marriage contract.
The girl slept late. Made herself better breakfasts than Margarita, her little brother and sister, or I were eating. While her mother washed clothes and dishes, and cleaned the house, María would sit nearby and chatter the childish gossip that American teens share in front of their lockers. Once in a while she would lift a hand to help but mostly when it involved food.
In the afternoon, after a healthy lunch, she’d shower, paint and primp, put on her sexy outfit that someone else bought and follow her mother to CDI with the kids to share more gossip with the women who cook for the CDI children. Or she’d wait for Milton to come with his truck after work and take off with him. When they returned, they’d sit in the truck and do what young people do. None of this is according to local custom. For me, as an active member in our church and on her mother the deaconess’ behalf, I was embarrassed.
She learned (or was told by her mother) that it would be best if she kept out of my sight as my blood pressure continued to rise. She took to staying in her room if I was moving about the house rather than glued to my computer. She would listen to the music on the cell phone that someone bought her or play its games. But every so often we’d clash and she would talk back to me. I’d remind her that I was NOT the man who was supposed to be taking care of her and if she wanted to talk like that she knows where he lives.
It came to a head a couple of weeks ago. I don’t remember the exact day. The days are all the same here. She was doing something at the sink and began shouting at Adriana while I was trying to think. I cussed her out in English in no uncertain terms and she understood enough of it to repeat part of it in Spanish to her mother. What transpired over the next several minutes I do not know and I do not care. I only knew that Milton carried her off some time later and he never brought her back.
Milton’s family lives on the road up the hill to Margarita’s old house in Casa Blanca. I didn’t know that either. I just know Margarita has known the family forever and says they’re good Christian people. Well, I guess the good Christian people took her in because over the Christmas weekend I heard she was there sleeping with Milton’s kid sister Abi, who is about María’s age. I didn’t see her until she, Abi, and Milton came to Margarita’s mom’s house on New Year’s Eve to visit a bit. Being the sarcastic sport that I am, when they left I gave the girl a hug and wished her a good life with the choices she made.
One down and one to go. Juan is 18 and has finished school. Unlike last year when he spent his “summer” vacation working for his grandfather on the finca, he’s been hanging on the corner with the other young fellows with nothing to do but strum guitars and kick a soccer ball around. But at least he helps out around the house. He’s supposed to go to a computer school and/or interview for a job at one of Central America’s biggest department stores located in Santa Ana. He is also in the process of fixing up the old house in Casa Blanca for himself. A gift from his mother. I’m told he has a girlfriend but I’ve never met her. So at this point I don’t know when he’ll go out on his own. Fortunately, he’s quite content with his lifelong diet of beans and tortillas. And as I said, he helps quite a bit around the house and saves wear and tear on my old frame.
I look forward to just having Luís, who is already a handful waiting to turn ten at the end of this month, and Adriana, who is mostly a joy at seven here at home. Other than his crying jags when he can’t get his way and the occasional scrap between the two that gives Adriana’s lungs a workout, it’s been peaceful within our walls for the past couple of weeks. Soon the little ones will be back to school and Margarita and I will have each other until Noon when they get out. Then they’ll have their CDI classes most afternoons and another season of soccer for Luís.
I’m hoping to see our food and water bills diminish and the quality of life improve. I long to be able to save substantially from my Social Security check each month and to at last buy a stove with an oven. I would love to teach Margarita how to stuff and bake a turkey, bake a cake or pie, lasagna, and so many other delicacies missing from my life here. I hope we can profit from raising the chickens we’ve had for the past five or six weeks. We both look forward to 2012 as a breakthrough year…Primero Dios!