I’m Done Waiting for You, Moy

Raúl Dorantes Publicado 2015-07-01 08:01:32

 

Raúl Dorantes is a prolific author whose writings include essays, plays, a novel, and many short stories. “Ya no te espero, Moy” stands out among his best stories. I decided to translate it into English because it vividly depicts the social reality of the working-class immigrant. More importantly, it is an excellent sample of an emergent body of work by a group of dedicated latinoamericanos attempting the impossible — putting down the roots of a new Latin American literary movement in Spanish in the U.S. This literature diverges markedly from the writings of Zavala, Martí, Vasconcelos, Paz, Borges, Castellanos, or the new generation of authors visiting American universities and writing about a life of privilege. “I’m Done Waiting for You, Moy” depicts the life of the disadvantaged, of those trapped in the promise of a better life. This theme is unique to the new literature by latinoamericanos in the US in general and in Chicago in particular — a literature that will give much to talk about in years to come. —José Ángel N.

 

  

Moy said it best: when the cold starts to bite, the best you can do is stay close to the radiator. Pull up the couch and avoid getting up too much. It’s almost like I just got here, like I’ve never seen the pipes frizándose[1], or the windows, all sealed with a white coat of frost. Same thing happens every year, and I just get dumber, jard jeded[2] as my children would say. And they’d be right. I forgot to put my nightgown on before going to bed last night. Not going down to the beisman[3] was also stupid. At my age I don’t give a damn about savings and biles[4]. Moy would have taken a bunch of old rags and stuffed them under the doors. Or he would have tied the couch to the radiator. But he wouldn’t have gone down to the beisman, frugal as he was with the heat, the water and all those kinds of things. So he’d be right here with me, looking at these frozen spirals hanging so peacefully from the ceiling. These solid tongues that came seeping in through the crevices and every little crack around. Moy would look at them growing inch by inch, like looming shadows, like roots, coming from the porch and through the living room. Not even his hands, those bones used to welding and landscaping and everything else he did, would be strong enough to break that layer of frost in the kitchen. But Moy wouldn’t use words like spirals or tongues or coats. With his dry jaws, steaming white, he’d simply manage to say that Alaska barged right into our building, He’d say that November was too harsh, and “now you can forguéret[5], Delia, forguéret.” Maybe he’d take a broomstick and pound hard on the floor. With a knife he’d try to dig past the linoleum and down to the wooden boards. Or maybe not. Moy would refuse to turn on the heat because he’d have to bend over, stretch his arm and stick a match in the bróiler[6]. Being a diabetic, he couldn’t do it. And having no phone, no way to contact our sons, and, frankly, not even the slightest desire to scream for help anymore, both Moy and me, we would just curl up here and turn into big cubes of ice. 

It’d be hilarious, finding me like this: an ice cube, a preserved scorpion. So don’t let nobody come in. Just Imelda. Let her come and convince me to move to Wisconsin with her. I’d like to hear again about my first night working over at don Toño’s bar; how scared I was feeling those nasty hands groping me; how the drunken stench coming out of those mouths almost made me cry. That potorra[7] was young but she knew her stuff. She taught me how to earn a five-dollar tip: the teasing, the playful words, the wink of the eye. For don Toño, we were nothing more than waitresses, but for the customers we were almost queens. Especially when we rubbed our hips against them. I’d only been working at don Toño’s for about four months when Moy got leióf[8]. I remember it well: four months of working, both the potorra and me. And now I’m just stuck here, waiting for you to come, damn potorra! Let everyone come in — maybe I’ll make the news tomorrow. I can already see the broken willows by the lake, or the jaiweys[9] closed because of the snow. Just imagine my picture! Even if the whole city sees the mess in my living room. Last night I had options. I could’ve gone to the Lutheran shelter or over to the Polish family’s house. I could’ve boiled water and more water to make it through the night. Wasn’t the wind gushing all furious against the windows at about midnight? Now I know what people mean — the wind chill is what really kills you. You can feel when winter is about to seep in — the arches creak, the windows start cracking. I must have been very deeply asleep to have let the building get below zero. “You don’t learn notin’, Delia,” Moy would say, “Checking the thermostat takes only five minutes.” And he’d say it as though he ever taught me how to handle a thermostat. You did tell me about valves, where they were and what to do with them. But right now I can’t fix no valves. Plus, this water is not like the water that flows when it floods, Moisés, the water that sweeps away plants and lamps. This is mischievous water that comes in little by little and knows exactly what to do. The tenants will say that last night I went overboard, that the vodka and the six pack are too much for my age. But that’s not true, I’ll tell them. Winter came in whispering quietly. It was like the living room and the bedrooms let it in. It was like the whole building was happy with the cold concrete creeping up on the furniture, blocking all the locks — that damn cold that broke all the jirers[10]… All I felt was this anesthesia numbing up my ankles, a little tingling on my thighs, up my tailbone. It felt like tongues licking their way up, curling all around me like buganvilias. But they wouldn’t know what buganvilias are. “What happened, then, doña Delia?” Nothing happened. I just didn’t wanna wake up, period. Did I drink too much last night? No — I was just lying there, listening to the sound of breaking windows, of creaking frames, of icicles crashing down on the plates… At six o’clock the alarm went off and started flashing and I woke up. Then I said to myself, “Hurry up, Delia, you have to punch in at five to seven, bind catalogs and stuff folders with fliers.” I did that for ten years, and it was so dull having to wake up and punch in every day. So it felt good not leaving the couch this morning. It felt good staying right here, buried from head to toe under this cold plaster. It felt good ending up on my knees on the rug, right in the middle of my living room. I’d never seen my rug like this, covered with bars of soap, the kind that makes you slip and break the fibula and every other bone. So it is better to rest, Delia, just rest… To the tenants I’ll simply say that soon it was morning and that I was sure Moy had sealed all windows and doors. “Dads it, Delia, dads it”. No, Moy wouldn’t do that… He wouldn’t have lasted this long. He would’ve stopped shaking a while ago. I can imagine him, nice and quiet, with his icy cap, a scarf made out of little crystals wrapped around his neck.

If Imelda came, as soon as she entered she’d say: “What are you doing, just lying there, doña Delia?” She would also blame the five or six cans of beer. That potorra only half understands! I didn’t wanna go to the báindery[11], Imelda! I just didn’t feel like staring at the lines of catalogs today. At the báindery we are always bent over, and all the girls there could use a little straightening out. At least I’ve been straightening out since very early this morning, wrapped up in this coat made of angel hair — look at it, it’s like marble! All night long. And at daybreak, I decided to just let myself fall down slowly on the floor: ice cracking against ice. If you’d only seen how beautiful it was, Imelda. Your skin, your arms, anything that hangs becomes rock solid; makes you forget about Avon creams, about aloe soaps. She would ask me to explain what it feels like, this iceberg transporting me to the Arctic, or whatever that place is called. And she’d laugh! She’d try to make me kneel on the floor, break up this coat of mine by stabbing it with a screwdriver, take off my stockings. Then she’d run off to get the Polish neighbors. 

But if Moy came, he’d jump up at the sight of his T.V. all frizada[12]. The whole house would be filled up with icicles, like those pointy stones we saw at Tonantongo. Your house, Moisés, your house! It was too late when we realized that it would have been better to just stay and rent over at Polaina[13]. Why would anybody want to be in debt for thirty years? “We’re moving to Twenty-Third Street,” you just told me one day. “We’re leaving Polaina after all.” And then all our wages went to paying aseguranzas[14], buying thermostats, replacing draiwols[15]. We knew the last thing we wanted was to own a house. Or at least that was how I felt. But you, Moisés, you’re no longer here to say anything. That’s why here in this house not even the outlets work well. I haven’t even been able to rent the first floor. Oh, Moisés, I wish you would just bust in with the firemen! If you want to repair the jirers then do it. But you should know I’ve become very fond of my crystal coat. You know full well that ever since we lived on Polaina I’ve liked looking at the cars all buried in snow. Ever since, I’ve always liked winter best. I like to see the willows bare like skeletons, the empty streets, and those endless evenings that never quite become full blown nights. Over at Polaina life was good, Moisés. That was when I got my first job binding. Our children grew up there, and when they left, they left from that place too. So why bother buying a building here on Twenty-Third Street? But why should I think about all that now? It’s probably better to just turn off the brain, all the senses. Why listen to the tenants making noise right outside? They’ll carry me out of here like a statue, I know, and they’ll take me down to Saint Anthony. Why would I want to feel the warm soup down my throat tomorrow morning? Why bother me with those fluids dripping down the IV line? Just leave me alone! Because I’m done waiting for you, Moisés. Don’t come in with the firefighters! Twenty years ago it was easy to climb on the back of a truck. You were better at enduring the trip, and at making me endure it. All those days going from one dark room to another in this or that town at the border. Then on to the back of different trucks, you and me ducking, kneeling, or lying down. It was so nice, the trip. We never saw no rivers, no people trailing behind us, we never felt no fear climbing up the hills. And all of a sudden there was Chicago. It was almost like we’d come through a dark pipe. Now I laugh when I remember that because I also remember that as soon as we moved to Twenty-Third Street you got your papers and went to Mexico. But you didn’t like it no more. You felt bad and, three days after, you were on the phone asking us to bring you back. Our sons said that you got jómsic[16]. I went to pick you up at the station. Your sugars were really high and you were trembling when you got off the Greyhound and we went directly to Saint Anthony. And, as you used to say, dads it, te cuiteaste.[17] That’s why I want the potorra to come, not Moy. Only you, Imelda, only you will be funny enough to say that the living room looks good like this, covered in ice; that it looks good without the Christ from San Juan. You helped me take it down just after Moy died. Let’s stick it in the átic[18], I said, and it is probably there now, like an ice cream bar. Don’t you remember, Imelda, that only a month after taking the Christ down we ended up at the Salón del Reino every Saturday? We started reading the Bible, learning to speak from a stand, distributing the ¡Despertad! at every corner. And those bitches at the assembly line, they gave us hell for it. We ended up eating lunch alone because they gave us a hard time even when we tried to use the microwave. You know I ended up getting sick of both the Bible and the Armageddon. I felt that none of that was true. But you stayed with the Witnesses — you, the one who wasn’t convinced at first… I can already imagine her big smile coming in, even if it isn’t through the door: “What are you doing, doña Delia, lying on the rug?” She’d start talking to me about Wisconsin… I already hear the pounding, their picks sparking against the door frame. Pull! Wedge a bar in! I can see little rays of light already. I can hear your sirens. The voice of the Polish lady. Wait, no, don’t come in. This house is such a mess. If it’s not Imelda, everybody turn back and leave. On second thought, just come in, everybody come and see that over at doña Delia’s if you don’t trip you wind up slipping!

 

__________________________

[1] Freezing up

[2] Hard headed

[3] Basement

[4] Bills

[5] Forget it

[6] Boiler or furnace

[7] Puerto Rican, slang

[8] Laid off

[9] Highways

[10] Heaters

[11] Bindery

[12] Frozen up

[13] Paulina Street

[14] Insurance

[15] Drywall

[16] Homesick

[17] That’s it, you quit

[18] Attic

 

Raúl Dorantes. Writer. Author of the novel De zorros y erizos. 

José Ángel N., author of Illegal: Reflections of an Undocumented Immigrant.

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