house of happy

Life adventures in prose and verse. Explorations of places, people and words. Stories and fun.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Lolita, 70

First we started to wave at each other whenever I passed her in the car. Big smiles. Then I had a vague impression that she appeared at the side of the road when she knew I would be passing. Naturally, I began to stop for a moment to talk to her. I'd roll down the window, she'd lean in with a big smile.

Everything about her denies the smile.
She is dressed in mourning (for her husband, whom she calls the 'dearest departed my husband' or 'my saintly departed lord husband').
Her leg is swollen and goes numb for days. This is a tragedy because it stops her from walking out and meeting people, even foreign women like me, with insufficient knowledge of the language and life of the village.
The house where she'd lived all her life is shuttered and covered in brambles (too old to live there, she now spends a month in the house of each of her children except for the one who died and the one who wouldn't speak to her.

But the smile stays and what a smile: it lights up her face and travels to your face and tugs at the corners of your mouth and then bursts upwards like fireworks and the day seems brighter and your eyes need to adjust.

Lolita's got many stories and, although they're gifts, she keeps apologising for 'stealing my time'. Then she taps the ground with her right foot, 'to wake it up', and starts her walk back to the house of the month, leaving me with high haunting images from her youth.

Today I'm under the spell of a short vision of Lolita, young (long hair? I must ask her), at seven in the morning, running to the river. She's been up all night, serving customers in her bar, or shop, or both (must clarify). Her husband (the dearest saintly one) has been up all night smuggling stuff across the Minho. Every day at dawn, he leaves her a sign by an old corner stone (what's the sign? I must ask) to say he's all right, things went well, he's alive. Gasping, she gets the message, sends a quick thank you to the Virgin Mary and runs back to the village, to wake the children and get them ready for school.


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