Morning skewers the blinds. The heat of the sun on the lids of her eyes and the rooster’s belligerent crowing urge Camila out of bed. Stray curls are sent into a tiny frenzy when the whir of the fan oscillates in her direction. Her weary eyes widen at the lilting sound of the greca’s whistles and putters. No sooner does she finish making her bed before the aroma of coffee implores her out of her torpor and downstairs, intensifying as she approaches the kitchen.
Her abuelo and her father Negro, are sitting in rocking chairs on the veranda. With a black leather bound bible in his hand, his glasses thick like the bottom of a glass Pepsi-cola bottle, Abuelo peered up at her.
“Y esa cara negrita, gordita, prietica, y feita,” a loud and throaty laugh belted out from the depth of his belly aimed at her sleepy face. Camila laughed too, no offense ever taken from her Abuelo’s harmless teasing.
She waits for them silently, almost meditatively, to be served. The preparation and serving of the coffee is done with ceremonious dignity. Cups of various sizes are lined up on a woven tray in the kitchen. Small teaspoons of sugar are measured one by one and varied from one to another. Abuelo took no sugar, and Negro took only one small spoonful. Camila remembers from when she made her father’s coffee too sweet and he couldn’t drink it.
Her mother, Sussy calls her from the kitchen. She has a tray in her hands with two big cups and two small cups. The smaller you were, the smaller your cup. Her mother’s lips puckered and pointed at a plate with small rolls of bread she bought every morning from the colmado. The women had their cups separate, lipstick on their mouths matched the print on the brim of their cups. Camila grabs the bread and serves them next to her mother’s tray of coffee.
Resituated in her seat, she accompanies her family in inhaling the contents of their cups. The sweet black Dominican coffee seizes a spot of light, her cup’s eye. She watches as the blithe vapor rises and mingles in the air before her. With closed eyes, she takes measured sips to make her small portion last as long as the cups of her fathers. They revered the silence of their ceremonious morning coffee before Abuela broke it.
“Y Manuel?” Abuela asks.
“Virgen de la Altagracia.”
Abuela almost topples over at the notion of the beds not being made by the time desayuno was ready. While Camila savors the last bits of warm coffee soaked bread in her cheeks, Abuela made the bed with Sammy in it. He did not stir.
Widaly, Camila’s best friend in the barrio was nicknamed Cucaracha. She wasn’t ugly like a cockroach, she was the darkest of her family members and not much darker than Camila, but the name stuck. Widaly sat on the edge of her bed for seven hours. She was in the vacant space trapped in the vacuum between her mind and the world around her. She used to be present, free flowing muscles and skin but she ossified. If she even knew that she could try to move, she probably couldn’t. The strength of her own volition was not enough to tear her from that spot.
Earlier that afternoon, Abuela, Camila, and her mother sat under the cherry tree discussing everyone’s lives but their own, “Hablando de todo como lo loco” as Camila’s mother would say. Widaly’s mother Ines moved out to the city of Tenares without her. She would return to visit Widaly and her brothers whenever her boyfriends would leave her. As of late, she’d been seeing a married man. Abuela split open pea pods as she glared at Camila’s mother. Camila rubbed the smooth skin of the guandules as she freed each one of them from their tiny enclosures.
“Uno no deja as sus hijos Sussy. You don’t abandon your children.”
“Que clase de madre se figura ella misma? What kind of mother? What kind of woman?”
Ines was aware that he was married, what she didn’t know was that his wife was a bruja. Many of the women Camila knew had the tendency to punish everyone but their unfaithful husbands for infidelity.
Word in the barrio spread quickly of the bruja who did voodoo on Ines but missed, and instead, struck Widaly.
“Is she okay?” Camila asked as she stood dropping all of the pods back onto the naked peas. The women ignored Camila’s question until she got up to go to Widaly’s house.
“Where are you going?” they both asked simultaneously.
“P’onde Widaly,” Camila answered.
“No, stay right there. You’re always jodiendo en casa ajena.”
Late afternoon, before darkness descends completely over them, another power outage threatens deep darkness, and Camila is allowed to pay Widaly a visit with her Abuela under the condition that she behaves. Abuela and Camila sit with Widaly’s grandmother in the living room. From the wooden chair she shifted constantly in, she can see Widaly staring at the ground, her stare penetrating the floor.
“Juan Felix took her early to get cleansed. The girls sat in the back with her. When they drove past the church, they said, she was screaming as if her spirit were in flames. I don’t know what else to do, but pray.”
“All you can do is pray. Si dios quiere, la cucaracha se sana.”
There is a song that they would sing all the time to tease Widaly. They would sing:
La cucaracha, la cucaracha
Ya no puede caminar
Porque le falta, porque le falta
Una patica principal
Camila sang the song in her head and suddenly it felt so cruel. She really could not walk now, she could not move. La cucaracha was missing not a major limb but something else. Camila didn’t know what, but she knew the Widaly, she knew would never come back. As they left Widaly’s house, Camila asked her grandmother, “Ma, am I too old to be afraid of el cuco?” Camila searched her grandmother’s face until she answered, “There is no reason to fear evil, so long as you fear god more, Camila,” she rubbed her temples and continued, “but you are never to old mi hija. I fear him everyday, but I pray.”
D’Liz Polanco is a Dominican-American writer born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey. She is a graduate of New Jersey City University and is looking forward to pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing. She is co-founder, social media manager, chief editor, and writer of Beautype.org.