Cloak

There is a beautiful person within me who has no need to build an identity around suffering. I am learning to let that person blossom instead of holding on to a cloak of suffering.
Under the cloud of alcoholism it's easy to lose our dreams of a happy family life and our hopes that the alcoholic will find recovery.
Rows of flimsy houses w gaping doors.
Mete tu dedo aquí y ve mis manos y alarga acá tu mano y metela en mi costado y no seas incrédulo sino fiel sino fiel...Señor mío y Dios mío y creyó.
Joven con espejuelos de marco cuadrado negro cara delgada mirada espantada. Mujer con mirada seria pelo negro largo cara rectangular con la cabeza sobre el hombro del muchacho.

Gabriela didn't want to go into Rolando's room. She opened the door. Her small body shrunk inside the door frame. She squared her narrow shoulders, adjusted her black framed glasses, peered through her thick lenses into the darkness. Rolandito kept his shutters bolted. She stepped inside. She couldn't see. She tripped over his body in the middle of the floor.
She had feared this moment. She had woken up in terror of it at three am night after night and then lain in bed with a myriad galloping scenarios of this moment trampling her mind. And the moment was now. She screamed then fell to her knees and wailed. "I never have to have my hopes that this time he'll stay sober crushed again." She contorted. "Perdóname Dios mío."

Fourteen days earlier
"Rolando's brain has low gaba. He's learned to get gaba with substances. He needs more and more to get the same effect. He can never get the same effect." The man leaned forward over his small, messy desk. He had a round, kindly face and his gaze, through thick glasses, was direct but soft.
Gabriela rested her hand on the desk and leaned forward. "He wants to fly. The whole world wants to kill him. That would use up anybody's gaba. The world wants to kill him and he wants to fly."
Dr. Mas reached across the desk and covered her hand with his. "There's a place up in El Pico."
Gabriela moaned. "I can't. Not again. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night shaking. The terror hurt my chest, my bones. I didn't think I'd make it through the night. What makes you think it's going to work this time?"
"We just have to keep believing one time it will."
"Some make it. Some don't. What makes the difference? God is joking. If there were a god she would be joking."
"Hay un sitio en El Pico. They get them to climb La Cima."
"And how will I get him to go?"
Gabriela pulled her hand away. As she opened Dr. Mas' front door she pictured a cascade of days ahead of her. She'd have to wake up each day, again and again, knowing she couldn't save her son. She heard herself say out loud, "I can't live. I can't live." She stepped onto Calle de los Escolares and took off running toward the river. She ran into the vientos del crepusculo and pushed her body against the thick, cool wall of air. Almost nobody was out on the street but when she got to the Guacabon river seven boys were flying their kites, Rolando's friends. She ran into the meadow and stood among them. They were dispersed around her and she screamed and screamed until one by one they gathered beside her. "Are you going to watch Rolando kill himself and do nothing?"
They said nothing. They clutched their kite strings. Ernestico came close to her. She looked straight at his square, scruffy face, into his light brown eyes. "Dime algo." He was their neighbor and Rolandito's drinking buddy. He could take drink or leave it, she thought. He could pick it up and put it down. "I would if I knew what to do."
"Raptalo. Raptamelo." She turned to face the gathered boys surrounding her. "Find him. Tie him up if you have to. Take him to El Pico."

Gabriela stared at her son on the floor of his room. Was he dead? She screamed blood. She screamed and screamed. "I did not want this for my son. This is not the life I dreamed for him. I'm going to scream until the universe hears me."
Ernestico, their neighbor, burst into the house from the back door, the kitchen door that almost abutted the kitchen door to his own home. "Que paso?" He knelt beside her. He pounded on Rolandito's chest. He breathed into his mouth. He pounded again.
"Anoche sone con Cristo," she thought. "She dreamed she found Christ on the ground, just like Rolandito lay on the ground, and she stuck her fingers into the wounds on his chest, the nail holes in his palms.
Rolandito bolted upright. "Igual que Cristo."
Within minutes Ernestico's crew, who used to be Rolando's crew until just recently when he stopped having any other friends besides the drink, the boys he grew up with, who could pick it up and put it down, who loved him, they converged in the bedroom.
"Raptenmelo. Seize my boy. Salvenmelo." Dr. Mas showed up. Had she called him? She gave the young men the piece of pad paper Dr. Mas had just given her with the location, the exact latitude and longitude for Yucayeque. "Raptenmelo. Seize my boy. Take him here." Before Rolandito was fully conscious his friends tossed him into the back seat of Ernestico's father's yipi. Ernestico sat beside him. His older brother Raul, with Ernestico's same oval face, dark skin, yellow brown eyes, and with a sparse bigotico and goatee, took the wheel. At the last minute Dr. Mas pushed his way into the back seat. Gabriela let out a cry and her eyes gushed tears. Dr. Mas was going to make sure Rolandito got to Yucayeque. She felt hope's flutter in her chest. She didn't want to hope but she felt hope's flutter.

"Perdoname vieja. Forgive me. Estoy llorando. Lloro y lloro. I'm on my training climb today. Sone que pataleaba. Tirado en el piso, de pequeno, lloraba y pataleabe. We made it to La Sabana. I'm resting, leaning on a tree, sitting en el borde del mundo. I can see Karaya, almost all of Karaya and it's night time and I see the glowing sea and I understand why our ancestros saw the moon here and called our island Karaya. Today my cacique Guarionex told us the story of when he used to be Tomas and how he had finally taken off his cloak of suffering and put down the would be healer that doesn't really heal, the would be spirits that steals the spirit. Maybe if I stay up here forever it won't be necessary to drink. That's what Guarionex did. He came. He stumbled onto this place is what he said. He came and he never left. I don't know that I can face la Costa. Guarionex says in La Costa el imperio se pasea como el diablo. Seeing it has failed its historic genocide it flaunts its contemporary genocide. He made us scream, we are still here and we will not be genocided. I didn't believe it but I didn't want to be the only silent one."

"Atravesamos todas las aguas. Un rocio que se volvio nube. It turned to rain. A downpour. I was wet. Guarionex found us a cave. Or he'd already known it was there. Or he'd always known it was there. In it we built a fire from a stick and a stone. We sat by the fire and over us a lone bat swooped then vanished into the blackness because the cave went in. I asked Guarionex if he knew where it went or how deep and he told me. Ya veras. Un dia d'estos entramos.
"Guarionex told us on this climb we were to sleep whenever we were not eating or climbing. We ate some of our yuca con lentejas and then a few of our raisins. Two of us, Guarionex and me, were able to hang our hammocks. Someone had driven metal rods into a ledge on the cavewall. The other six of us spread our straw mats. We all rolled into our blankets, olive green, water proof wool, liberated from the Base.
"Hanging in the air I felt nothing and then after a few moments I felt something I didn't understand. It was like a river was running along my spine and little tributaries were running up and down my arms and legs. I fell into a black sleep with no dreams as if I'd fallen into the black cave. With Guarionex and the others there I wasn't scared. We're not meant to be alone. We're not meant to live as if we alone are the ones to save ourselves.
"Now it's morning and Guarionex made us hot red tea, gave us yuca bread and told us to write home. So here I am, writing you Ma. When I see your face I start to cry all over again. Perdoname. I'm not sure that once I'm back on la Costa I won't start doing the same things again. When I think of la Costa, of Coral, I scream, "Don't make me go. Say I don't have to. I curl into a ball and I pound my arms and legs and Guarionex holds me. I'm not ashamed anymore. I cry and cry. I can not stand the tedium and the loneliness. I can't go back to that. Guarionex says I never got to cry my little boy tears and I'm crying them now and la Costa isn't going to feel the same. Maybe this Rolando here is my real self but can I survive la Costa without being that other one?
Guarionex says revolution is our rehabilitation. We can never fully heal, we can never unbreak, until we make the revolution. You know the prayer, the things we can not change? He says we have to change everything.
Tomorrow our training climb is to Cataratas de las Brujas.
"I wish I never had to go back again. Never have to climb la Cima and be sent out into that world down there again.
Te quiero, Ma. Eso si, te quiero. You never gave up on me. Even when the whole world said I was crazy you always said, I know you are doing the best that you can. But I would hear you crying at night and I knew you wanted me to do different, better. To know what you knew that deep inside I knew. That what I was doing was not what I wanted to be doing. You wanted me to know that and I can know it here but I don't know I can hold onto it down there. Guarionex said the terror is when we're living in the genocide and when we get to la Costa, or even here, there will be times when we are right inside the genocide. And that is why we have to learn to be El Pico, to be this mountain, to sit still here until we feel ourselves rooted to the core of the planet, like this mountain. Then we can be big enough to contain the genocide. He said that, Ma, but I don't know that I can do that. I don't know that anyone can do that. Maybe that's the reason Guarionex doesn't want to ever leave Yucayeque. He hasn't been to La Costa for two years."

"Guarionex from here I can see the world. La Costa is like a yellow crayon streak and el mar like my old aquarium after I got the idea to put blue and green food coloring in the water."
Rolando spun his thin brown body. "And on this side, the sky. El mismo cielo. Those waterfalls make my knees shake because they are more beautiful than my eyes can bare. A veil of water as far as my eyes can see in every direction and now you are taking us under it."

"The wet ledge under the Brujas' veil is slippery. I am at last as scared outside as I have always been inside which I did not know but I know it now. If I trip, or slip, I will go into space and then I will be dead in minutes long before my body ever lands and maybe my body would disintegrate and become Brujas' mist, part of their veil, their cloak.
"But I make it to the other side. All seven of us do. Not one of us going to die on Guarionex's watch.
"On the other side there is a gathering of actual Brujas. That's what I thought when we arrived at the camp and there were dozens of gray haired women, cropped or braided, dancing around a campfire. They welcomed us and Guarionex embraced several of them. "Tu aqui! Y tu madre Irma se esta muriendo." They fed us and another of the boys, who came from the encampment, from Palenque, and not like the rest of us, from Coral itself or even from Arrecife, told us these were Las Senoras de los Frijoles who fed the hundreds of Palenqueros in their permanent demonstration.
"After we ate they let us sit around their fire to get dry. For several hours I watched them dance. They put on and took off elaborate embroidered cloaks and then after awhile they stopped and began to read their cloaks one by one. Guarionex leaned toward where the seven of us sat clustered. "Their cloaks of suffering. They come here once a year to add that year's sufferings to their embroidery and then they dance around their fire and wear the cloaks and take them off and tell the stories and let them go."
"Guarionex got a screaming to from one of the Senoras for not letting his mother know where he is. He hung his head. "No soy perfecto." He said that later when the ladies were in their painted tents and we had the dying fire to ourselves and Guarionex made us add to our letters.

"There's no turning back from here. We have one day of rest beyond the Cataratas, after crossing under the Velos de las Brujas. Today we took an easy hike to Dos Lagunas.
Then Guarionex sent us off alone. Solos. Solos con un pan de yuca. I've eaten most of mine and then what am I going to eat? I'm sitting here. Guarionex is making us sit until we feel the riachuelos de energia he says are all over our bodies. I sit and sit and I don't feel anything. To my left is El Piquito. It's like La Cima's baby mountain. It's perfect, like in my coloring book. Straight ahead are Dos Lagunitas, like two eyes. How is the water up here this clear? They are also perfect, blue like the sky. And up above so close I can imagine I can touch it, is the sky. Right now it is blue, cloudless. Guarionex said, "Sit here until your body is as still and steady as El Piquito, until your breath is as calm as Dos Lagunitas, until your mind is as clean as that sky. One moment I had the thought, and even spoke it, "that's never gonna happen." And next thing, I had no more thoughts and I was El Piquito, Dos Lagunitas, and the sky. I wondered why I've ever needed more than the sky above, and the ground under my feet, and my mind to think, and my heart to feel. I was in perfect darkness and I could almost touch the river of stars around me, a Guacabon of stars. I sobbed and sobbed and didn't mind it because it felt like I had been waiting my whole life to cry even though I didn't know what I was crying for. I remembered my dream. In my dream I had just realized that we humans could fly and that we could breathe under water and I began to swim, and swim, and swim, from the City back to Playa Coral. And all the way I swam I was crying and it was my tears made the sea.

"Every day is the day of our ascent." Guarionex paused and looked at each of us. Behind us I could see the steep almost perpendicular slope of La Cima in the distance and up close, the ladder affixed onto the red cliff. I glanced at my companions. Maricela's black curls were longer and she wasn't gordita any more. Diego stared straight at the slope with that always grim expression on his blue black skin. Edgar's square brown face broke into his frequent grin. Gildo braided his long black hair and his stern rectangular brown face was softened suddenly by a small, sweet smile. Claudia stared at the slope through her thick glasses and her oval brown face appeared serene. But what was she thinking? What were any of them thinking. I thought, this is the first time I notice them, the first time I come out of my own cloak of suffering long enough to notice them.
I spoke. "Every day is the day of our ascent, and this day is the day we begin our Yucateque ascent to La Cima."
Claudia sang out, "Two days from now we will have climbed el Piquito."
But tonight we would have our last comfortable night at La Estacion Experimental. I got a top bunk in a small wooden cabin with a techo de yagua and Diego was in the bunk underneath me. Edgar was on the top bunk close to me. Gildo was on the bottom bunk by Edgar. We left our gear and walked outside through mist along a path lit by small lanterns. "Stars on the ground." Gildo looked up and pointed to the sky. "Stars in the sky." The dining room was in a wooden building with a porch all around it. By the door there was a long table with a small buildings and paths and a beach and turquoise sea. We stood around it. "Casitas de juguete." Claudia leaned over and brought her face close to the model. The houses were egg shaped. When I got close and touched one it was soft and moved. I looked down and saw that from the side the model showed what was under the houses under the ground. Everything was there! The whole house was really under the earth. Kitchen. Bathroom. Bedrooms. Sala. Guarionex joined us then. "These are a maqueta of the Casas Urayoan, hurricane free houses. He moved the top of one of the houses side to side and turned on a switch on the wall. A powerful whirling draft of air blew onto the maqueta and the tops of the houses moved with the wind.

Seguimos trepando. Solo pensaba en Espanol, Solo veia lo que tenia por delante. Piedrecitas. Orquideas. De repente estabamos dentro de unas nubes.
I began to think in English again once I was in that mist. We were drenched. No more small rocks. No more orchids. I was face to face with a clump of mossy dirt. I had to climb here where the soil seemed soft. I don't know where I found the surge of strength that rose up from my tailbone along my spine into my arms. I only kept thinking or our comfortable night at the Estacion Experimental. But I wasn't sure I hadn't made that up. Somehow I found the strength and got myself halfway up. When my waist was level with the top I saw Maricela bending toward me, reaching her hand to me. I saw her beaming face and noticed that her brown curls were longer, fuller all around her head like a crown. She pulled. I pushed. Together we got me up that mound.
We heard a flute. Was that the wind? We stopped short when we came to a cave. Inside it was a man, very dark brown, shaved head, tattoos of Taino cemis up his arms with an automatic rifle leaning beside him. Guarionex approached him and they spoke and then the man nodded.
"It sometimes happens, in a war, that meditators are armed." He said his name was Caos. He called each of us to him one by one. I was next to last. He asked me to kneel before him and close my eyes. He put the heel of his hand in the middle of my forehead. "Tu eres un tigrillo. Tigrillo is your name."
That night we slept inside the cave. Beyond the darkness behind Caos there was a narrow path. "This is going to be your birth canal. Your mind thinks it knows everything but it knows just a fraction of what your body knows. Remember your body is the earth, this mountain. You are not the uprooted separate creature you think you are. You are made of each other and made of the earth. Follow your body. Get reborn." Caos was laughing when he said this but I believed him. We had to squat to crawl through and for a moment I felt panic rising up in me and I remembered to breathe and as I breathed I could feel my body becoming lithe and flexible and fierce and I knew then that I was Tigrillo.
The passage opened into a big chamber lit from above. I saw there was a crack to the world high above that let the light shine in. On the walls there were cemis and after my eyes got used to the half light in the space I saw that some were ancient and some were new. Guarionex motioned us to the section with the new designs. He gave us chisels. I carved my own cemi of my tigrillo. We went to sleep as soon as the chamber was dark. I dreamt of my tigrillo in a cage and woke up screaming, sobbing. Guarionex held me the way Mary held Christ in that painting in the Catedral de Coral. I didn't care that I was sobbing. Guarionex cradled me. "Crying is for tough guys." Between sobs I told him my dream. "I'm here to take you out of that crib where you were left for hours. I'm here to take you out of that playpen where you were left for hours. I'm here to break you out of the classroom where you sat motionless for hours. To unlock the gates to the Carcel de Coral. The only bars that matter are the ones in your own mind."
I was Tigrillo and I climbed the mountain, crawled up on all fours, gripped the slope with my claws. Guarionex harnessed us and cabled us and we dangled from the earth into. I felt the terror shaking right through me and exploding out of me into space. We danced against the cliffsides. There was terror and hope won. Not one of us died. Not one of us from our cohort died. Last cohort one of us Yucatequeros did not make it. They say he gave in to the urge to plunge. I did not. I was poised on the edge. I felt the urge. I did. But I did not plunge. Did he think that he could fly? Did he think he had found what he was seeking? Did he find the ultimate fix?
We lived. We made it to La Cima. From there we saw the whole world. We saw the future. Ma, in the end we win.

Gabriela waited on the top of the flat rock in the center of the path with Guarionex whom she had known as Tomas when he was her friend Irma's lost son. She stood on solid ground that had once been the bed of the Guacabon, framed by the deep brown walls of Guacabon Canyon. To her left, far below, was the river which from up here seemed a reddish brown ribbon. Other parents, husbands, wives, sisters stood with her. "I hear them." Guarionex raised a hand and pointed to where the path curved and rose. Gabriela waited. First Maricela, Pantera, ran in. She ululated down the path. Her long braid flew behind her. She was deep brown and very strong. She ran into the arms of her sister and then they walked off, arm in arm. Diego, Buho, ran in next. His father grabbed him and spun him. Edgar, Culebra, was welcomed by his mother who was six inches shorter than he was. He spun her.
And then it was her son. Her Rolando. Tigrillo.
"Le entregue mi hijo al mundo y me lo destrozo. When the time came to give my son to the world, the world destroyed him." She yelped. "Y ahora me lo devuelve. Now the world is returning him." She sobbed.
Tigrillo took off down the hill. He was very thin. His hair was long and braided down his back. He had a dark black beard. She ran toward him. They nearly collided. She embraced her son. She inhaled his scent of wood smoke and effort. She breathed him in. She felt his heart against her chest.