Tatiana, Robertico, Eugenio y Rolo

Catalina set down the barbell with a bang. "Look who's here." Her two young nephews, Robertico and Eugenio ran into her training room, to the box where she kept her massage balls. Her husband Maximo stood at the door of her exercise room, his white coat unbuttoned over a pale, blue t-shirt. He waved at the boys. "Mira quien esta aqui."
Catalina's sister Tatiana stood alongside Maximo, as always in very high heels, and that early in the morning, in ful, meticulous make up with her long, jet black hair in a beauty parlor bun. People said the sisters looked alike, but Catalina could see none of herself in her sister. Maximo looked at Catalina over the glasses he slid down his nose, raised his thick, graying brows, raised his shoulders. "I have to get back to the farmacia." He pivoted on his heel and left as Tatiana stepped into the room, strode toward Catalina on her high heels, and kissed her on the cheek. Catalina's lips instantly went numb from Tatiana's perfume.
She pointed to her sons. "Te los tengo que dejar. I'm going to need to leave them with you. I've gotta go to the City on the 9:00 AM ferry. I have my second interview at the airline. Esta vez el trabajo me va a salir."
The boys were tossing the soft, gel-like, purple, turquoise, and yellow balls back and forth. Robertico, brown and gap-toothed, who was almost six, caught the purple ball and tossed it hard at Eugenio who was light-skinned, rounder, and threw himself on the floor. He howled, laughing as his big brother threw himself on top.
"Y yo donde los meto? Where will I put them and how will I take care of them? There's a reason I had no children of my own." Catalina glanced at the boys and hoped they were laughing too loud to hear her.
Tatiana had already turned her back and was heading to the front door. She threw her goodbye kisses at Catalina who followed her through the patio, into the farmacia and watched her throw Maximo a kiss. "I'm going to miss the boat." She'd gotten as far as the corner and beginning to step down from the portal onto the sidewalk when Eugenio raced past Catalina. He chased after his mother and clung to her leg. "Mami no te vayas." The sound came from his gut and the volume of the wail shook through Catalina. Tatiana looked at her sister. "Ayudame." Robertico ran after them and stood by his mother and his brother. He watched in silence until his face cracked and he screamed. "Mami no te vayas otra vez. Papi se fue y no volvio. Como sabemos que vas a volver? Papi never came back so how do we know you will?" Nobody had told him but he knew because he spied on the grandes that his Papi had gone with the rebeldes and been found dead, with no eyes and with no fingernails. Robertico clung to his mother's other leg. Passersby, all of them friends or clients of the farmacia, walked by them on their way to the cafe at the far end of the portal. They passed and shook their heads at this phenomenal perreta, or averted their gaze. One mother caught Catalina's eye and smiled her sympathy. Children heading to school gathered around the boys whose screams grew louder and shuddered through their bodies. Tatiana tried to pry the boys off her legs. "Tragame tierra. "
Catalina and Maximo stared at the scene from the doorway to the farmacia, a few yards from the corner. "I wish I could cry that way when you go clandestino." She squeezed his hand and walked to the perreta. She'd just seen the carro publico going to the ferry pull up. Tatiana, using all her strength pried off Eugenio and handed him to Catalina. Robertico let go her legs, stood on his own. "One day you're going to be sorry."
Catalina perched Eugenio on her hip. He'd given up and collapsed into her. She took Robertico's hand. They walked in silence back to the farmacia. Only now did she see each boy's small roller suitcase by the mostrador of the farmacia. Robertico took his by the long handle.
"Donde vivo?" To his brother he said, "Today we don't have to go to school." Catalina caught Maximo's eye and gave him a small smile. He nodded and his built up shoulders rose in a deep breath.
"Acostrumbrados a que los dejen. So young and already used to being left. " He came close to his wife. "Now what? Pretty soon Rolo's going to wake up even though he was out all night long. What happens if the boys see him?'
"I don't know. I'd better take the boys to school."
Robertico heard her and yelled. "No se vale. That's not fair." Catalina looked at him with a gaze so scared, sad, and firm that he stopped yelling. She knelt beside the boys. "No hay remedio. I don't have a choice."
She led the boys through the courtyard, by her weight room, toward el cuarto de los tarecos at the other end. They stood staring at the beds. "Do we have to clear all that junk off these beds?" Robertico ran into the room and pried his old red car out of one of the piles. He took the car into the patio, knelt, and and ran the carrito toward Eugenio. In that very moment Rolo appeared on the roof, dressed all in black. Robertico looked up the tall, thin, dark skinned, sharpnosed man, with a thick mound of hair tucked into a tight, knit black cap. He had a square face and along Taino nose. "Y este Superman quien es?" Rolo crawled dangled from the gutter, slithered down the wall onto the roof of the shed against the patio wall, slid down and landed lightly beside them close to the cuarto de los tarecos. He squatted by the boys and stared first at Robertico's long brown face and then at Eugenio's, pinker and rounder. He looked into their wide open eyes. "These have to be your sister Tatiana's. They have her eyes and her mirada. How long are they here?"
Catalina shook her head. "With Tatiana you never know. One time she left them three months."
He spoke close to her ear. "Entonces ya saben, tonight I go."
She led the boys toward their room. "I'll get them ready for school." Rolo held her arm. "Not today. Hoy no van a la escuela. Tomorrow, if they let something slip I'll already be far away."
The boys tossed their small suitcases by the door of el cuarto de los tarecos and ran back out.
"Ensenanos a ser trepatejados como tu. Show us to be roof walkers. "
Rolo's face opened into a huge grin. "I was your age when my Papi taught me. First you gotta get stron." Rolo led them into the weight room. He strapped a one pound sand weight on both their tiny wrists. "Asi." He raised his arms and lowered them. He lay them on yoga mats and had them do five sit-ups each. "You never stop training." He reached into his waist pack and handed them each a handful of pumpkin seeds and raisins. "Here's what you do if you're hungry."
He marched them to the patio. Maximo and Cataline had shut the door to the front of the house, to the farmacia. Rolo showd the boys to chin up onto the pila. He taught them to balance along its edges. OVer and over they put one foot in front of the other on the narrow cement border of the pila. Rolo caught them each time they fell. He walked them to the brick shed. "Look at the bricks. " robertico and Eugenio stared. Eugenio shrugged. "Y que?" Robertico walked closer. "What is there to see?" Eugenio reached for a brick that stuck out, then another. Robertico jumped. "I see it." He put his left foot on the lowest protruding brick and his hand on the next one he could reach. "I'm Spiderman."
By lunchtime the boys were spend and Catalina had clered out the cuarto de los tarecos and made the double bed for them. They ate their brown rice, black beans, vegetables and maduros at the table in the portal outside the kitchen. After they'd eaten both boys crawled onto Rolo's lap, snuggled into each other against his chest and fell asleep. He carried him across the patio to their bed.
"Tonight I have to leave." He looked at Catalina. A tear ran slowly down his cheek. "Maybe tomorrow they'll think this was all a dream."
"Maybe," Catalina pressed his hand. "But their bodies will always remember they are now trepadores."

Robertico lay on his back on the smooth rounded tiles. He stared at the stars. They went on forever, deep into an endless black sky. His little brother lay beside him, clasped his hand and squeezed it tight.
"You brought us to the techo," he whispered to Rolo who lay on his other side. "You kept your promise. You're not like the other grandes. You said you'd bring us to the tejado when it got dark and you did."
Robertico remembered how he'd felt like a grande himself and his heart swelled inside him, when Rolo had squatted by their beds after their naps and talked to him and his brother like they too were rebeldes. "Ustedes saben que hay cosas serias, verdad? You know about serious things. You don't talk about those things. You never tell absolutely anybody that you saw me. If you promise, I promise I will take you to the tejado before I leave.
They'd climbed up on the jutting bricks of the shed wall to the shed roof and from there Rolo eased them up. He made Catalina come too. "Al fin, all your weightlifting will be put to good use." Rolo spidermanned up ahead of them all and Catalina handed up first Robertico and then Eugenio.
The roof was much bigger than Robertio imagined. It was endless on either isde, and flatter than he'd thought.
Rolo pinted to the sky. "What do you see?" After he'd been looking awhile Robertico saw the stars made patterns. "A tigrillo." Eugenio laughed. "A big, fat, bear."
"Mira, mira." Eugenio pointed to their left. "The tigrilos is turning into the bear."
Robertico laughed. "Y por all, from that side, comes the hunter."
"Yes,yes. There's the arrow."
Rolo had an arm around each boy. Robertico pressed into him. "Hay otro mundo en los tejados."
"Yes, that's true, the tejados are another world."
Robertico whispered. "Why is it that the grandes are always leaving?"
Rolo kissed each boy on the cheek, and then Catalina. "You'll take care of my roofwalkers, right?" They watched him walk off the left, heading away from the center of Coral, smoothly, lightly. "Just like it's a street," Eugenio said. The black silhouette disappeared into the darkness.
Catalina whsipered and Maximo appearedin the patio in his blue t-shirt. He'd been lifting weights. He used a ladder to reach the gutter. Cataline haled Eugenio by the armpits and handed him down into Maximo's arms. Robertico eased his body down himself.

That night Robertico and Eugenio snuggled in the center of their double bed. He thought of Rolo disappearing into the darkness and pressed closer into Eugenio. That way he could protect his sleeping brother, who lay beside him on his back. Eugenio stirred and let Robertico mold against him. They nestled into the sag. Robertico looked around him in the dark at the pile boxes and the many tarecos on top of them, lamps with shades and with no shades, a broken stool. His own reflection in a scratched old mirror made him jump. He didn't want to look but he couldn't make himself stop looking at the ceiling. Were those bats stirring between the big, black, beams? Or was it Papi? Sometimes his Papi came to him eyeless and nail-less like a monster. Robertico breathed in, held his breath, let it out slowly. Papi was here, in the sweet, good way. He spoke to Robertico without words. May you feel safe. the whole room was filled with Papi's kindness. I will watch over you while you sleep. I'm inside you. You are made of me. I'm everywhere. You will never be alone. I will never leave you...Robertico whispered softly to his little brother. "May you feel safe." He let out a long, deep sigh and dropped into this world made out of Papi as he fell asleep.