Tanama, Tomas, the Orfebreros

She put the key in the lock, jiggled it, turned it, pushed the door open, strode into their nearly empty living room, threw herself on their bed, howled at the top of her lungs. The room was dark. She lay there and trembled and raved. "I'm an idiot. He's and idiot. Both of them are idiots." She spoke the words and then she screamed them. The tiny stars Tomas glued onto their ceiling glowed in the dark. She squinted through her tears. Stars spun. She lay on her back, screamed, kicked her legs, pumped her arms up and down, hit herself hard in the head. On another plane, in another moment, her mother was caning her in front of the whole family. She punched and kicked and screamed very fast until she was breathless and then she was silent and began to sob. She lay very still. "If he follows me, I'll forgive him. If he doesn't he's dead."
Who was she and when was she? Was it earlier that day the tall man berated them? He stroked the workers with one hand and stabbed them with the other. His voice was raspy. He was tall and dark and a barber had spend a lot of time outlining his very angular hairline and his pencil thin mustache. "I was obliged to visit this plant."
The Commissar stared at each of the workers. Rain burst, blinding rain, and banged into the zinc roof of the plant. He stared at Tanama. She stood at the polishing wheel. He admired her thick black braid, with a red ribbon woven into it, coiled around her head like a crown. She wore intricate, heavy silver earings, lacy discs, that the Orfebreria had stopped making. She remembered them from his day as a polisher. She must have been polishing silver leaves for three hours. She was in a trance from the hum of the polisher, the rising gleam of the silver, the song and rhythm of the work. He remembered that trance and how he had loved it and how he had loved the music and rhythm of the work when he had worked here, at the Orfebreria de Coral. "My visit had to be expedited. The process could take as long as 30 days. Don't you know there's been a mass infiltration? Like termites. Do what I say." He looked at each of the workers, one by one. "I want you to tell me how you voted." The rain was very loud. He yelled the words again. "I want you to tell me how you voted."
Tanama squared her broad shoulders, pulled her spine straight, made herself tall. She almost sang out the words. She thought that later she'd turn those words into a song. "No we will not. We are not in the wrong. We are not the criminals. Maybe the vote was by acclamation and maybe it was not. The worst criminals are those holding the keys to the jail. We're going to the Ayuntamiento. You can't stop us." That instant the blinding rain stopped. Her words resounded against the zinc roof. The orfebreros, the warrior members of the Sindicato de Orfebreria, thought this was a sign, a sign of her glory, and they believed her, even though they'd heard the news again and again, that the bill effectively outlawing unions was sure to be passed that very day.
She walked out and when she looked back, all the workers were behind her, and the Commissar the Partido had sent to stop them from disrupting the existing order, was grabbing his briefcase and following them. Just outside the door to the plant Tomas punched the Commissar in the jaw. He knocked him into the red mud. Tanama pulled at Tomas. "What was that about?" She gripped her novio and two other workers helped her hold him back. Mario, the foreman, kneeled by the Commissar and helped him sit. Tomas bent slightly, brought his thin, dark face close to Tanama's ear, and whispered, "Es mi hermano." To his brother, the Commissar, he screamed, "You're an idiot." The Comissar let Mario the foreman help him up, and held onto Mario's broad shoulders. "We're both idiots."
They marched all the way to the Plaza past the row of plants along the Tributaria road. Plumes of toxic blue smoke spewed out of the money machines, the pharmaceuticals, and floated into the darkening sky. In the distance El Pico disappeared into the gray clouds. The jagged teeth of the mountain were outlined in light. The Orfebreria workers stopped by the three farmaceutica plants and chanted "Somos el mandato" until hundreds of their workers joined them.
They marched up the wide Ayuntamiento steps chanting, "Somos el Mandato." They filled the hall. They stood with their arms crossed. "We've occupied." Tomas walked to the public hearing microphone at the center aisle and his voice stopped shaking after the first words. "We are going to shut down the Orfebreria de Coral and every other plant, even the farmaceuticas." His voice resounded under the high dome ceiling of the assembly hall. Each of the workers spoke. "Abajo la ineficiencia." "Alto a la corrupcion." "Imponemos la honestidad." Tanama walked to the microphone, stood silent, looked at concejales and demonstrators. She sang. "Real criminals hold the jail keys. Tramposos hacen la trampa. And the mandate is us. Somos el mandato. Somos el mandato."
In the end the concejales tabled the bill. For now their unions would be safe, no thanks to the Partido.
All of the workers, every one, went to La Barraquita, even the Commissar, who now was claiming their victory. He stood just inside the door, declaiming. "When ordinary people are engaged, people who look like us, we win. We become a movement." Tomas caught her eye and they walked off alone to the dunes by the beach. They looked up at the stars between the seapines. Now the sky was clear. They walked back into the bar and Tomas led her to the band stand in the back room. He lifted her up and set her on the small stage.
"Real criminals hold the jail keys," Tanama sang. "Tramposos hacen la trampa, and the mandate is us, somos el mandato, somos el mandato." Tomas watched Tanama singing. He took her hand to help her down. "La alegria de la lucha," he said into her ear as she dropped into his arms. "The biggest joy life has to offer. Sin ella como llenamos el vacio?"
And how did it happen? Several workers pressed in. They loved her song. They hugged her. She lost sight of Tomas. Burly Mario pointed to the door. "He's outside. They're outside." She wove herself through the packed crowd in the back room; past the clusters of people at the bar; among the groups jammed around the small tables and filling the narrow aisles between them; and stepped into the night. Tomas and his brother the Commissar stood close together under a seapine a few yards from the next casita, and right by the entryway to an intricate shelter made from crinkly blue tarps.
She approached the brothers and Tomas spun away from the Commissar and faced her. "Alberto got me a job." So the guy had a name! Her boyfriend explained the details of how he was setting his life up to leave her, to join the jailers, and gleefully, but she didn't hear them. She ran away from them half expecting Tomas would follow, half terrified he would not. She ran past the casitas; through shelters made from tarps; past rows of tents. Just when she reached the Carretera Naval the bus to Coral pulled up at the stop. She climbed in. She never once looked back.
She put her key in the lock, jiggled it...
She punched and kicked and screamed. "If he follows me, I'll forgive him. If he doesn't, he's dead."
In the middle of a kick she collapsed into a black sleep. She never heard Tomas come in, curl himself around her. She never felt her breathing entrain to his, or maybe his to hers. When she dreamt of herself and her little brother, two latchkey children, all alone in their tiny apartment, the dream was so real she thought she'd gone back in time.
He made café con leche and set their two cups on their small round table by the back window of their tiny house by the Guacabon. He scrambled eggs and served them. Tanama said nothing. The way their house was angled the small kitchen faced the river bank. The house was on high ground and the river was yards away, far enough to avoid most rises and even a serious flood. But she could see the rushing water, heavy and green.
She turned away from the river and looked into her lover's deepset, nearly black eyes. She pushed the eggs away. "Te vas o no te vas?"
Tomas took her hand. "Una gran tentacion. Alberto se parece al diablo. Por poco digo que si. I'd almost made up my mind to go and then I heard you screaming through the door and the spell was broken. Somos el mandato. We are the mandate, not the Commissars."
"I wonder how I'll ever trust you after this." Tanama got up and walked into their yard. The gray stray cat Tomas sometimes fed was crying. This time Tomas was right behind her. He fed the cat her eggs. She walked and he followed, to the end of the high ground. They eased their way down the big boulders of the river bank and sat down on their big, flat stone. They looked at each other; slipped out of their clothes; waded the shallows to reach the rushing water. "The Guacabon is my sweet mother." Tanama said the words and then sang them. They found their favorite spot to anchor themselves among the stones. This way the stream wouldn't take them. They sat there, arm in arm, letting the white waters of the Guacabon course over them.