Double Production (Gilberta, Victoria, Abi)

double production
voces chiquitas que parecen grandes, decide por ahora no escucharlas
I am among the 8 billion I am as we are
very loud rain deafening parece in huracan
I know you want something, like always. You're not calling to give me anything.
the child was moved away
He doesn't know what real instability is
what does it mean, everyone knows who she is
a perfidious hypochondriac
de alla vengo
the butts of his jokes
does the trees moving make the wind blow?
he'd never shown any interest in going back
as afraid as a sergeant expecting a reprimand
let the shouts and yelps fly
she had gone on a camping trip
mass participation by ordinary people
estas pobrezas humanas son el genesis de nuestro panico
exterminators of Indians and traffickers of slaves have their statues
que calle es esta? (Calle Sereno)
the world made especially for him

"I am among the millions, just as real as anyone. That should mean I can dance." Elbita stepped as Zoila twirled her. She shook her head and spun her her long, black, wavy hair. As she twirled she pictured her washed out yellow housedress become a gown and the length of cloth from Mami's remnant box become the mink she'd seen the turista wearing outside the Hotel Coral when Ismael took her dancing there for New Year's eve. How Zoila became such a good dancer Elbita couldn't guess." Not once did Zoila stomp on Elbi's bare feet with her lace-up clunky old lady heels. Zoila laughed and twirled Elbi the other way, to test her. They twirled the full length of the wide hallway, the spine of Casa Rocio, all the way to Zoila's room at the front of the house. "You have to get me ready for New Year's this year. Ismael loves to dance and I'm a terrible dancer. In school they say, Elbi has two left feet."
"Those are voices in your head. They seem big and loud but they're really tiny. I'm not going to listen to them right now and you shouldn't either. I can barely hear over the rain. The rain parece un huracan. Just listen to the rain, don't think, and dance." They twirled past the kitchen all the way to the small rooms beyond it, the ones that Mami Rocio couldn't charge much rent for. They didn't look into the kitchen very hard because Papi Adrian, in his business blazer, and Mami in her apron, were there with Abi, in his work-out t-shirt and shorts. With them was woman in black jeans and black t-shirt. Elbi didn't think she'd ever seen her, nor the little girl in yellow shorts sitting beside her. The woman sat at the head of the table. She leaned on her elbow and held her head in her hand. Elbi wanted to see if she was crying. In the middle of one of Elbi's best twirls all the conspiradores in the kitchen got up at once.
"Look. I think they're going to move the girl away. Where do you think they're taking her?"
As they twirled Zoila spoke into Elbi's ear. "Last night when I was doing the dishes with Rocio I heard Adrian and Abi talking about El Ingenio Intrepido. It's been abandoned medio siglo and the rebeldes occupy the place. It's a stop on their underground railroad to El Pico. Years ago tu Papi asked me if I wanted to go teach at the escuelita there. Now that poor child's going to know what real instability is."
"Slow down Zoila. I'm trying to get a good look at that woman. Why did Mami say she has to watch out because everyone knows who she is? I heard Mami saying que se hace la enferma. Siempre con jaquecas. Mami called her neurastenica, a hypochondriac."
Just then Mami Rocio called out to Elbi and Zoila. "No bailen mas y vengan a ayudar a la nina."
Elbi dropped her mink and ran into the kitchen. Zoila walked slowly behind her volviendose vieja.
"De alla vengo. Y no vuelvo." The woman's voice was deep and firm. Her face was streaked with mascara. "I left because I got sick of being the butt of that woman's jokes. Me choteaba. She said I believed anything, even that the trees moving make the wind. I was getting migraines every day, walking around in dark glasses, throwing up. And now you say I have to go back and you're taking my daughter." Abi stood beside the woman. He put his arm around her. Elbi looked at her and then at Zoila. She raised her eyebrows and the older woman nodded. This was the woman in the photograph in Abi's room. Because her long black hair was up instead of down and in the photograph she was wearing the rebeldes' fatigues Elbi hadn't recognized her. Mami Rocio took the woman's hand. "Hurry! Es hora. You have to change your clothes." She gave Elbi a brush and told her to comb the girl's hair into braids. She took the woman across the hall into her bedroom. "Zoila, ayudanos." Zoila followed them and closed the door.
Abi took Papi Adrian by the arm. "But why are they taking her? She's never shown interest in going back. After three years at the general's house she should have a say." Abi's voice trembled. Elbita had never seen him close to tears. "She's as afraid of them as I am of the guardias de Coral. She has to work double. Double production. She has to be the general's assistant and she has to be our spy. You think her headaches are malingering but those are de verdad. Listen to her shouting and yelping. I can hear it through the closed door."
Elbi sat the girl down on one of the chairs by the table. "I'm going to make one braid with all this beautiful hair." The girl looked up into Elbita's eyes. Elbi looked back into the girl's black eyes and thought, this girl knows everything. The girl had a long, oval face and big black eyes. "Me llamo Gilberta. Mi Mami se llama Victoria. I'm going to pretend I'm just going on a camping trip. When we left la casa del general I thought we were going to Arrecife to the big demonstration. I thought we left la casa del general to go be happy at last. I heard Mami tell Abi she likes to be with masses of ordinary people. She said that's who will change the world." Elbita wound the rubber band around the end of the braid. "Ya esta." Gilberta jumped up. "Te gusta bailar. Mira." She ran into the hallway, leaped down the hall to the front door, cartwheeled back to Elbi, and then arched her back until her fingers touched the floor behind her. "Soy acrobata."
The three women emerged from the bedroom. Mami Rocio wore her flowered dress with the black collar and her hair was in a bun at her neck. Zoila wore a green dress with a white collar and her salt and pepper hair was combed back away from her face. Victoria looked like another person. She wore a pink, long sleeved blouse, the one Mami had been making for Elbi just yesterday, and a long, dark blue skirt, and her hair was loose like in the photograph.
Abi moved to join them but Silvio held onto his arm. "She knows she has to do this. La revolucion needs her to do this. Your pobreza humana is the genesis of your panic. But you know how to act from your courage."
Now Abi's eyes gushed tears. "She's afraid of the general. She's afraid of the general's wife who thinks every woman wants her husband. She's afraid of the statues of the conquistadores in the Plaza. She says Diega Menendez was worse than a man and exterminated Indians and Pedro Garrido was a slave trafficker. If we go to la Plaza she won't sit near them."
Adrian took Abi in his arms. "We are all afraid." Abi sobbed and shook in Papi Adrian's arms. "We are all afraid." Abi cried harder. "We are all very afraid." Abi's body shook in Papi's arms. And then the tears and the shaking stopped like a switch was turned off. Abi stepped away. He was smiling. Adrian took the younger man's face in his hands. "Abi, we are all afraid and we don't let our fear decide."
They all walked the length of the hallway together and stood at the door by the areca until Mami opened the latch. Elbi watched Abi and Victoria hold each other. When they broke their embrace they were crying and smiling at once. "La alegria de la lucha." Victoria kissed Abi one last time. The three women stepped outside. The downpour had stopped and the sky was clear and pink but for a mass of gray clouds being blown toward the river by the dusk winds. A young boy ran past them dribbling a basketball.
Just outside the door the two men and Elbi and the girl Gilberta kissed the women and watched them go.
Gilberta took Abi's hand. "What street is my Mami walking on?"
"They're turning off Calle Sereno and walking to the Plaza."
"Pobre Mami will have to walk past those terrible statues."
Abi squatted by Gilberta. "You are a very brave girl." She caressed his cheek. "I know." She kissed him on the forehead. "No tengas miedo Abi. My Mami will be fine. The world was made especially for Victoria."