Lost Boys for Archive

Memories flooded me of marching on the Parade on Grito Day with my husband Ori, and then also with Machi in a chest carrier and later a stroller, and on his own two feet until he left home. Marching elbow to elbow with hundreds of Karayans always moved me to tears. We waved green and black banners with the words Parade one Day, Poverty Every Day, and Karaya Libre y Socialista, and chanted those words over megaphones and at the tops of our lungs. We marched in rows formed around an enormous green and black Karayan flag, big enough to be seen by all the onlookers who lined up along Central Avenue to watch the colorful, glittering floats. Screaming all the way to the final rally point by the capitol made us feel the power of concerted action. My family had marched in our Party protest contingent every year since The City invented the Parade to co-opt more militant commemorations of El Grito del Cuartel when leaders of the Partido and the huge Karaya Liberation Front traveled especially from Karaya to speak at massive rallies.
In the weeks before the big rally usually held in Moon Park, my barrio, because it was the highest hill in The City, actions in every barrio shut down bridges, tunnels, and key intersections. Militants from clandestine organizations or underground branches of the public groups staged assaults on The City’s Central Prison, the Presidio, or on the Reef Refinery, emblems of The City’s oppression. Those more militant asaltos replicated and honored the original Grito del Cuartel assault to a Spanish army barrack in the Karaya mountains of El Pico on the eighth of June of 1868 that sparked the liberation war against the Spanish colonizers. A Grito was a scream, the cry to launch a war and by commemorating we kept the scream going across the centuries for a liberation war that won independence for Ventura in 1898 but failed to free Karaya, a liberation war that still continued against colonization by The City. At the very end of that war The City intervened and re-colonized Karaya. Its troops never left.
I was euphoric ten years ago when Julia and David finally joined Machi and me on the Protest Contingent of the Karaya Parade. The crowd rushed from the subway car at the stop nearest the convening point for our contingent. As it burst from the subway car the crowd tore our hands from our boys’ and parted us. Through the small glass windows of the shutting subway door we could see our boys looking at us with their faces frozen in terror. They screamed but we couldn’t hear them. They clutched the central pole of the subway car. They stood still crushed by a hundred passengers who would be exiting at other gathering or viewing points for the Parade. We pounded on the glass as the train pulled out of the station and screamed. Did anybody care about our gritos?
No matter that a comrade had returned the boys to us at the convening point, Julia never forgave me.

From writing room:
This terrible blunder she and Julia never spoke about had ended their friendship. She and Julia had the boys by the hand the whole time, almost the whole time. Almost was not good enough. Marina had been euphoric that day. At last Julia had agreed to join the Partido de la Felicidad contingent at the Island Day Parade. She had relented at last when she learned the Desfile was dedicated to Las Madres de la Patria, Tomasa Monte and Flor Beltran. She had made a banner for David and Maceo, her Machi, with likenesses of Tomasa and Flor she copied from painted illustrations in her grade school history book she'd brought when her family emigrated to the City from Isla Karaya. She'd drawn pencil lines and carefully painted in the caption Heroinas de la Patria, and the words Tainos Presentes.
Julia was her friend from the block. She had cared for Machi when Marina went back to work. She became his wet nurse sometime during the second month. Machi had been watching her nurse her daughter Liani,who was born a day before he was born, and one morning as Julia lifted him from the crib after a nap he patted her breast. She understood he was asking to be nursed and she became his milk mother. While he was at Julia's Machi nursed and Liani drank the bottles of Marina's expressed milk.
When she and Ori moved to Moon Park Julia was one of the first people Marina noticed on the block, to wave to, but not to speak to. This had been in her fifth year in the Partido just after the Party Congress, the first to be held in the Territorio Libre in Karaya close to the border with socialist Ventura. The Party launched a mass base building campaign and she and Ori were assigned to organize the Comite del Partido in Moon Park.
To Marina Julia was real and she was not. (O how would she ever organize anyone, anything? How could she be a revolutionary when deep down she lived as if nothing good could ever happen between people, or between herself and the real people.) There was a magic to her unreality that made her slippery or invisible so unlike the real people, Marina was allowed to slide by, not have to always go out on Saturday to sell the Partido paper, not be expected to produce a possible recruit for the Friday night each one bring one propaganda events. But Julia had been someone she could almost recognize, imagine approaching. In Marina's second year in Moon Park she and Julia had their barrigas at the same time, Julia pregnant with Liani at the same time she was pregnant with Machi. She thought of Julia, before she knew her name, as the Other Mother and imagined she knew what motherhood was all about. She'd seen her keep up with her young son David as he raced up and down the block over and over on a red plastic tricycle. They waved and smiled and each kept to her side of the street.
Their first actual conversation was the morning they ran into each other at the children's playground in Moon park, on the crest of the hill, and sat together on a bench, where they could see the jungle gym and way down hill, the River. Both their three month olds lay asleep, hammocked in their strollers. Julia’s eldest David, going on five, dangled from the jungle Jim. Marina mentioned she was looking for childcare for Maceo and Julia offered. “I’m home anyway.”
David had run up to them just then, bumped into his sister’s stroller, knelt beside Machi’s. “A boy. We were supposed to get a baby boy.” Julia smiled and pulled him against her, onto her lap, where he let himself be held for a breath before he flailed his limbs and squirmed away. Marina decided then. “You’re going to have a little boy. Maceo’s going to be spending his days with your Mother.”
Julia turned out to be a Karayan Islander who claimed her Taino heritage. On her living room table she had what looked like a vulva made of clay. She explained to Marina it was a reproduction of a cemi of Atabex, the Taino force of water and birth. David’s middle name was Agueybana, after a cacique who fought the Spanish colonizers. Liani’s name meant cacique’s wife. It had taken Marina almost five years of sustained effort to get Julia to see that the Taino’s liberation fight was still going on, that the Partido's fight was one and the same. The fight against colonization, for independence for the Island, for socialism, was the same fight. The fight to see that all of us Islanders and Venturans were indigenous, that Taino genes, chromosomes, and knowledge lived on in us all, even if we had no consciousness yet of this truth, could not be won without the other fights being won.
Julia decided to go back to work when Liani and Machi turned three. She got back her old job at a doctor's office. Both women put their children in Pinocho, the family day care their neighbor Elena had just started on the ground floor of her house down the street. Was that when the pulling apart began, or had it always been there unacknowledged? Two very different Mothers were pulled apart by a forcefield of reciprocal assumptions. Julia was real, a real Islander, a real Taina Karayan who knew how to raise a child, how to be a woman, how to navigate the real world (and still this must mean she was a bit stupid, assimilated, conciliatory, compliant, colluding.) Marina was an artist, a poet, a hippie, a rebel, a cadre, too chaotic, confused and unformed to be a good mother. Marina was a puppy dropping bitch like the overbred poodle she'd once seen drop one puppy as she walked and keep on walking, then drop another, and another. Because their boys loved each other Julia and Marina continued to be forced together.
The mothers were called at work the day of the invasion at Pinocho when the wilding gang of teens erupted into the front door, ran through the hallway terrifying the children, through the maze of climbing toys and sand box and swing in the backyard, over the back fence, and disappeared down the narrow passage between two multiple dwellings on the abutting block, only to be followed by the gang of cops chasing them. On their way back to rescue their children Julia and Marina ran into each other on the train. Elena had insisted, privately, to Marina that one of the wilding boys had been David. Julia didn't believe it. How could he have been, he was just going on seven years old?.
They squeezed together into a crowded subway bench. Marina was reading Verdad. Julia leaned into her and read the front headline out loud DESFILE UN DIA POBREZA TODOS LOS DIAS. She yanked the paper off Marina's lap, skimmed the story. “Why does the Partido want to literally rain on our Parade? It’s our one day to be proud. Why do you want to take the pride away?” Marina was too afraid of Julia's wrath to argue. She ventured softly, “The Partido is proud too, of nuestra herencia de lucha.” Julia didn't hear her. After that one try Marina just listened. After awhile Julia slowed down, softened her tone and said, “My Papi was Nacionalista and he and my mother had big fights at home. One time he almost hit me when I said the City was the best thing that had happened to la Isla. We were weak and Cayo Karaya couldn’t survive on our own. He raised his arm and then he dropped it. He looked at his hand and started to cry and ran out of the house. It was the only time he ever raised his hand at me.
“But tell you the truth, I was secretly proud my father was a Nacionalista. At night he’d tell me stories about Tomasa Monte and Flor Beltran, Heroinas de la Patria. He said Tomasa and Flor were Tainas who'd fought for independence.” Marina broke in again to say softly, “We always dedicate our contingent to Tomasa and Flor…” Should she tell her Tomasa was a socialist and fought not only for independence but for workers' rights, for ending capitalism?..She opened the paper to the centerfold where the column to the right, Herencia de Lucha, had Marina’s photo at the top and was about Tomasa.”
“You write for them? That's the newspaper where you work? I thought you said it was a community paper.”
“All these years that’s been my job, a newspaper for the Karaya community was the way I put it, I think.”
Julia grabbed the paper and read the first sentences out loud.
“If you are an Island woman living in the City these days, you can do worse than model yourself after Tomasa Monte and Flor Beltran. Few people know that a quarter century apart they each spent many months at a time during the decades long Primera Insurreccion against the first colonizers from Spain, rallying support in the City at meetings and street marches, raising funds. Few know that Tomasa as an organizer and Flor as a poet both wrote that the fights for independence and socialism were inseparable. Capitalism required colonies. Only socialism could provide the economic independence to make political independence real…”.
She looked up at me and smiled. “You’re a comunista but you don’t have horns.” She read the article all the way to the end. "Comunista without horns" had been Julia's running joke for a year, each time Marina invited Julia to join the Tomasa y Flor contingent. A long sustained effort Ori questioned. He often told her not to mix up recruiting with making friends. But Marina thought maybe they could be, should be, one and the same. She liked Julia. The way she kept David to a schedule, gave him a bath at the same time every day, fed him store bought baby food from jars did all the things real mother did made Marina imagine David must feel safe. Did her own son feel as terrified at night as she herself did?
Because Julia worked as a receptionist at a doctor’s office, kept an immaculate house, and was a strict--almost harsh-- single Mother to David and Liani, Marina had been shocked the afternoon that she saw David picked up not by Julia but by a dark brown, tall, built up man, head shaved and with the Santos’ halo tattoo on his left forearm showing under the lose sleeve of his t. David brought him over to Marina. “Mi Papi.” He introduced himself as Arturo and offered Marina his hand.
After David and his aparecido Papi left, Elena told Marina about Julia's marriage. Julia was a dealer widow and Arturo spent more time inside than he did out. “All these years she never once mentioned him,” Marina said. “Just the way you never told her about the Partido,” Elena said.
Arturo was back inside the day they lost the boys on the train on the way to the Desfile.
Marina and Julia stood over the boys in the train, all four of them hanging from the pole between the subway doors, the mothers sheltering them from the press of the bodies all around. At each stop the car took on more people going to the Desfile to watch, or to join the Partido contingent, or the Somos Tainos contingent, or to flank the Parade ready to acclaim or attack the Partido from the sidelines. It was barely possible to move, felt difficult to breathe. Marina and Julia kept their faces close, their bodies arching over the boys to make as much room for them as they could. They stood directly under a light with the plastic cover broken off, oddly bright.
The train pulled into the station. The doors opened. Marina and Julia moved to grab their sons' wrists to pull them out. The crowd determined to exit the train surged them away from the boys frozen to the pole. Some of the crowd surged out, some fought to stay inside, others surged into the car from the platform trying to get inside. Within seconds she and Julia were surged away from the boys who stood trapped in a press of people fighting to stay on the train. Overtaken by the churning human whirlpool the women reached their arms through the bodies toward the boys but couldn't reach their children.
The subway doors closed. Through the small window Marina could just barely see Machi's face among the bodies, grimacing with terror. David she couldn't see at all. Her head filled with a scream and she caught herself screaming out loud, but could barely hear herself in the roar of the people and the next arriving train. She wanted to give up, go mad, pound her head with her fists, rend her garments, throw herself on the ground, thrash, tantrum at the universe, magically will time to stop, rewind. She wanted to never have been parted from her boy. Julia was screaming. There was barely room on the platform. Hundreds had been left off the train. The crowd was surging them toward the stairs. Another train screeched and the next wave of humans spilled out. They fought through the people to where a City Force officer stood on the platform close to the wall. He talked into his phone and said somebody somewhere was alerting the train conductors. The train was computerized, and the two human operators could be anywhere, nowhere near the car where their boys were pressed among bodies. Julia said, “O my god,do they even know how to explain where they are going?”
The two women clutched each other for a moment on the sidewalk, trembling, crying. And then Julia pushed Marina away. “Es tu culpa,” she screamed. “What was I thinking? Why did I let you talk me into putting my son in harm's way with you crazy communists? What have I done to my son?” Marina grabbed her shoulders and shook her. Julia got very still and let Marina take her hand and pull her through the crowd. Julia was lost in her terror, useless. They slowly forced their way through the crowds that filled the sidewalks to watch the parade go by, toward the corner where the Partido was gathering.
They ran into another City Guardia, screamed at the helpless useless man, pushed their way deeper into the crowd, both of them screaming in people's faces, “Have you seen our boys?...Two boys by themselves?” They shouldered and elbowed their way through the growing mass of people filling the streets and sidewalks 12 people deep, to the rally point of the Contingente Tomasa y Flor.
Inside her body Marina's every cell was screaming, screaming, screaming...”What have I done to my son? But she made the screams go silent and her mind go blank. She pictured facing Ori, telling him, and her knees gave way for just a moment, and then she pushed herself to keep moving, return to that blank spot in her mind. If not, she could not keep going. She wanted to throw herself on the ground and scream and cry and have her whole being go blank. Just die, die, die.
When they arrived at the gathering almost the first thing they saw was a young City man, light skinned, with a long narrow face and a thin moustache. who stood close to a banner that was just then being unfurled. Isla Karaya Solidarity Group Presente, it read. Marina's old friend from High School Danny stood in the middle of the blocked off intersection where hundreds of Partido members and friends were being organized into lines a street wide.
He stood with the banner as a backdrop, in a small clearing, surrounded by a circle of Party members, among them Sandra ______ from Verdad and her son, the other, bigger, Maceo.
Marina's boy Maceo, her Machi was there. David was with him. Their boys were there. The two women pushed through the marchers forming themselves into rows. Julia fell to her knees and grasped David. Machi let go the man's leg and Marina bent down to lift her boy into her arms.
Danny was telling the story of how it came to pass that hanging from his right hand was her Maceo, Machi, and from his left, David. Later Marina and Julia heard him tell the story again and again, to them, to Ori, to everyone who approached them throughout the entire Desfile march they spent together. He had been in the same train, seen the women be parted from the boys by the crowd, forced his way through the people in a second. “I was like a superhero, the power of adrenalin is amazing”, he'd say in every telling. He managed to get to where the boys were standing, paralyzed with fear, and take their hands. “I know Marina, I said to them and Oh my God, the look of relief on Machi's face I will remember forever.”
The women knelt and each one clasped her child to her heart.
Relief, joy, tears filled her. She had Machi. She thought, “I do not have to die just yet.”