GO DOWN TO GO NORTH. 22-11-10
Alicia Ayala Reyes Martinez, along with the majority of the children of her village, went swimming in the Rio Grande nearly every afternoon of the spring, summer and fall.
The other bank of the river looked exactly like their own but they all knew that that was the beginning of the land where kids had tricycles before they could walk properly and they were given real bikes to go to school on and cars to go to college in and that they all had their own rooms and, most mysteriously, had only one or two brothers or sisters in their families.
Alicia was the oldest of her nine siblings and her mother was full up with her eleventh child. Her father had added a room to their shack, to accommodate his brood when it numbered five and again when it got be eight but, even so, she had to share a tiny space with three sisters. Four of her brothers slept on two single mattresses in the other lean-to and the youngest two, as this new one would do when it arrived, slept in the main bedroom with their parents.
All of her life she, and similarly all of her siblings, had heard the sounds of love making regularly but without ever seeing it being done. They got used to it and they all much preferred that noise to their father’s snoring all the through the rest of the night.
She’d often asked her mother what were they doing that caused them to make such strange noises and had been told, at first, that they were “playing”, and later, when that would no longer wash, “Nature gives our men certain needs and we women are duty bound to oblige them.”
When she got to be eleven her breasts started to swell and her mother took her for a walk to tell her about those ‘needs’ that men have and what they’d want to do to her now that she was close to becoming a woman and that that was how babies were made – “I certainly don’t want anymore of those at home thank you” – and so she was to stay close to her brothers for protection whenever she was away from the house.
She also told her, while she was at it and thus hoped that she wouldn’t have to bring up the subject again, about how ‘rubbers’ would give her a different kind of protection if all else failed and she said that she was telling her that because she knew well that commonsense goes out of the window when a boy casts a spell on a girl when his ‘needs’ are strong.
Alicia at last understood what those strange noises were that came from her parents’ bed and she wondered why she didn’t have a hundred siblings already and she thought that her father sure was good at casting spells.
Whenever she was away from home she remembered what her mother had warned her about men but she’d specifically excluded ‘our men,’ so clearly, ‘uncles’ weren’t on the prohibited list.
Her favorite uncle was Tomas. He was always well dressed and he didn’t work in the fields, nor anywhere else as far as she could tell, but she did know that he disappeared for four or five days every other week. He had no family of his own and he lived alone in a nice concrete-block house in a nearby village. He brought all of his nephews and nieces relatively expensive presents on their birthdays and at Christmas and the like. Mostly toys or dolls.
About a year after Alicia’s mother had warned her about men – by then it had become obvious that her body would be on the heavy side but her waist was so small that there was a good chance that when she got to be older she would tend to be voluptuous rather than chubby – her uncle Tomas secretly slipped her a silver chain that had a little gold-plated cross on it that had, in turn, a tiny diamond in its center and it was much better than his usual presents and it wasn’t her birthday nor even near it. It delighted her but, before she could say anything, he whispered that she wasn’t to thank him then but should meet him in the corner that was near the gate of their corn field later that afternoon and she readily agreed thinking that he wanted her to thank him in private for some obscure reason.
Nature hadn’t made a woman of her yet but in Tomas’s eyes she was now big enough and thus was, perforce, old enough.
When they met up he took her deeper into the field and he cleared a space in the scrub for them to sit down and he promised her that he’d bring her presents every time that he came home from his little trips and that they would get bigger and better each time but, he warned her, she was to hide them somewhere and let no one else see them. Just before she came up with the obvious question he told her that all she had to do to keep on getting the presents was to, “Take your clothes off and let me kiss you all over.”
She was very surprised and she kept refusing him, on vague but general principles, until, in amongst his urgent pleading, he happened to come up with, “We men have our needs, you know,” and with that she remembered that her mother had once told her, “Our men have needs and we women are duty bound to oblige them.” and so she knew that she had to do what he asked.
With that in mind she stood up and lifted up her dress enough to be able to take her panties off and, on getting that highly welcome response, he jumped to his feet and helped her get completely undressed. Then he did so too.
He had no way of knowing, nor did he much care, whether or not she was menstruating yet but – as she was moving away stones and clumps of sod to make a comfortable bed for herself – he pulled out a little package and he showed it to her and said, “See. This is the condom that I’m going to wear,” – he wasn’t stupid and he wanted to be doing this with her for years to come and, besides that, he didn’t want to risk losing out on having ‘insider’ status regarding the seemingly endless supply of future pre-teens that his sister was churning out – but when she heard that she was confused and she told him that her mother had said that the man had to wear a rubber not a ‘condom’ and he’d laughed out loud but he had to convince her that they were one and the same thing before she’d open her legs for him. As he was getting into position he told her that she was a very clever girl and that she should always follow her mother’s advice in all things but would she please repeat to him what else her mother had told her about letting men do this to her.
She said that she’d told her not to let boys or men touch her nor to touch them but seeing that he was her uncle it had to be all right and so would he please teach her how to follow the rest of her advice which was about, “Being obliged to satisfy our men’s needs.”
With that he had to stop and re-coup and when he’d stopped laughing he told her that she didn’t have to worry about that seeing that “it’s pretty much guaranteed” but, because her naïveté had amused him, he warned her that it she’d have to be brave this first time and not cry out when he was hurting her and he assured her that it was an unavoidable fact of life for girls and the only thing they could do was to bravely suffer through it the first time.
When he’d located her entrance he held back for long enough to tell her that, “Women have needs too that have to be taken care of,” and that she’d find out for herself that that was so when she’d healed and was letting him do it to her again, “next time,” and that, “as you’ll find out for yourself then, you’ll be amazed at the amount of pleasure that you get from it too. Now don’t talk anymore and brace yourself.”
“Bien, Tio Tomas. Haga lo.”
“OK, Uncle Tomas. Let’s do it.”
She didn’t get much pleasure from the act itself, that first time, but she liked being wanted and involved and allowed to do what grown-ups do and, especially, having the full body contact and the kisses and the caresses and the endearments. Also, from knowing, at last, what a man’s ‘needs’ are.
When he was hurting her with his every new thrust she could hear him making the same noises that her father had made over the years – which thrilled her – and she knew that this strange act was fundamental and that two people couldn’t get closer than this but, she determined, there would always be a ‘condom’ in use to be sure that no babies would grow in her belly until she was positive sure that each one would have a tricycle as soon as it could walk and was headed to having a room of its very own and, later, a car to go to college in.
Their liaisons went on for three years or so and her secret treasure box got fuller and fuller and she stayed on the alert for the eye signal from Tomas to meet her in the field. He didn’t know it but by then she wanted to lie down for him as much as he did and she would have done so without a present.
One day, Tomas came to their house for lunch and he brought toys for the younger children but he did not slip Alicia a piece of jewelry nor did he pass her the eye signal and he left without doing so.
The same thing happened the next time.
In the week that followed Alicia caught a glimpse of a silver chain with a gold plated cross on it around the neck of Ana, her thirteen-year old sister, and then she understood. At sixteen she was now too old for Tomas!
She didn’t despise him so much as disdain him for being a fool – she knew that she was much more of a woman than Ana would ever be – and she certainly didn’t want to give up on having sex so she looked around the village for a suitable suitor.
All of the older men were either married or had gone north and all of the boys of her age and around five years older hardly owned more than the shirt on their backs and she knew that entanglement with any one of them would mean that in ten years time she would have as much hope of having a good life as her mother did who was suckling her thirteenth child at that time and still the love-making noises came from their room as regularly as ever.
When she was in bed at night, and was being subjected to them again, the noises brought with them a strengthening of her resolve to find a solution for herself along with a reminder of her predicament even as she tried to ignore the envious signals that were pervading her brain and swamping her loins as the various stages got to be enacted on the other side of a thin wall that was about two feet away from her.
She decided that it would have to be North for her too and so she asked around for advice as to how best to go and almost at once she found out that the best ‘mule’ in the whole district was her Uncle Tomas!
That made it easy. This time it was her turn to give him an eye signal and when she had him alone she told him that she wanted to be in the next group that he escorted north and that she didn’t want to hear him tell her what the fee for his services was or she’d show her Papi all of the presents that she had in her box and tell about Ana’s presents too and who had given them and for what.
Obviously she couldn’t possibly tell her parents that she was leaving because she was a sixteen-year old girl against the world!
She secretly filled two plastic bags with her clothes and her box of trinkets and a brush and a comb, and such, and she slunk out of the house at four o’clock one morning to meet up with Tomas.
Everything went smoothly and she got to a safe house in Houston and she was told that she could stay there with the others in her group for three days before having to move on.
She was on her own and all she had was a box of trinkets worth perhaps a hundred dollars in a pawnshop on a good day.
She sold them on a fair day.
She asked around for advice and when everybody she asked found out that she didn’t know two words of English they all advised her to stay in Houston until she’d learned some of it.
However, she didn’t want to stay there because it was too close to her parents and Tomas knew exactly where she was and if they combined to find her and drag her back home she knew that they’d never let her out of their sight again until they’d married her off to the first taker.
She was lucky enough to find a Guatemalan woman, on the last day before being thrown out onto the street, who was aiming to get to New York and who also had no money.
After listening to her story the woman found out how much money she had and wasn’t impressed at all and she told her, in Spanish of course, that there was only one way for the both of them to do it but that she should know before they even got started that the ubiquitous bumper sticker that said, “Cash, Grass or Ass. Everybody pays.” was the mantra for hitch hikers throughout the States. “There is no way around it, Chica. ‘If you get on the truck you gotta give it up.’ Are you OK with that?”
On the bus ride to the outskirts of town where the truck-stops are she gave Alicia lots of advice like to never get into any vehicle if there is someone else in there besides the driver, and don’t ever ask for a bathroom stop on the road because you could easily get left behind in the middle of nowhere and without your things.
She told her how to best use the rest rooms in the stops and what food to eat and what to avoid.
She advised her to head for New York, “because that’s where most people are and it stands to reason.”
She also got her to practice her first English words:
“Hi, mister. You going north?” And if she got a, “Yep”, or a, “Sure am”, or a nod of the head then, “Can I get a ride?” And then, if she got another affirmative, “I’ll wait for you by the door.” She told her that the younger ones might say something in answer to her query that had the phrase “round the world” in it and she told her what it meant and that she’d have to make up her own mind as to whether the ride was worth that much to her.
She told her to never forget that no matter how polite or how nice one of them seemed to be she had to remember that they would all want something from her before they’d let her get down from the truck.
Alicia asked her if they could stick together and was told that very few drivers would take two girls along and for the same reason that she shouldn’t go anywhere with two guys.
She told her delicate details of how to best coerce each guy to put a condom on and she said that she herself always wore a diaphragm, just in case, because sometimes “He’ll just ignore you and get on with it bareback” and it would be dangerous to try to refuse him
because by then he’d be really ready to do it and, anyway, you’d committed yourself already by getting on the truck in the first place and so, from then on, the only ‘getting off’ was to be by him and in you.
Alicia had no idea what a ‘diaphragm’ was but she didn’t ask because she already had too much information to try to digest. However, the woman, who was nothing if not an opportunist, saw that she didn’t know what she was talking about so she showed her hers that was in a round plastic container and she explained its use and how to fit it.
Alicia was very impressed and saw its practical importance immediately and she said that she wanted to buy one for herself at the very next drug store that they came to only to be told that ordinarily they had to be fitted by a Doctor but that she knew how to buy one ‘on the side’ and would do so for her.
When they got off the bus they walked up the road to an enormous Mall that must have had a hundred trucks parked around a huge Diner that was off to one side.
The woman took twenty dollars from her and then went away and found a Ladies Room where she fitted her own diaphragm and then she looked for and found a spare that she had lying in the dust at the bottom of her bag. She preferred to not remember where it had come from and why it was there. She washed and dried it and then put it in the little plastic container that had housed her own and then she returned to Alicia and handed it to her.
They went inside and bought coffee but when they were drinking it the woman saw a driver who she knew and she went over to his table and soon after that she went off with him and that was the last that Alicia ever saw of her.
She approached a half dozen men who were on their own, sitting at the counter eating eggs and bacon and the like, and all six of them answered her question with a shake of their head. She figured that either they were all going in some other direction than north or they didn’t understand her English.
The seventh guy was an older man who was from Santa Domingo so she could talk to him in Spanish and he answered that yes he was indeed going north.
She was relieved to find that all that he wanted from her was to be an audience and he talked at her for five solid hours about his beloved island and his family. If she dozed off a little or stopped paying full attention he would reach over and shake her and tell her what her end of the bargain was. When he did at last pull in at a stop for food and fuel she refused his offer of a meal and she hid from him until she saw his truck pull out.
She lucked out by finding a girl behind the counter who spoke Spanish and she was able to buy a hamburger and a drink.
After eating she screwed up her courage again and went around asking her question, and once again she got no affirmative nod, nor no “yep”, nor no “sure am”.
Feeling a little desperate she went back to the same girl behind the bar and explained her problem.
The girl gave her a piercing look and she nearly gave her a lecture too but changed her mind and limited herself to making a remark: “I really hope you know what you’re doing, Chica,” and then she shouted out, “Any of you guys going North? Girl here wants a ride.”
A half dozen of them said, “Yes, I am,” or just waved an arm and Alicia walked up to the nearest one and asked “I can get a ride? Si? I wait for you. Alla”
One way or another, mostly one way, she made her way clear across and then up the whole country. From truck stop to truck stop.
Some of the drivers made her lie down for them before even leaving their parking spot and others ‘let’ her spend the whole night with them in their little beds in the back after pulling over into a lay-by hundreds of miles up the road and far from anywhere. Some, the cautious ones, made her blow them as they were driving and one of those got ‘on the air’ as she was doing it for him and he gave a running commentary on her progress. He ended with, “There she blows. Yee Ha!”
She always took the time, after climbing up into the cab of a new driver, to look at his driving license tag and memorize his first name so as to be able to say, when the time had come to take her panties off or to lower her head to service him, “Bien Tio Eduardo” – if his name was ‘Ed,’ – “Haga lo.” Or, if it was ‘Al,’ she’d say “Tio Alfredo,” or if it was, ‘John,’ she’d say “Tio Juan,” and so on. It made her feel less of a whore and more sociable.
After a week or so of asking for rides she got near her final destination but, when the driver she was with that afternoon pulled off the Throughway and went around to head for the New Jersey Turnpike, she got a good look at all of Philadelphia and she thought that that city was quite big enough thank you and that it was far enough away from Houston and so they could keep New York.
Besides that, and in any case, she was tired of trucks and the constant jostling and the indigestion and the humiliation and this guy had given her a real hard time the night before – he’d gone around and around the world and, no doubt, he expected to do it all again when it got dark and he’d parked somewhere – so, when they came to the next red stop-light, she got her things together and she told him, “Goodbye, Mister Cabron,” but she only said it after she’d opened the door and was already halfway down to the ground in case he knew what it meant.
She found many Spanish speaking men and women in the streets of Philadelphia and some were very helpful and she found a place to stay for a while and soon after that she got a job with a family in a big house in the suburbs – it was by a river who’s name she gave up on trying to pronounce properly – and where a Chicano, named Salvador Garcia, was the Butler\Chauffeur and his wife, Sofia, was the Cook.
Alicia was initially employed as one of three maids but when her rapport with the son of the family, Josh, became obvious her main job became looking after the eight-year-old boy.
There was always a huge turn around of staff there because the mother handled the hiring and firing and she went pale if anyone dared to ask for a raise even after working there for two years or more and, besides that, it was very easy to do something that she didn’t approve of and that invariably meant dismissal on the spot.
Her good relationship with Josh surprised everyone because young boys can be impossible little snots – witness the five women who had preceded her in the job – or can be charming to someone who they take a liking to and, luckily for Alicia, Josh took to her from the very beginning.
He took on the task of teaching her English and he pleaded, ad nausea, until his parents agreed to let her go to language school every morning for two hours after she’d gotten him out of bed and had dressed him and had given him breakfast and had put him on his school bus. He also took it upon himself to ‘share’ his homework with her which served as an education for her because clearly she had to learn what he’d already covered to be able to be of any help to him when he ‘turned the page’ to something new.
Josh– it was ‘Joshua’ actually but he wouldn’t answer to that – had parents who were socially very active and they went out nearly every evening and were, peculiarly in Alicia’s eyes, cold to him when they were at home. He’d never much liked any of the other servants and so, until Alicia had shown up, he had been forced to try to ‘hang out’ with the Garcias who lived in a small house in the grounds and while they were never actually rude to the boy they liked to go home and close their door on the rest of the world as soon as their duties in the main house had been taken care of. That meant that he’d experienced loneliness from an early age and it made him cherish Alicia even more than he would have ordinarily.
Five years went by and Alicia’s English improved and became close to fluent because of her schooling and from getting Josh’s help with rectifying her mistakes.
She was bemused by the fact that Josh’s parents had more than five Spanish speakers on their household staff but instead of encouraging them to teach him Spanish they went the other way and forbade them to speak to him in anything but English. They thought, who knows with what logic, that being able to speak Spanish would somehow diminish him or would build a barrier between him and them!
That rule, of course, aided Alicia linguistically no end because she had to speak English to him in public but when they were alone and he needed comforting it was always Spanish endearments that washed over him to try to console him and it was always Spanish blessings that alleviated pain and it was always Spanish curses that drove away the bogey man. He cottoned on quickly that there was a world of difference between, “There, there, dear”, and a pat on the head with no kisses and, “Que te pasa, m’hijo. Ya. Ya. Vamos, chico. No llores mas, mi amor”, with kisses raining down on him and caring arms pulling him in to nestle into a large soft bosom.
One of Alicia’s duties had always been to help Josh take a bath before going to bed, washing his back and getting a towel for him and the rest, and thus he had no qualms about being naked in front of her.
She had seen his body grow and fill out over the years and had seen his penis develop from a dear little immature thing into a serious member. She had kidded him when it had occasionally come to being half-hard, and had thus gotten both of their attention, and she’d maybe splash cold water on it in fun or blow cool air on it while being careful to not actually touch it except with a wash cloth. By keeping her attitude towards it light she didn’t let its presence become a factor in their lives.
How long could that state of affairs go on, you ask?
Not long at all.
Early one morning, a few days after his fourteenth birthday, she heard him cry out from his bedroom and she hurried to him so as to not have him wake his parents and she closed the door behind her and she asked, “Que te pasa, mi amor? Tienes dolor? Donde? Dime.”
“What happened my love? Do you have a pain? Where? Tell me.”
He’d had an erotic dream, which would have become a wet one except that it was his first really, fully-hard erection, and it had surged up and had shouldered aside his foreskin and, while it hadn’t split it, it was forcing it to form a tight ring that hurt him enough to wake him up. It was also frightening because it was the first time that that had ever happened to him.
He had already pulled aside the blankets and he’d lowered his pajama bottom to be able to, gingerly, try to ease the pain and, when Alicia had switched on a light and had asked him what had happened he said, “Mira. Me duele mucho aqui, Alicia. No se que pasa.”
“Look. It’s hurting me a lot, Alicia. I don’t know what’s happening.”
She could see at once that it was too serious an erection to be mollified by splashing cold water on it or by blowing air at it and she loved this boy and couldn’t bear to see him in pain so she made a decision on the spot to help him without bothering to think it through properly and so she said, “Ya. Ya, mi amor. Voy a ayudarte. No te preocupes mas. Pronto no te dolera mas. Esperame aqui y volvere muy pronto.”
“There, there, my love. I’ll help you. Don’t be worried. Soon the pain will go away. Wait here and l’ll come back quickly.”
She went back to her room and she searched for the diaphragm that she hadn’t worn since jumping out of the truck of the cabron just before he turned onto the New Jersey Turnpike long ago. She found it and then she took off her panties and she fitted the diaphragm, using that unforgettable method of bending, inserting, twisting and releasing, and then, as she was about to go back to Josh’s room she realized the enormity of what she was intending to do and so she sat down and took the time to think a bout it properly.
She knew that calling him, “Tio Joshua,” wouldn’t work – it would be preposterous – but then, after a minute or two a wonderful solution came to her, out of nowhere, and so, vastly relieved, she stood up and went to his bedroom.
She switched off the light – so as to not give him a heart attack – and then she let her nightgown fall to the floor and she got into bed with him and she said, “Vente mi amor. Ven donde tu Tia Alicia.”
“Come to me, my love. Come to your Aunt Alicia.”
Up to this very day whenever Josh reads, or hears someone say, that French or Italian is the language of love he feels shocked.
He has no doubt at all in his mind that Spanish is the true language of love.