The men who live in the woods behind my house had been getting out of hand for some time. They were all in their mid-fifties, golfers formerly, and meat eaters -- jolly men in general -- but since... [+]
Each time the blows resounded on the door of his mother’s house, he ran to hide under his childhood bed. That’s how life had been for two weeks since he got cut off from the Guerrilla organizations after the final offensive at the end of January 1981.The year would be decisive for the country and for him, for those people who wanted change, the year of the offensive, the year of the revolution of the reddening moon that would lay out hundreds of barely armed high school and university students into the gutters of San Salvador.
His mother had told him that Carlos, with whom he had escaped soldiers in hilly Colonia Escalón, had been captured in those days when summer wind moves moaning tree branches, the month of January 1981. The soldiers’ leaden eyes were searching, and they followed Carlos to his home. They took him out and burned him alive along with his girlfriend in front of families to bind them with fear. Streets of the capital breathed in repression through the barrel of a rifle and were camouflaged in olive green, where most young people walked as though drawn by wires so as not to raise any suspicion.
They knock on the door again; he hides; they leave. Now lying on the floor he examines rusty springs and wonders how long it will take them to find him, and how he will flee from this. The streets are dressed with soldiers and whistle-blowing informants. Just stepping out of the house, they’ll shoot him down.
“How stupid. How could I come home for mother to hide me?” There was no other safe place at the time.”
Surrounded in that house, he is a fugitive in his own home, an exile in his own country.
“Mother will not let me go.”
There, from under his bed, he also sees the ceiling of his house, where he once dreamed that the sky was a blackboard on which girls and boys painted a rainbow, where they learned to read and write. This is the bed he and his brother shared when he started storing memory at five years of age. A memory flourishes of playing the game of cat and mouse, of hide and seek. They never caught him, but now he was not so sure of his game, and the cat was not his brother. These cats have become vultures with rifles.
"Stop, stop jumping. You’re going to break the bed, and then you’ll have to go back to sleeping on the floor like before. There is no money to buy another. Look, the mattress is already torn." He hears his young mother’s voice yelling at them. He sighs guiltily at the memory of her scolding dissolves. Completely still, his fingers feel the space where his father set up the bed fifteen years ago. With a thin smile and one eye half-open looking up at the mattress, he realizes why he felt backaches every morning about which he never complained, because the pains were never as strong as the joy of having a bed with mattress; that was greater than any annoying spring touching his back.
“The springs of this thin mattress were almost touching my face. Mother must have put things on the bed to hide me better when they get here."
He hears again violent knocking and feels there is no escape. He can reach out to touch his mother’s weak, nervous pacing. She has enough force to get to the door. Lying on the icy floor of interwoven red and green bricks he enjoys momentarily as the peach-colored light of noon seeps through the crack in the door his mother barely lets open. Filtering through the light come three violent shadows that push the door against mother.
He becomes silent as the icy floor where he lies. Courage becomes thin as the mattress where he has slept since he was five. Watch the evil black boots, hungry for searching. They are the mocking vultures, pecking with hate at the home to find him. In seconds, the bed goes crash flying across the room. He feels as if naked without it. He does not move. His mother cries. A rifle butt silences her. He lies there, face toward the ceiling, still as though the bed is still upon him. He does not feel the blow of rifle butt on his face. Nor does he feel his head when they crash it on the edge of the bed. They drag him. Would he sleep in his bed or dream again?