Monday, June 27, 2011

Onions & Roses

It's a summer morning, and suddenly, I'm a kid again, wearing my brown leather clogs, and my white and red checked dress with matching bloomers--yes the one of the many dresses my mom had made me that summer, and suddenly I realize it's 1976. My hair is in two thick braids and is tied at the bottom with red ribbons. I'm walking down a dirt road towards my aunt's house. It's not a very far walk, but the dirt of the road is getting in between my feet and my clogs. I stop for a moment, and lean against one of the white washed walls, and take my clog off to shake the dirt and wipe the dirt away from my foot. I notice quickly that now my hand is full of white dust from the white washed house I was leaning on. Oh dear, I think, is my dress dirty too? Sure enough, I see some white dust on my bloomers, and I shake it off quickly, and proceed on my way to my aunt's house.

I usually don't make this walk alone, because walking to my aunt's house involves walking through the main road of the village, and I'm too shy when it comes to people I will surely meet on my way. I usually make this walk with my sister, who is more of a talkative person, and I can usually get away with just a smile. But today, I am alone and feeling quite brave. I see a few women in the village plaza, on the paved and cobblestone street, in front of my cousin Maria's house. They are waiting for the bus, and they are looking in my direction. I also see a man in a hat using the phone to call a taxi. An older woman is approaching me, all dressed in black, with a scarf tighly tied under her chin, holding a plastic bag of groceries. She looks up at me with tired looking blue eyes and acknowledges me with a nod.

"Bom dia menina."

I smile and nod back. I'm much too shy to say anything.

I suddenly remember why I need to get to my aunt's house so early that morning. My mother needs an onion, and she is waiting for me at home, so I need to get to my aunt's house as quickly as possible, so I begin walking at a quicker pace. As I make my way through the praca, I feel like someone is there watching me, and as I look up, I notice two women on the other side of the street looking down at me from their windows. They look like sisters, one at each window, side by side, wearing glasses. I smile, and pass them, and they stare down at me and continue talking. I hear their conversation as I pass. They are commenting on how fast I'm walking, and speculating on where I'm going. They are also saying that I am a big girl for my age, and that I have my mother's face.

I'm making my way near the cinema, and I hear the sound of men talking amongst themselves. I am feeling apprehensive now, I'm not quite sure why, but I do. I decide to just walk past as quickly as possible so not to draw attention to myself. There are two men in particular talking very loudly. Perhaps they won't notice me. I just want to get to my aunt's house and get an onion. May be I can convince my cousin Adelaide to come back home with me. I make my way past the cinema, and suddenly the men stop talking. It's silent. I can hear my clogs on the cobblestones, it's that quiet, when suddenly I hear my name being called out:

"Ah Julia, aonde tu vas?!"

I look up and I see my Primo Carlos calling out me from the top of the stairs at the cinema. He is asking me where I am going. He knows that it is unusual for me to be walking alone anywhere. I can feel my face turn red, and I hestitate, but call out to him to tell him I'm going to my aunt's house to get an onion. My response brings an unexpected uproar of laughter from the other men sitting above near the cinema door. I wave goodbye to Primo Carlos, as I hurry off as fast as I can, pass Lucia's store, and towards the hill towards Canada do Boquierao.

As I make my way up the road, I see a familiar face at the window of another house. It's Prima Fatima. She is at the window looking at me approach closer, as if she had known of my arrival for hours. She is smiling down at me, waving. My heart leaps, as she motions me to come and visit her. I tell her that my mom needs an onion, and that I was on my way to my Tia Aidinha's house. She laughs and tells me that she has plenty of onions, and motions me to come inside. I go to her front gate, and open the creaky wooden door, and ascend the steps up to her house. I've been there many times before, and as I reach the top of the stairs, I'm struck by the wave of the many beautiful scents from the roses that meet me there. I used to play there as a child. Prima meets me at her front door, and gives me a tight squeezed hug. I look into her eyes, and her eyes are welled with tears, but she is smiling. A tear falls from my cheek from out of nowhere.

I follow her to the backyard, through the garden past the wash house my sister and I used to climb on top of and sing from. Those were happy times I think to myself. I follow Prima to the little cellar in the back, through the green door. There on the floor is a large burlap bag full of onions. She hands me a white plastic bag, and she proceeds to fill the bag with onion after onion. Oh my mother will be so happy I think to myself. She will have enough onions to last her the whole summer now!

I thank Prima Fatima for all the onions, but before I leave, out of nowhere, she hands me a bouquet of white and pink roses. I've never seen a more beautiful bouquet of roses in my life. I bring the roses up to my nose and smell them. The intoixcating smell of the roses surprises me. I never smelled anything so wonderful before. Prima tells me that they are for me and my mother because one can never have enough roses are onions. I kiss her goodbye, my hands full of smelly onions and fragrant roses. I make my way down the stairs. I'm back on the road again, I turn around, and say my last goodbyes to Prima who watches from her window.

I'm walking slowly now. I proudly carry my onions and roses. I am happy and I find myself singing to myself. I exchange hellos with the people that pass me by with no hestitation. Everyone I see is smiling. A man tips his hat to me as I pass the cinema. I see a plane flying by overhead. As I approach the mouth of the plaza, from a distance I hear the church bells ring. Why are they ringing? They keep ringing, and ringing...they are trying to wake me up, but I'm not ready! I still have to get home and show my mom the roses and the onions! The church bells continue to ring until everyone and everything stops. I stop..

I wake up.

Then, suddenly I realize it's 2011, and I smell roses.


Jan said...

That was such a lovely story ,and just as Im about to turn of my commputer go to bed,I hope I dream as magical as you Janxx PS what is Primo?xxx

Coelha :B said...

Thank you Jan! Primo is the Portuguese word for cousin--male..prima = feminie version of cousin. Sweet dreams! :)

Sherms said...

Its funny, that was so well written that I can actually see the events playing out. I could feel the embarassment as the men laughed about going to get an onion. And I could actually smell onions on my hands...though that might be from just having made lunch! lol! xx