“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
~ Lao Tzu
The girl/woman came to our village out of nowhere. “Just passing by.” She said. “Very beautiful place.” She added. Then she forgot to go away and stayed.
I cannot understand. First of all, there was nothing beautiful about our place, all mountains, there was no proper roads, no electric and there were not so many houses, only fifty-seven. All of the inhabitants were closely related to each other, either by blood or by marriage. That’s why young men like my brother Carlos and my cousin Arnold (he’s not really a cousin-cousin but related by marriage. His uncle married my aunt) if they want to court girls, they had to walk few kilometers to the nearest village to find suitable candidates.
Second: you cannot “just pass by” our place, you have to travel at least eighteen hours to reach the nearest town, then another hour to get to the bus stop plus an hour of walking to ended up here. Walking is a must for no vehicle dared to negotiate the bumpy, often muddy undulating series of paths that leads to our doors. A waste of time I heard them said. Only the cranky old jeep of our neighbor’s Ben had the courage to travel back and forth. But it was mainly for delivering necessities to the people; mostly heavy things like sacks of rice, a new tv or building materials. But even Ben refused to come when it’s raining, and in our place it was always raining. That’s why I didn’t believe when she said she ended up in our village by accident, but everyone did.
She just arrived one day alone, dragging a funny suitcase with wheels asking where she can pass the night. All the people came out to see. Visitors were rare if not unseen in our neighbourhood. Only during fiesta, New Year or Christmas time we suffered guests. Those who came to visit were mostly the ones that used to live in our village and only there to celebrate the season with their families. Sometimes, they brought friends with them but they never stayed for so long; they get bored, my mother said. I had no idea what getting bored was, I guess I never get bored because I didn’t want to go away.
We were playing ball when she turned up. Me, my brothers and my cousins, we all stopped what we were doing to gape at her. To me, she looked okay. She wore some sort of pants that looked weird to me in every angle, kind of small around her thighs and behind but wide around the legs. The colour was not right either. Seemed to me she had it for ages because it was old and there were some holes in it. She had light blue spaghetti top on which showed her belly button and some funny sneakers they’re not like mine; hers had Himalaya heels. She had a jacket with her but she’s not wearing it. It was tied around her middle instead.
Long, very straight hair, not so tall, I can see she’s not fat but there was nothing special about her, just a person. But why my brothers and my cousins mouths were hanging open, and they didn’t hear me talking to them. They just kept looking at the girl.
My mother invited her in. When she passed by, a whipped of pleasing smell enveloped us and it stayed after she’s long gone. I think she took a bath quite often.
My parents decided to rent her my Cousin Nick’s cottage. It was the only available place that time along with my brother’s house. He and his wife who has just given birth to their first child were temporarily living with us, but Papa said they will be going soon any day now. My mother didn’t get along so well with my sister-in-law. Papa said who can get along with my mother anyway?
Cousin Nick was about to get married soon. His wife-to-be Mary Rose was three months pregnant already but the exact date of their wedding was not yet clear. Their respective parents cannot decide what kind of wedding the two was going to have. The family of Mary Rose wanted a wedding fit for a queen but Nick’s parents were not agreed (since by tradition they have to shoulder the cost of everything) they said that her side had no right to demand whatever since their daughter was already sealed and sold and a wedding was only a formality so, they have to be grateful for the offer instead. In the meantime, the belly of Mary Rose was getting bigger and bigger each day sometimes I believed it was going to burst open.
Why they cannot just marry themselves, Mary Rose and Cousin Nick? Why they had to wait for other people to decide? It’s their life anyway. If I were them, I will do exactly what I want; only I was not planning to get married when I grow up. I didn’t like the idea of living with someone who is not even a family day and day out. And I have to feed her too! No, I like being alone. I can do what I want, when I want and how I want it. Keeping cows was better than having a wife. Cows you can leave them grazing outside when they hungry and forget all about them. You can even exchange them for a lot of money. You cannot do that to a wife. That’s why I will not marry when I’m big. Not even if the girl looks like the one who just arrived.
To be continued…
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