We moved only four months ago, but it feels like eternity since we left Concepción. After we lost the store, and mother became sick, and I couldn’t find a real job, it felt like too much. I think my issues with finding a real job was that every manager or boss that I would talk to would somehow know that my family had once been part of the socialist party, and I think they wouldn’t give me a job because of it, even though the economy is “booming”. We lost the store because a group of supermarkets and chains from out of the country moved in, and their prices were so cheap that we could not compete. Eventually, even our friends could not afford to come, what with other prices so low and ours still the same. Now that we’re near Santiago, in La Pintana, I think things might be better. Know one here recognizes my name as the son of Carlos, that damned socialist. I know I should stick up for my father’s name, and what he stood for, but it all feels too hard. Moving here has reminded me of how much I cherished little memories of my father, and also how much my mother obsesses over these things. She wore one of his rings on a string around her neck for two years, never taking it off for anything. Eventually, it got so dirty that I told her to at least take it off to wash it. Instead, she kept it on her neck and just climbed into the sink, getting her clothes all wet and soapy. She is having a very hard time coping. In fact, I think in spite of the memories I have left behind, moving away from that house, that neighborhood, those people, has been the healthiest thing I could have done for my mother.
My only real regret is leaving Paula, with whom I had just gone on a couple of dates. She has true beauty. Not just the shiny, useless beauty of a thing you can pull off a shelf in a foreign-owned store and parade in front of your friends, but rather a worn rug that you find in a small, struggling store, that holds the scent of work, yet keeps the softness of a rainy day. Every time she speaks, I find myself hanging on the pauses, filling up on her measured pace, so stable and clear in these years of confusion and anguish. I wish I could take her with me, maybe even marry her. But time does not allow it, nor do the bills.
I recently found work as a garbage collector, though after my experience with Paula I sometimes think of myself as a street poet. A man without a proper, university education, but with a burdened soul and much to speak about. The rattling of cans and the groan of the truck are the music that I speak over, and my words flow like fresh milk out of my head and onto the dirty roads of Santiago. I hope that this time I can keep my job, and maybe even that mother and I will have enough money that I can write to Paula, and not just pay for food and rent.