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Tell me, Were you Alone

By Eneida Alcalde

Tell me, were you alone?

 

 

Do you remember fleeing our homeland leaving everything in its authoritative silence and muted colors? How we landed in a foreign country that loved us for our European paleness but turned on us when we voiced Andean thoughts in ESL English?

 

Do you remember dropping me off at university with my books and bags? How you left me at the

precipice of our stitched-together Hollywood Dream? Do you remember that Christmas asking me what I wanted to do with my life, where I wanted to go and my never-answers: I-don’t-know or we’ll-see and I’m-still-figuring-it-out probably here or there just let me live …

we’ll always have each other?

 

Tell me, were you alone?

 

Do you remember taking me to different airports more than a dozen times, waving me off on my next adventure, hugging me when I returned? Do you remember when I told you I’d leave our adopted country for good, hegemonic hypocrisy is not my thing,                        how the gray winters sucked my soul as much as the capitalist men?   How you told me you understood                       in the quietest voice?

 

Do you remember when I returned every December no matter where I lived in the world? How I called every week or wrote?                  How we caught up with time in your home hidden in the wooded valley amidst the dead cold?                  How you prepared breakfast—café con leche and palta toast, sometimes with huevitos, long before palta toast was in?                         How you fried fresh empanadas and stirred lentil stew serving these with the tastiest rice and tomato salads and how sometimes we stuffed our faces with alcachofas                    —when they were available and fresh and not too expensive—                                    how we’d eat these reveling in how far we’d come,                  counting achievements as we dumped the gnawed leaves into a bowl,             one by one?

 

Tell me, were you alone?

 

Do you remember our last drive through Amish country after visiting the family doctor, weaving through never-ending s-shaped country roads,                       whizzing past corn fields and grain silos, almost losing our way amidst the cows grazing on pasture?                                            How we stopped         for homemade ice cream at the Dutch farm, fed the goats and llamas and drove back home? How you forgot to pick me up at the airport                    earlier that summer                  even after I had called and texted before and                               you triple confirmed?

 

 

Do you remember going to the doctor for the results:                                     the low-score cognitive tests, the MRI scan,                 the visible shrinkage of your once transcontinental brain?                         How you erupted at the nurses like you erupted at the Pinochetistas years ago?                             How you shouted historical facts, names, and dates in your foreign English that racists never figured out—German, Russian, or French—                                 not understanding Latinos are no monolith?    How we walked away     making promises and plans to meet in Greece,                        live the good life          in the year ahead         —test results be damned—                  suck on wild honey and grilled fish, imbibe bottles of red and white wines,      and               laugh by the fabled Mediterranean coast?

 

Tell me, were you alone?