Traumatic Period: Adolescence (II)
If the “Special Period” deeply marked me during my childhood, it did so much more during my teenage life. I will never forget my first period, wearing folded rags causing great discomfort. The pharmacies started to sell, via the ration booklet, a “pad” package for each teenager and woman who had been counted by the census. Each package had 10 sanitary pad, which was not enough. My mom sacrificed and gave me all of hers.
I didn’t have a party when I turned 15. No photographs either. Only a used dress that cost my mother 300 pesos and six month’s savings. For the occasion, according to the ration booklet, I was entitled to buy 5 boxes of beer, a cake, 50 pieces of bread, 5 bottles of rum and 5 bottles of soft drinks. We sold the five boxes of beer for 40 dollars and we used the money to buy a pair of shoes and a blouse for me, a pair of pants for my mother and a pair of tennis shoes for each of my two brothers.
My first nighttime outing was to a “disco-vianda” in the neighborhood farmers market, where they played recorded music. Choosing an evening wardrobe was an adventure. There was not much to pick from, but it was necessary to mix and match in order not to repeat what was worn the previous weekend. Lipstick was mixed with pencil for eyeshadow: thus we obtained different shades of makeup.
The shoes were the same ones I wore to school. The poor things, they couldn’t have done more, left alone only when I took them off. As they were white, we polished them with Perla brand toothpaste, which we got with the ration book, and also used as an antacid. They finally ended up black, colored with a dye made from a “special formula”: soot produced by the kerosene cook stove on the pans, mixed with alcohol.
New shoes came when the cobbler could no longer work on the old ones. The tacks had come through to my feet. If you want something you have to pay the price: I wanted to go out and have fun, so I had to endure them. Fortunately, the darkness of the disco-vianda (a disco held in the local farmer’s market) hid the patches in my clothes.
We were drinking “chispa de tren” (“train spark”), which really bad rum is called. To take away the discomfort, or rather, the embarrassment. In spite of everything the night was fun, with a lot of music and dancing. But the “chispa de tren” gives you a headache. Suddenly, 5 and 10 cent coins are flying, chains and hooks from the market swinging, punches and slaps. Everyone running! Hiding under the stage until the storm passes.
Photo: holytrini, Flickr