A black cat. Friday 13th. Walking under a ladder. Bad luck is when you are 7 years old, your younger sister climbs up a hill and hops onto a 200 kilogram stone in the shape of a horse, rocking on it as she imagines she’s riding a horse through the field. Then, when she gets tired and hops off, the stone runs down the hill with amazing speed. You, lying on your back by the river, have been looking at the sky and naming the different shapes of the clouds.
Suddenly, scream, pain… and your leg under the huge rock. You feel very sleepy and your eyes close. The clouds are not there anymore, only an immense darkness and a deep void. Then the disability cross appears. You are no longer called María, but “The Gimp.”
On your 12th birthday you are still dragging your leg. Reconstructing chipped bones is too complex. Four surgeries in five years, not counting the tough recovery months in between them. You have not been schooled much, and you hardly know how to read and write. The doctors decide to operate again. They are wrong, because your tendons are not completely developed. Your legs end up uneven, one skinnier and shorter than the other.
You live in the middle of the ‘Sierra Maestra’ mountains. You are the third child from a marriage that produced fourteen children. And because of this, you had to look after your four-year old sister, the same one that fancied riding that stone horse. In this huge family, necessity and misery go hand in hand.
You grow up. Confused, you see in your first love a ticket to freedom. He turned out to be a bastard, a drunkard who gets annoyed by the crying of the two creatures you have given birth to. You go back to your parents’ home, but things will never be the same. You have no money to buy milk for your children. You drink brown sugared water so you can breastfeed the little one, who is weak and skinny.
Grandpa, the good-looking man who responds to this name, gives you five pesos. But before that, you had to satisfy his sexual appetite. You run to the store to buy food for your children. You climb the hill, limping. On one arm, the three-month old baby, in the other hand, the heavy bag, and clutching at its handle, the two-year old toddler. The three of you walk towards the house.
Meanwhile, he has been observing you. Gallantly, he offers to help you. Three days later, he asks you to travel to the capital. You don’t think twice and follow him with your two young children. A new couple, a second marriage without papers. You are afraid, but you are determined to start a new life, with a man twice your age…. how crazy!
“Don’t tell me anymore,” I tell my mother. “I now understand what bad luck is.”
“No, you don’t know yet, my daughter. Bad luck is when you have a black destiny, but you lose the strength to fight.”
Translated by: trelex