In the shade of the almond tree
I have no age. I carry my years without submitting to the regimen of time and its chronology of dates and seasons. I recognize myself living, hands outstretched, in the shade of the almond tree, with white hair and staring eyes unconcerned with the passing hours. My tree and I have entwined our ages in the absurdity of the days. I stride from chapel to chapel between masses when silence prevails and the flames of the candles flicker beneath penitents’ tears. I kneel each morning before the statue of the Blessed Virgin, but I don’t pray. I find refuge there from the filthiness of existence. I imagine lives never exposed to the flavors of ripe mangoes and cherries in June, or to mild, starry nights and clear mornings, or to moments dissolving like hot, tender walnuts under the tongue.
Yet I have no memories except those of this bark that is the color of revealed time. No one ever lulled me to sleep with stories or tales. All by myself I invented a yearning for the myths and legends behind the featureless face of the one who brought me into the world and then left before I could settle accounts with her. “Why doesn’t your mother come back to look for you,” constantly asked the woman who took responsibility for keeping me alive through a pure reflex of basic preservation, just like the empty bottles and plastic sacks she accumulated until her death. I survived with just enough nourishment to avoid dying from malnutrition, just enough hygiene to avoid succumbing to dysentery, typhoid and other infections that fill the space around us, just enough breath to not find myself six feet under. I have no memory of the belly I came from. Still, from childhood to adolescence, I let myself be carried along by an unusual need for gentleness and the dread of my hand and heart being snatched by a loving mother from beyond the grave. The only prayer I was able to murmur came to me from the very depths of hunger, when the urge to live was reduced to the next mouthful and the primal sensation of food inside my mouth after a period of aching deprivation. Why didn’t you come back to find me and take me away with you, deceased mother, prisoner of my counterfeit memory?
[By Evelyne Trouillot from nowheremag.com]