Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta neighborhood. Mostrar todas las entradas
Mostrando las entradas con la etiqueta neighborhood. Mostrar todas las entradas

viernes, 16 de junio de 2017

That old house

   In the neighbourhood of Cedar Hills, the people were kind and very friendly. The houses, built many years ago by people wanting to have their personal paradises not too far from everything good in the city, were established in a very perfect order, each different from the next but still seeming like a family. Not one house seemed out of touch, except for the one at then end of Maple road, just by the tall trees that belonged to the park. That house was the odd one out.

People were extremely nice. They would have all these parties and gatherings, to eat food or watch a movie. Sometimes they did this inside of their houses and other times they would occupy the street and do a nice night outside or something like that. The children were all specially close, having a group that headed every morning to school together, in bicycles. However, in that one ugly house, there were no children. No one ever heard much out of it, least of all a laugh.

Once a month, every single person in the neighbourhood, made out of about two hundred people, got reunited in another of their gatherings in order to talk about the most pressing things involving their community. If one of the lampposts of the street failed, it was there they decided how to proceed with the local council. Of course, the woman that lived in the run down house was never in those meetings. Actually, many people had never ever seen her face while others had already forgotten.

 But the meetings were mostly about people talking to others and sharing their love for each other by singing some music, showing their talents and even sharing personal news that wouldn’t normally be in public record. They loved their community and trusted everyone in it. They were close, so close in fact that when something bad happened, everyone was there for the person in need. Again, except the old lady from Maple street, who people had already learned to forget about.

 Bad things rarely happened in the neighbourhood. In the recent years, the most awful thing to happen was when a storm ravaged through the city and many trees fell because of the potency of the wind. Many houses had minor damages but the neighbours helped in a very short time to have it all looked as it had always looked: perfect. However, a large tree destroyed the garage area of the house no one ever talked about. It was the first time in years they ever talked about it, as if it had become real only because of the wood scattered all over the place.

 Reparations on that house were done only several weeks after the storm had passed. The people, concerned by how their neighbourhood would look which such a horrible stain on it, decided to write letters and then sliding them under the door. No one ever tried to talk in person to the woman that lived inside. They just wrote letter after letter until they got tired of it. And when they did, they decided to forget the house was there, again. They just didn’t want to know anything about it.

 Children, however, were not as “kind” as their parents. They couldn’t block out the house so easily, particularly because it stood by the entrance to the forest, a place where they liked to play and explore. The fact that they had to pass by the house every time they wanted to enter the forest, made it impossible to just forget about its existence. They couldn’t do what their parents do and often even stopped in front of the house and talked quite loudly in front of it, about the person living in there.

 Kids are mean. They used awful words to describe the woman, the house and everything they could come up with about the two of them. They insisted the old lady inside was probably dead. And even if she wasn’t, she was clearly a witch or some kind of sorceress. They also all agreed that the house was haunted, probably because of the woman’s tendency to kill every single man that became her husband. She was kind of like a black widow but in a human form and even deadlier than any animal.

 None of them could know for sure whom she was or why she didn’t seem to mind about the state of her house. The children often asked their parents about it but they never really received answers. Parents liked to pretend the one thing that made their neighbourhood out of the norm was just not real, not even there. One day, the people from the city council decided to remove the tree that had destroyed the garage. Weeks later, the garage was repaired, looking as if nothing had happened.

 Of course, children attributed this to the woman’s powers. They could have realized that the materials used in the repairs were not very good or that it was obvious the garage could collapse again by being hit hard by a gust of wind. But the fact that there was such mystery around the house, made it clear that they preferred to answer all questions about it from a supernatural point of view. But when kids grew older, they forgot about those thoughts and the words they used to mock the woman and the house, and they became just like their parents.

 But no matter what the neighbours thought, including their children, the woman inside still lived and had no plans to go anywhere else. She was called Sara and she had lived in the house more than any other person in the neighbourhood. The reason her house seemed like the odd one out was that it had stood there long before plans to build other houses and streets had been laid out. Her home was ultimately included in the plans, in an effort to have a certain harmony.

 Of course, that wasn’t what happened at the end because everyone disliked her house even more than they disliked her. She remembered clearly that her last day outside was when the first families decided to move into the other houses. You see, there was a reason why Sara lived so far from other people and it was that, her father had built her a home because of a psychological condition she had, where she couldn’t stand too many noises or constant contact with other people.

 She didn’t interact with her neighbours, not because she thought she was better or because she hated them, it was because she naturally feared them. She felt it every time she saw one of them out the window. She hated when they spoke loudly in her front lawn or when they held parties on that street. She would close doors and windows in her bedroom and then sleep inside her bathtub, where another door would protect her from the people outside and their words and hands.

Sara had been raped when she was just a teenager and her father had always felt responsible for what had happened. He felt he could have done so much more to save her, to put her away from danger. But when it happened, he decided he would do what he thought was best for her. As she became more and more aggressive to other people after her recovery, he decided to build on a land he had acquired long ago and that was how the house came to be, made only for her.

 He had been dead for many years and she wasn’t going to last much longer. Although still agile and sharp, she was an older woman that depended on family she had never seen to deliver her food at night, through her backyard. She only ate things she could stock for a long time.


 Sara never felt she needed other people to survive. She had learned to think those boxes of food just appeared there, out of the blue. It was better that way. Inside of the house, it was her own worlds with her own rules and that’s how she lived, in almost exile.

martes, 8 de noviembre de 2016

Home

   Some people refused to understand. They had an idea of family in their heads and they couldn’t be bothered to change it, even if the city they lived in was one of the most progressive in the world. They stared and sometimes even laughed. But the trick was not caring at all about what they said or did. Moving forward and just doing your thing was paramount in order to survive the horrible feast that was living in a suburban neighborhood like White Pines. There were things people had to do and one of them was having a thick skin.

 Diego and Liam had moved from another city two years ago and even after that time people still looked at them as if hey were the weirdest people in the world. Yes, they were married to each other and yes, they had a son called Duncan, but they often felt it that what people saw was so much more than that. Actually, it was Diego who had to endure most of the social pressure of the neighborhood because he was the one that stayed at home. Liam saw some of those things but he refused to acknowledge it was serious in any way.

 Mothers specially, were vicious against Diego. Well, at least most of them. From the first day he brought Duncan to school, he was a topic of conversation of the group of mothers that helped with several matters like organizing parties or fundraisers. After all, the school that Duncan went to was a very high achieving one and it was paramount that all the children and most of the parents got involved in some of the social crusades that parents loved to be involved with such as feeding the poor and organizing lavish parties to give a few bucks to a charity.

 Diego wasn’t used to that. In the city they lived in before, his life was kind of different. He had always tried to be a writer but never really realized how hard it was. Liam tried to help him but nothing ever worked. Then, they had the idea to adopt a child, so they did and that was how Duncan became a part of the family. Now, the boy was nine years old and Diego was what you would call a “house husband”, completely dedicated to Duncan and to the new house they lived in, which was substantially larger than their former apartment.

 They were all happy, in a general way. But Diego soon became frustrated with all the parents thing. He thought it was quite an old fashioned idea that only women would leave their kids at school and be the ones who helped for all the things that they needed there. He was the only man to do so and he had done it after Liam and him argued about the school and him not having a job and so on. He didn’t like to go to those meeting but he felt he had to because of his responsibilities towards his son and his husband. But even so, it was very annoying.

 Most of the meetings lasted for more than an hour and, for Diego that was excruciating. Not only because the women rarely stayed on topic (whatever it was that they were planning in the school) but because they always stared and asked the silliest question, just as if the last hundred years of social progress had never reached their homes. He got asked who was the woman in the relationship or if he felt emasculated for not having a job. They also looked at him constantly, as if he was some kind of strange creature walking around the downtown area.

 Sometimes he skipped sessions and he had to come up with excuses. There were times when he actually did have true excuses and other times he just came up with something. But that didn’t matter because they always would look at him as if he was lying and, even more annoying, as if they pitied him for some reason. It was as if they thought he was just a poor soul that they were helping, kind of one of those charities they loved to donate. One day he had enough of their nonsense and just stormed out of one of the meetings, with no explanation.

 When he arrived to the house, he realized two things: that he had to come back in a few hours for his son and that the place they were living in was too damn big. The house looked like one of those in which people live in commercials or something. It had a big backyard and a front garden too. The kitchen was enormous, as was every other room in that place. Diego didn’t like to say it but he missed his apartment from before. Not only because it had been something his family had passed on to him but because he felt really at home there.

 In that cavernous house, he only felt at home when Liam and Duncan were there. But Liam was always at work or busy doing something else and Duncan was at school or at some friend’s house on Saturdays. Only on Sundays they behave like an actual family and even then Liam was distracted by his phone every minute and Duncan was exactly the same thing. Diego didn’t really have any friends to distract him. He only had a couple and rarely spoke to them because their relationship was a bit different than normal.

 When he was alone at home, which was for several hours a day, he would clean the house by himself. He even refused to hire a maid because he argued that it would make him turn alcoholic in five days. So he scrubbed the floors, the toilets and trimmed the grass all by himself. It was very hard work but he enjoyed it because at least that way he was distracted doing something productive that maybe his family would acknowledge. They never really did.

 He decided not to return to the meetings. However, he was surprised to realize, one day, that they had called Liam and told him about that. And the fight that ensued was just ridiculous. He said it was his obligation to go to those meetings and help and Diego replied he wasn’t going to be their animal to look at anymore. He would rather feed the poor himself than helping in those ridiculous parties. Liam said the husbands of those women were the one doing business with them and Diego said he didn’t care. It wasn’t his problem.

 Liam said he would never understand how working and living a good life really worked, al the thing you had to do to make it work. Then the fight got uglier, with Diego telling Liam he knew he never really approved of his choice of not having a job but at least he was there every day of the week and not having meetings that took hours and not even looking at his eyes for several days. Liam couldn’t respond to that and Diego just turned around and left the house. He jumped into the car and drove off without much thinking about his destination.

 He used the car to think, to try and get an idea of what it was Liam wanted from him. But he just couldn’t be that submissive person he obviously wanted to have by his side. He wanted him to be like all those other women and there was no way Diego would go down that road. The fact that he wasn’t a working guy did not mean he had no integrity. When he realized it, he was driving to the city they lived in before. It was only three hours away so he pressed on, thinking it could be a nice idea to go back to his real roots in a place he loved.

 He arrived in the morning. Thank God, they kept the keys in the glove box of the car. When he opened the door, a cloud of dust escaped the apartment. They hadn’t been able to rent it, partly because of the chaos they had left in there. So, out of the blue, Diego started cleaning, opening windows and buying products to get the place in perfect condition. When he went to the supermarket, people greeted him. They remembered who he was from childhood and from living there with Liam. They asked for him but he didn’t say too much.


 After a week, the place was perfect. He let Liam know he was there and he announced to him he was going to stay there. He actually told him that if custody were not his, he would fight for his right to Duncan. And so it happened, months after. He got his son to live in his former house and he noticed how much better it was for both of them. As for Liam, he had been seeing some woman for many months, so he stayed with her in the other town. Diego didn’t mind. He had returned home and he would never leave again.

sábado, 22 de octubre de 2016

Hurricane Eliza

   There were pieces of wood and tiles all over the place. No house was left standing. The only big structures close to the big were a couple of buildings, which were about seven floors before the hurricane hit the area. Now, they were also a big pile of rubble that was very difficult to put apart from the rest of the rubble from all the other structures likes house and small business buildings and commerce. Everything had been destroyed in only one night and now people were trying to define what they were going to do after such a tragic event.

Anne had always lived in the area. Her parents had moved when she wasn’t even in their plans and the city was only beginning to flourish. Back then; they had some powerful hurricanes too but nothing like Eliza, the storm that had destroyed every single house. Anne had evacuated early the day before, leaving for a shelter inland. That move had saved her life. Many other people were not as fortunate. They had been afraid of leaving their things, their home, so they had been taken away by the storm along with everything else.

 The death toll rose every hour, as more and more bodies were found beneath what remained of the houses. The ones closest to the beach had been the most affected but destruction had reached every single part of town, even those not so nice houses that were inland. Poor people who lived away form the beach and all of the beautiful things also died or were left to live in a pile of what used to be their home. The storm didn’t care who had money or who hadn’t. She just arrived at peak intensity and took everything with her.

It was true, however, that people had been warned long before the actual hurricane hit the city. But every prediction said it would turn north because of the warmer waters up there. Everyone was convinced that was going to happen. And the turn happened but it was too close to the shoe line. Actually, when all the data was compiles, the hurricane’s eye had never touched the ground. It had been away from the coast for only a couple of kilometers. The destruction was maximal that way. Not even something planned would have been so evil.

 Anne spent all of the first calm day trying to find things in the remains of her house that she could use. Contrary to popular belief, people were not helpful or nice. All the opposite: they were vicious and didn’t want anyone to even step on one of the rocks they thought belonged to their house. People got really scared and believed everyone was out to get them and that their pile of garbage was somehow much more important or valuable than the other piles of garbage in the area. Some people even got weapons to protect their stuff.

 Anne decided to explore her space and try to take as many things as she could salvage from the rubble. Of course, there wasn’t a whole lot to take with her, but she did found some valuables like kitchenware and jewelry and other stuff that she could use to sell and survive for some time. Anne was a widow and had never had any children so she was alone in the task of trying to make something out of her life after such a tragedy. She was always almost at the breaking point but somehow always pulled herself together and moved on.

 When the sunset of that first day after the storm approached, she realized she couldn’t save anything else. The lot was still hers but it would take a while for the city to clean the neighborhood. She had to do something else that wasn’t camping there like a lunatic. She decided to pay a cheap hotel for a night and decide the next day what it was that she was going to with her life. As she drove to the hotel, she realized all of what was happening would have been a lot easier to handle with her husband on her side. But he wasn’t there.

 Walter had died almost a year earlier from a strange disease that had almost annihilated his body in a matter of months. They never told her exactly what it was but the quality of his life quickly diminished: by the end of it he wasn’t able to stand on his own, speak fluently or properly use her hands. When he began to drown because of his problems one day, she had no idea she would lose him. And she also didn’t know he had signed a paper that said he shouldn’t be revived in case something like that happened. He had taken that decision in order or her no to make it.

 Walter had been the love of her life, having met him in college. They used to do everything together. They planned and went on great trips and loved to try new things as a couple like dancing unknown rhythms or trying to learn a new language. It was hard for Anne to admit, but it was because of Walter that she had evolved and become a stronger and more loving person. Before she met him, she as a bit too rough and didn’t really care for romance or love or any of that. It was Walter, which showed her how beautiful love could really be.

 Now she was by herself, sleeping in a small bed that smelled like old people. It was pitch black outside her room but even like that she couldn’t sleep. First, her husband had been taken away from her. Then, the hurricane destroyed everything. And now she felt extremely lost and lonely. It had o be said that she had no more family than Walter as she had lived her full childhood in an orphanage. That was what had made her tough in the first place.

 The following day, she returned to her former house and tried to get some more stuff out but it was a very dangerous thing to do as the rubble could fall on her feet or hurt her somehow. It was a really difficult thing to do, to try and remember he things that had any value in order to sell them. She had also saved many things from him and now she couldn’t find any of it and it was making her desperate. She wanted those things to feel a little bit safer, as if someone was actually protecting her. Being alone was too hard after such a thing.

 Suddenly, a group of people from the mayor’s office and the government appeared on a car with a sound device to reach everyone. They were saying that the rubble would be cleared off in the following weeks, as the machines needed for the job weren’t even en route to help yet. They said the disaster had touched many different towns along the coast and that they were trying to make the best job possible for everyone to feel safe and to be able to rebuild if they want that or to sell their lots if they decided that was the better option.

 Anne was the first one to walk up to the car and make them stop by standing just in front of it. She had an impulse to do so and she did. She yelled at the people on the car, saying that they were talking as if it was something they did out of a routine or something, as if town along the coast got destroyed every day. And she also told them that she new for a fact that machines like the ones needed to clear the rubble were available to mayor’s office because of an article she had remembered reading to Walter when he was in the hospital.

 Other neighbors came closer and agreed with Anne. They also thought the government had come to tell lies and to make them feel safe and calm when there was no reason to be either of those. They needed to get mad and to demand what was right, which was the removal of all the rubble as soon as possible in order for them to properly look for their belongings and then decide if they wanted to leave or not. Many people, most of the neighbors actually, came closer to Anne and surrounded her, in order to support her stand.


 She then declared that they wouldn’t move until at least two machines came to clear the neighborhood. They would stand there and not let the vehicle leave. The people in it could walk away but the car stayed with them. One by one, the officials had to step out of the vehicle and walk away, afraid for their safety and humiliated because their corruption had been uncovered. Now, the neighbors hoped for the machines to arrive soon and Anne realized something she had in herself she didn’t even know about.

viernes, 8 de mayo de 2015

Local politics

  As Marina walked to her polling station, she repeated in her head the names of all the candidates or, at least, the names of the ones she knew about. This time there were so many names. She liked it more when it was between three or four people. But this time there were almost ten and that just seemed too much for a race for a mayoral post.

 Nevertheless, it was the most important mayoral post in the country. Some people even called it the second most important political figure in the country after the president. And that wasn’t surprising when you realized how really useless was a job like the one of the vice-president. Marina thought that office should disappear and pass their responsibilities to other hands. Most people in the country didn’t know who their vice-president once, except maybe this time around because it was well known he was going after the presidential seat in a few years time.

 But anyway, today was about the city. Marina had been born thee in a middle class neighborhood and had grown up there. She had never moved, except after college when she decided to leave the country to learn another language but that was it. She could say she knew every street, every corner of her neighborhood and also the whole city to be honest. After all, as a  girl who had worked as a delivery person in a pizza place, she had to know addresses and a good chunk of the city.

 Her district had grown through the years. When it first appeared on maps, some seventy years ago, the neighborhood was on the edge of the city and was home of the wealthy. Their house, beautifully constructed Victorian buildings still stood on every street of the district but wealthy people had long been gone. Many of them now lived in country houses or large apartments overlooking the city from the hills, which were the tallest geographical feature. Now her district was middle class and very diverse.

 Marina had seen change before her eyes, because her neighborhood had also attracted, over the years, a very diverse group of people. From people from other regions that had come to the capital for a better life to artists and intellectuals who made the Victorian houses their homes or cultural centers for the whole city. Many of them had been converted to dancing schools, acting schools, music conservatories and other uses. And maybe because of this, it was becoming rare to see big families leaving in the neighborhood. Instead there were a lot of “new” families coming such as homosexual couples and many singles and students.

 When she got to the polling station, Marina was already sure of her choice. It wasn’t difficult after all because there was only one person that would seek to preserve the past but also embrace the present, exactly what her district was all about and what she honestly loved about her neighborhood. Marina voted for a woman, one of only two women there, because she was the one most vocal to embrace the “new” city instead of going back to the old, ragged politics.

 In another part of town, more exactly near the hills that watched over the shallow valley were the city sat, Albert was stepping out of his polling station. He didn’t really put much thought about his vote as he had decided many months ago, since the candidates had become public.

 Albert was almost fifty years old, had a lovely wife, two kids and worked in the city’s stock market. It was a difficult job but one he loved because he had always been fond of numbers and, to be honest, of money. He made a lot of money in that job, more than he could have ever imagined and with his savings he had bought a large apartment, two cars and a flat by the beach, which they visited at least once a year.

 The truth was that, different than Marina, Albert wasn’t really in loved with this city. Yes, he had been born there but from a young age he had travelled around the world because of his father’s work and had learned how much better it could be for everyone. People in other countries could be financially better and be able to live an “easier” life. In this country, the differences between the rich and the poor were abysmal but the rich were not that rich to begin with.

 Besides all this, he was tired of the mayor’s policies to forbid him to use his cars as he wanted, the taxes went up every year so he could help pay what the poor spent in water and power and he thought that the city was mixing too much for his taste. As an example, in his neighborhood many people that used to live in other parts of the city had begun arriving recently. Some were foreigners hired by multinationals but some others were just people that made his district look bad.

 At work and around his family members, he would always try to convince them to vote like he did. He told them that the mayor had to be someone that worked the same way the government worked in the good years for the economy so the city could grow to make a better life for all of its inhabitants. As a proof of sorts of what he said about the current mayor, he told everyone he could hold on to for more than five minutes that he was thinking of moving to the countryside, to another jurisdiction, because he thought smaller towns knew exactly what to offer to people like him.

 So after he voted, he took his wife voting too and after that left the city to their beach flat where they would check the results o f the voting.

 Another person that was leaving the city was Juan. Juan had arrived to the city some two years ago, when looking for a university where he could study to become a designer. He worked very hard in his classes and always tried to innovate and be the one the teachers looked at. After all, his family had gone through great challenges in order to send him to another city to live and study. At the same time that Albert, Juan was leaving the city to visit his family back in his hometown after going to vote early.

 He preferred to do it really early so the voting station would be almost empty. It was well known that in the capital very few people voted earlier than midday and besides he had to be at the airport so he didn’t have much choice either. And talking about choices, his was a really difficult one. He had arrived to the city fairly recently but was able to vote because he had registered his ID in a polling station near his knew home.

 Juan lived a few blocks away from Marina but was only learning about the diversity in the district. He had grown in another kind of town, where people were less open and much more predictable in their voting ways. His parents had always voted for exactly the same party since they could remember but he didn’t want to be like that. He wanted to be the one of the few people that voted after thoroughly reading every single one of the proposals of every candidate.

 Some of them promised better transport, others better health other more security and so on. They seemed to be agreeing on several things but the truth was, when reading between the lines, that the same things meant different ways to get there for each candidate. One of them thought better transport was just having more buses and another thought it was all about the subway. Some declared security depended on education; other announced they would increase the number of cops in every part of the city. Two offered more hospitals, others more housing for the poor and one of them, funny enough, offered to reform the whole administrative division of the city to make it more realistic.

 It was a hard decision to make for Juan as this one was the first time he voted in the city and he planned to stay there long after he finished his studies. After all, this city offered more work opportunities and a lifestyle with more options than any other towns in the country. Yeah, of course everything was globalized now and things where changing even in the most traditional towns, but he felt that this city had a potential, had the capacity to be so much more than it was and he wanted to be a participant in that new era for the city.


 So when he went to cast his vote that morning, he decided to vote for the one candidate that had convinced him in most issues. He knew the man wasn’t going to win, if the polls were right, but he felt at ease thinking he had spoken his mind and had made the right choice, staying true to what he thought the city should be all about.