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The story of Celia

by Tatiana Hinojosa

Translated by Amanda Kauffman

In My Dreams – The Story of Celia

An imprisoned sigh escapes me at night,

even if it looks like a game, it would steal

to the chorus of a dark evening

many treasures to fill your warm room with fantasies,

would play eternally with its softly perfumed light,

I would tangle my longings in the musical windows,

while the fragile charm of a silver butterfly

worships her in a dream,

I follow her steps and wait for her until the end of the fight

I hold onto with hope.

The cool, impetuous breeze surrounds our huge house of vernacular architecture, the mango trees shudder very hard and the air enters the slits quickly as if it wanted to escape time; Now, we all watch the TV soap opera, and I don’t lose sight of my mother’s expression and the emotions that the screen provokes; sometimes I exchange glances with my grandmother when the plot becomes intense, I smile in face of my little sister’s rascality, who tries to find an accomplice and form a quiet balance with us. I know her, and I know that they are ways to avoid study time, so we often quarrel, also because of some rules that she purposely ignores, protected in her childishness.

The night begins to insinuate itself among the windowpanes, I am no longer even concerned about how many Colombians feel the same panic that distressed me these days because of the pandemic. I get up stealthily and arrive in the room I share with my mother, decide to lie down, and look to the walls at her framed photographs showing a flirtatious smile and a look that radiated sublime messages of loyalty, when I still did not even know that life would be rendering her with this disease, Huntington’s disease.

How many dreams of my mother at that time…!

She was a student at The Business Administration University, but she failed to complete her degree because she fell in love with my father, who offered her sincere love at the time. I think we could have been a happy family, even though we went out to eat ice cream, we used to visit Grandma, and I had many friends, but this was not the world we were going to stay in forever, my grandfather suffered this strange ailment, and since this evil does not skip generations, it now haunts my mother. This changed my family’s relationship, in the end, the harmony was lost from the first time my mother’s attitude burst in euphoria, for no apparent reason; then my father abandoned us, but my grandmother offered us a place in her home to help us provisionally.

I remember when, being only a young girl, at just ten years old, my mother began to show the first symptoms, a nervous tic suddenly appeared, a nervous gesture, also, soft movements of the shoulders and feet, which gradually progressed to become more severe and uncontrollable.

I am moved to remember the birth of Maria Jose, immediately, she became the commitment that I imposed on myself, because being so small, it filled our lonely days. Life has not been easy for anyone in my family, that can be seen when I compare the style that friends of my age project with ours,  it has been a little more difficult, so I must demand something more, that’s why I have worked in a frappe factory, in the sale of empanadas and as a skating coach. It encourages me to think that there is a flourishing future and that it could offer opportunities for my sisters, and of course, for me too.

The time to go out approaches, so, I look in the closet drawers for a light jean, and an apple green blouse, I place them on the bed, I can see that my mother walks in a hurry, I distinguish her quick movements in the distance, and I entrust her to my grandmother. After a bath that renews my spirit, I direct my steps down the street that leads me to the place where I work. Sometimes the fiery whistles of some hidden admirer frighten the silence away, I walk distracted, with certainty that is not the time for love. I arrive at the place of sale, in front of the avenue that arises before my eyes, so modern… More like a design created by magical elves, from where I can observe the two directions and see all the vehicles of the city. I clean the display case and settle the food diligently, while I smile at the regular shoppers in business of fried foods where I now find myself. Some nice ladies arrive, who refuse to return to the tediousness of their homes and stay for a while in the white chairs that are arranged so that the clientele can settle and feel well cared for.

I pride myself in being good company, although I seem to look younger than I really am, perhaps, that’s because of my slender figure or my dark curls that reach down to my shoulders, which enhance that candor that reveals the purity found in the soul of pious people.

I finished almost at eight o’clock at night, I sold everything I took; it’s funny, but now that people are imprisoned in their homes, the products are finished quickly, it must be because the downtown’s upscale restaurants close early and only work delivery. Returning home, I find Maria José and the rest of the relatives who live in Grandma’s house, gathered around the table. There are many of us, so I try to collaborate with expenses, as do my other relatives.

“Hello mom!” I greet when I find her awake, she smiles, and in her gesture, I can sense her joy, I ask her if she is already going to sleep, and without being able to control her movements, she seems to say yes, I help her lie in the bed that is set up next to mine.

It was no wonder that my mother repeated, although with difficulty, that it was time to sleep, I went out in search of my sisters, because it was a healthy habit that we already had, that of wishing her good night, and only then would she drift off into a deep sleep.

I wanted to do something to make our lives change, to have at least one place for my two sisters and my mother, but where to start, if it seemed to me as is I was the protagonist of the book The Perfume by Jean Baptiste? Everyone saw me, but it was as if I didn’t exist.

This difficult situation we were going through was no secret, and although it was very hard to postpone my goals, I could not abandon my sister, who was only ten years old, and only thought of enjoying her childhood, or my mother, who could not fend for herself, to make my way in the big city and put my personal struggle first. I am the older sister, and with Maria Fernanda, my sister, her only support, it would be selfish of me to walk away indifferently, forgetting my duty as a daughter.

The anguish and anxieties of my mother manifested themselves constantly, her repetitive movements keep her in an extreme thinness, that is because, at night while she sleeps, she does not rest, and during the day she does not have a moment of stillness. We do what we can to not annoy the other family members who live with us, but sometimes this responsibility becomes arduous.

How do I control my mother’s steps throughout the house without her hurting herself? We have established a method of sisters that consists of taking turns to care for her and for it to not become, in any way, uncomfortable moments for uncles and cousins.

There are people who are obsessed with beauty, power, or money, I would settle for reading a hundred books, of which I already carry, about fifty already finished, I am passionate about reading and want to go to university to study law, to do justice, primarily for the benefit of the families of Huntington’s patients, because, knowing that there are people interested in helping us, I am sure that the greater the team, the greater the progress that science will show. Today I took advantage of a visit of a good friend to make some calls, he lends me his cell phone every time he comes, of course he is always making the same warning.

“Don’t drop it, because then we’ll both be in the same situation.” he warns me.

I gesture my gratitude and look for a secluded corner where I can have enough intimacy to allow fleeting comfort to some emotional needs.

When I handed over the cell phone, my hands were shaking, I had received the news that was admitted to law school and that I would start in August, I would have to take some papers, and wait a while. I ask God to help me, that nothing comes to scare away this illusion, however, in my being, at some point pessimism comes, I am so accustomed to sorrow, fear and indifference, I think it is strange to enjoy, precisely now, that the new coronavirus has also spread throughout the planet.

Today I have no idea what tomorrow will be, but what comforts me is that the family reunion we had in the room was very lively, my sisters believe that I must continue with my aspiration to enter college, to know the world through study; according to the vision of my beloved mother, she needs me very much,  but, I would not be the same if I was missing at some point, it is very important for the three of us to know that it is there, it is possible that the disease that today bends her health, sometimes, causes me fear, but I am more likely to think that one day it will go away from this world. In my cry it is always asking God that she stay with her family and celebrates the day I get my degree as a lawyer to embrace her and toast together for a better life.

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