I know somebody out there likes hearing about plows and pilgrims, grapevines and tree-cutting, how the canary is singing and how Tim is coping with the loss of his lifetime boss, Una.
Since losing Una last Sunday I have poured myself into a writing project that demands about 1,700 words per day, through the NanoWriMo program. I am writing a fictionalized historical novel, something I´ve been sitting on for a couple of years. It´s pure escapist fun for me, and I´m enjoying myself. I don´t know if it will be any good or not, but WTH. When real life gets too heavy, it´s good to just throw yourself into someone else´s shoes. Someone who lived, say, 1,000 years ago.
And life skips along, with the wind stripping leaves off the trees, and the trees being trimmed. I enjoy climbing trees. Add a chainsaw and I can make something useful of it. I figure I´d better get this out of my system now, before I get too old to handle either activity. So this morning I trimmed one of the big spruces, the one out back. It should be much healthier now, and much less noisy when the wind gets up: It was full of big crossed branches and rubbed horribly on each other, scarred the tree, and created a terrible moaning outside the blue bedroom window during storms.
After that we lunched. And after lunch someone came to the door. It was Fran, carrier of messages, usually scribbled on a bit of paper. Perhaps they´ve canceled Mass, I thought, or the local government is calling us together for some meeting or other. But Fran was frantic. He had no note. "You must come with me, Rebekah. Follow me home. Julia needs you," he said. Strange. Fran almost never makes that much sense. He ran out the door. I ran after him, wondering if someone needed first aid or CPR -- far as I know I´m the only one around here who knows how. I hoped to God it wasn´t Fran playing a trick on me.
Down the drive, round the corner, Fran turning to shout "Hurry! Hurry! Run!" I was wearing my moccasins. Running was not easy, but I did it. Fran opened the door to the the place we call "the Juli House." There the key of life suddenly changed to something very minor, very sharp.
Inside, round the corner into the sitting room, was my next-door neighbor Oliva. And Julia, the lady of the house. She turned to me, sobbing. "Ay, Rebekah!" she cried. "Tu amiga, tu amiga!"
It´s Juli. Little Juli. The English teacher, the daughter of the house, 32 years old, Moratinos´ youngest citizen, my best and only real Spanish friend... she is dead. Killed this morning, head-on crash with a truck, just north of Salas de Infantes, where she was in her second year of teaching primary school.
|Julia at her school, Oct. 2009|
She was just here with us yesterday. She comes home to Moratinos most weekends. She´s a homebody, a daughter of the pueblo. You may remember her from previous posts. We spend considerable time together, taking road trips, taking walks, hanging out after Mass on Sundays, chatting in two languages on the church steps on long summer afternoons.
No more. Juli is gone. I cannot believe this. I cannot understand it yet. (I am writing this while I am still numb.)
One beautiful thing about the pueblo is everyone is expected at the house of mourning, and everyone is allowed to cry as much as they like -- men, women, children. I sat there and cried myself sick with Juli´s mom, and with Oliva, and Juli´s uncle Pin. And when Manolo and Feliciano came in, they hugged Julia and cried, and when Manolo sat down next to me and saw me crying, he patted my shoulder and cried some more. In England they make tea in these situations. In America, they break out the bourbon and the Valium. Here, they all just have a good, honest howl.
Twenty people live here. When one of us dies it´s a terrible blow. And when we lose the youngest, and perhaps the most decent, sweet, and caring of us... It is incomprehensible.
Tomorrow they´ll ring the bells the way they do for deaths. Patrick and I will try to follow the motions of the others, to do the right things at the right time, choose the right words to say at the right moment.
Advice on the finer points of pueblo behavior in these situations is very hard to find. In English, impossible.
The person who we always asked, the local who told us a house was for sale in this town, who told us how to find the owner of the lost dog who became Tim, who asked me to come along when she took a big exam, who helped us understand the Byzantine tax documents that arrive in the mail... the girl who taught me to pronounce "imprescindible" and "joder," and how to use a sickle without chopping off my hands, and how to negotiate a traffic circle.
Little Juli, our guardian angel of Moratinos, is dead.
The hearts of an entire town are broken today.
People, please pray for us.