Legacy Of The Tropics
The jagged scar on Pablo's belly protruded above his waistband and wriggled like a snake as he darted out of the yard to join his friends playing on the sidewalk. The mark started above his belly button and ran nearly to his pubic bone. Sweating in the tropical heat made it glisten, but the disfigurement never bothered him. Others were more conscious of it than he was. The erratic scar was the result of a surgeon who had been careless or, perhaps, in a great hurry to enter the child's abdomen. Back in Colorado, where Ciara Malloy was from, a laceration like that would be cause for a thorough malpractice investigation. But things were very different here. Moving to Puerto Rico was a first-hand lesson in culture shock.
San Juan's August humidity hung thick in the air. Even so, it was better to be out on the patio than sweltering indoors in front of the window air conditioner. Jalousies cranked tightly closed were neither capable of keeping out the humidity nor containing the cooled air.
The limp breeze finally picked up and carried with it spicy aromas of neighborhood cooking and the smell of fresh moisture. Moments later, the rain came. Huge drops made the fire in the barbecue spit and hiss.
Ciara ducked under the raised floral umbrella over the table. Rico dragged the hot barbecue across the concrete patio closer to the main house and under shelter of the eaves in order to finish cooking the game hens. His muscles flexed, and his torso glowed from standing too near the fire and from the late afternoon heat. Just like when she had seen him at a construction site. The sight of him reminded her of the first time she saw him at work. He wore only shorts and construction boots and with tousled wavy black hair, looked like a golden god in a hardhat as he tight-roped a two-story block wall supervising the construction crew.
Frequently in the Caribbean, rain showers passed over then ceased within minutes. This time, the rain continued. The air had been sultry and the breeze on the patio tempting. Maybe they would have to eat dinner indoors after all.
“It'll pass,” he said, smiling in a way that said he would allow nothing to spoil this day. Being bilingual, his English retained a heavy Cuban Spanish accent. “Better today than tomorrow.” They both loved being outdoors.
Rain hitting the large flat leaves of the nearby avocado tree played a constant rhythm in the background. Drops hitting the tin roof next door added accompaniment. Their eyes met.
“Nothing bad will happen today,” Ciara said.
“You aren't going to leave me, are you?” he asked. His smile was facetious.
Leave Rico Rey? She loved him with all her heart. She loved Pablo, his little boy, as her own. She could not understand why she and Rico had not set a wedding date. After a freak storm last year that blew down her shack on the edge of the beach, she had moved into the cottage behind his house on Calle Delbrey. Not being married, they lived separately for Pablo's sake. That was the way Rico wanted things. They needed to maintain a level of dignity. Dictates of the Puerto Rican culture forced them to live in separate homes until they married. But to hear him occasionally allude to her leaving, if that's what he feared the most why, then, did he hesitate about finally tying the knot?
“Was this the kind of weather you had when your wife left?” Ciara asked. They had always talked openly about the past. Wounds healed more quickly when feelings were aired. Or was it because when she and Rico met the bonding energy between them had wiped out the pain of old hurts?
“About the same,” he said. “Strange how bad things in my life happen on rainy days.” He smiled and shook his head. “Like the day your shack went down.”
“Sure, but we met the sunny day after,” she said. She remembered the day she was picking through the rubble of the shack and looked up to find this gorgeous Latino watching her with a most tender expression. How the sparks shot between them that day. “The weather is only coincidental to events occurring, don't you think?” she asked.
“Wasn't raining when Pablo was born,” he said. “But it stormed when his mother ran—”
Pablo came running around the side of the house. Rico looked down and tended the barbecue.
“Is dinner ready, Mama?” Pablo asked. His hazel eyes were large and round from the exertion of play. Then he saw his father at the barbecue near the back wall of the house. He smiled a silly precocious grin that clearly expressed the closeness that this father and son shared. “Hola, Papi,” he said. “When do we eat?”
“About ten minutes,” Rico said.
“I'm going back to the street then.” Pablo started to run away. “I'm winning all the races.”
“Hey-hey,” Rico said. “Be on time for dinner.”
Too tall, but mentally advanced for just under eight years old, Pablo never let a little rain slow him down. He and some neighborhood children ran races up and down the block in front of the house. Long-legged Pablo usually won.
Rico watched his son scamper away. He had that deep pensive look that he got in his eyes every time he had a moment to study his son. Ciara thought of her own parenting abilities, something she had yet to fully experience. If she could be as attentive to her children as Rico was to Pablo, or, as her mother was to her, then she would have no worries about the type of mother she might be. Ciara thought of her mom, the only example she had available to emulate. She wished that someday soon she might have a chance to be the type of mother her mom was. In fact, she now longed for children of her own, lots of them. Rico's and hers would be sisters and brothers for Pablo, for whom she felt great adoration.
“You were saying?” Ciara asked.
“You know the details,” he said. “Pablo was born on a bright sunny day in a hot spell. The day construction stopped early because of torrential rain was the day I found my wife's goodbye note.”