The vacation had begun and my family was so excited. The truth is that we'd always gotten by with so little. My sister went to buy a second-hand bathing suit, 20 pesos and the menstrual stains could be seen from both sides of the material. My brother put a bottle of coconut oil in his bag. On the way from the city to the beach the oil spilled onto his t-shirts which became as stiff as cardboard. My father has a big belly. I've seen the disparaging way some people look at him when he's walking along the beach wearing only a bathing suit. Before we left for the beach, he was repairing his old car. He'd bought tires and changed some old motor parts. Two months ago, he'd used his bureaucratic savings to buy the car from a used car lot. He'd never had a car before. On the highway, the car broke down twice, but my father never lost faith. He smiled as if nothing had happened. Actually, he wanted to hide from us, his children, that he was just a poor devil hoping to forget his activity behind a desk. He turned up the volume of the radio and stammered along with the lyrics. All of the songs spoke of love, disloyalties, sorrows. It was music for failed people. My mother had no will of her own. She sat in the seat like an old mannequin. She had put an image of a saint of her devotion on the rear view mirror. My mother had never been happy. Her blouse had tiny Clarisol stains and her hands, smelling of cheap cream, caressed us from time to time.
We rented a room for 40 pesos a day. It had a big bed that took up most of the room and a cot that folded into the wall. A cockroach came out of a hole near some electric light cables and, while crossing the ceiling, stopped on a water stain before continuing on its journey. To save as much money as possible, my mother had gone to the port market to buy groceries, so we ate inside the hotel. For the rest of the day, the room smelled of avocado and tortilla.
The ocean was dirty. The waves brought in cardboard plates, beer bottles, and other trash. In the sand, my father invented some stupid game which only my sister would play with him. It wasn't because she thought it was fun but because it let her show her butt to the bathers. "I'm poor, but I'm good." This is the philosophy of all the teenagers who live in Moctezuma or Portales. When my father became excited watching one of the teenage girls, he would invent some excuse and he'd take my mother by the arm and head off to the hotel. When we three children would return, the room no longer smelled just of avocado and tortilla but also of other disagreeable odors. The damp sheet lying on the bed let us see the dotted mattress with tiny oxide stains.
We only stayed three days because the money ran out. We had just enough left to fill a tank of gas. Back at home, everything returned to normal. On Monday, classes started. My brother will be like my father, and my sister will live a life like my mother's. As soon as I can, I'll run away from here.
Text by Guillermo Fadanelli
Translation by Yolanda M. Guadarrama, 1999.