Tanya, dreams, and a fridge.

My uncle jumped out of the car and opened the mostly rusted gate. A few more minutes were wasted as he tried to scatter the chickens, dogs, and other animals that had not realized the gate was closed when they walked through the miles of unfenced land. I was sitting in the back seat of one of the cars. One thigh pressed hard against one of my cousins while the other one was over the leg of my brother. My skin sticky with sand, salt water and the continuous application of sun screen. The silver white sun screen was applied not to protect me from cancer but to make sure that I didn’t get too dark.

My mom’s brother had bought this large piece of land for very little. Now, it was scared with remains of failed grown-up dreams. To the left was the cement block maker, that dream ended when the houses built with them started collapsing. To the right, a set of trees that the fruit were going to make so much money nobody would have to work. Up ahead piles of used plastic cups. My uncle latest plan to recycle waste, do some good and make a fortune.

At the top of the small hill was the house that we used to shower in before heading home. It was made with those same blocks that nobody wanted to buy or we could legally sell. The house had no windows or doors. No windows in the bath room. No front door. Most of the floors had exposed sub-floors. No furniture. No appliances, except for one old fridge.

The fridge sat in one of the few rooms that had a floor. A circle of water around the fridge varied its diameter depending on the time of year, the schedule of the blackouts, and the thirst of the random animals that would drink from it. My cousin Tanya stepped out of the shower, stepped into the puddle and touched the handle. Immediately her hand white knuckled the stainless steel handle. Her body undulated frantically. The radio that the adults were listening to went in and out matching her dreaded dance. A person screamed. My uncle ran to the left of the house and grabbed one of the piled up 4 by 4, walked up to the fridge, and stuck Tanya across the torso.

That night Tanya wrapped in towels sat on the floor a few feet away from me. The uncles talked about their next great project that will allow the family to finally flourish while drinking undrinkable beer and even cheaper rum. I promised myself that I would leave this all behind.

Over 30 years later, and hundred of miles, and more than half of my life gone,  I have half-finished apps, broken appliances, a leaky roof, a dozen almost done projects around my desk and the next great dream just waiting for the right time.

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Retreat

At birth quickly we open up. We taste, touch (with even our mouths), and we listen. We learn taste, color, sounds and language rapidly. We learn to love, to hurt, and to share.

At a certain point we change. After expanding for days and years we start to retreat. We stop touching the bark of trees, we stop digging our hands into the mud. Since we already have a caricature of what they feel like, why touch them again? We stop looking up at the sky, listening to our kids laughter, at the color of people’s eyes, at the softness of children fingers, and at the wrinkles that adorn our elders faces.

As time goes by our physical body also retreats. Our eyes don’t see light as bright. Our ears are not able to discern as many sounds. Our skin thicker can’t feel as well. We can’t travel as far. We can’t visit loved ones. Our space slowly shrinks to one room, one bed or our own minds.

Nothing is sadder than our mind’s retreat. We don’t listen anymore. People talk and we can’t wait to tell them what is in our minds or go back to whatever important task we are working on. We can’t be budged from our positions set in stones years or decades ago, even if those positions were set in a world that doesn’t now exist.

I fight against this every day. I try to touch things I have touched a million times before. I look at my love, and try to figure what has changed from the last time I looked at her.  I try to imagine how the sun looked when it was brighter than it is now. I try to lift my head and look, listen and touch my kids, my love and the beautiful world around me.

This is not to say that I am perfect. I fail on many days.