Renato = To rise again
Still yet to make the dialogue far more authentic and create a more real environment that’s true to the location. Get a rich sense of the culture.
Renato’s interactions with his wife were cracked and cursed like the baked yellow lands surrounding them. A small house, white and tiled, even older they they were as some cosmic joke. His skin was like the land too. Dry and carved with lines, the hair on his spotted scalp thin and course like the weeds that rolled aimlessly, around the haunted village San Miguel de Allende.
His wife, Mariana, busied her arthritic fingers with a crochet hook and Renato sucked the excess of his gut in behind his belt. Loosening a notch he weaved, his moustache ruffling against the breath. “What’re you making now woman?”
“Ke?” She replied, furrowed brows over thin rimmed glasses focused on the twist of yarn. A bent and boney digit poked forward, whilst another curled the wool around the hook, pulling it through the loop she’d created. Renato had watched a thousand times. She would do the same thing, over and over again. Every day. For weeks, or so it seemed.
“I said, what’re you making. God damn you do nothing but this crap!”
She blanked him . Renato flared and slapped the side of his thigh.
“No!” she recoiled suddenly, wincing back as if a bright glare shone to her eyes from where her loving husband stood in the middle of the room.
Mariana was a small woman, her warm Mexican hue lightened by age, a disability in her left leg which forced her to neglect the outdoors. Slowly her skin had softened like wet paper, sagging over her bones and she lost weight and buried herself in the crochet. Renato’s feet still carried him along the roads and through parks, absorbing the light of a summer day, the voices of the locals and a yearning for something more. Instead, he was forced to stay chained to this rotting la dama.
“It’s the same thing! Why? Why woman why do you do this?”
Her dark and fearful eyes; before droopy and frozen in her head, now alert and stricken. Mariana gawped a little at him and then pursed her lips, a comb of smokers trenches wrinkling above them. “I like it! I tell you all the time. Get a hobby.”
“Woman,” he began, marching his stumpy legs forward, clenching and unclenching his fists. “Mariana…you ignore me. You never talk! How many times do I have to sa-” he lashed suddenly, striking her crochet things aside, knocking her right arm in the process and jarring it: she cried out, her eyes filled in terror once more.
His chest heaved, rising and pumping the anger and rage within his veins. Long boiled. “I’m… Mariana…” he felt his anger subside then, only a little and Renato turned, a hand on his belt and the other to his face. “Mariana…”
“Again!!!” She screamed and it took Renato by surprise. He wheeled around to watch her stupid self struggle from the chair, her battered old leg wobbling beneath the weight, though Mariana’s frail frame was barely more than 90lbs. “You wonder why things have changed? They haven’t. You’ve changed Renato, you’ve changed.” She winced and propped herself against a walking stick.
“Doing this again? I deserve…”
“Deserve what, Renato? Dear husband.” She emphasised the final word, a spit of poison flying from her mouth. It landed on Renato and burned.
He ground his teeth, his wide and bulbous eyes poking from his face. How dare she? After all he’d done. “After all I’ve done?!”
“What? Lose your job? After all the counselling and now, we’re left to pick at the pieces?! I didn’t choose this,” she gestured to her leg. “You chose that, my dear Renato.” she pointed then at the empty bottle in his hand. The bottle he had utterly forgotten he was holding, an extension of his limb. A blur from flesh and bone, glass and plastic. Blood and rum. “You have ch-”
“LIAR!” he yelled, striking Mariana hard across her left cheek, sending her spinning back into her armchair, the stick falling his a clatter and a ring of her sobbing cries striking Renato back. Much harder. He clenched his fists, shook them and yelled again. “Chinga!!!”
He turned then, out the front door and down the small path which connected their small house with the cracked white asphalt, a road which fed them back into the centre of San Miguel de Allende. Renato left her to curl and cry in her seat and silently boiled inside. She whispered to herself, “Have you forgotten Renato? Have you forgotten?”
The stretch of cobble, beneath a throbbing august white sky, shimmered round and hard beneath Renato’s sandalled feet. His weary and old legs carried him along, passed other houses much like his own, equally small, equally old. Just like him. A bent and small mexican oak twisted and shied away from then glaring sun, shading the bottom corner of the street. Renato enjoyed the cool and shadowy bliss, before turning right down a much smaller alley, shaded again by a 6 foot high brick wall.
It wasn’t long until Renato was walking through the door of his second home, the stench of cold beer and sweat. A weak fan spun somewhere in the bar, at the back in the shadow and his old buddy Mario washed the counter. His bald head tilted and looked grim when he spotted Renato walking in. “Hola Renato, una cerveza?”
“Si,” groaned Renato, slumping in his usual spot and resting his bare and wrinkled elbows on the cold top. The bare wood hard and supportive. This bar, he pondered, had lifted him up more than anyone ever did. When Mario came back with his Carona, Renato fumbled his wallet and saw it was empty. A moment of guilty silence passed before it was waved away by his friend.
“No worries Amigo. Just… you know.”
Renato nodded and pretended to acknowledge his concern, only instead he wanted to ignore it. Hated himself for it. The cool gush of ice cold beer sliding down his gullet erased those thoughts and a wave of bliss crashed over him. He closed his winkled old eyes, ran a hand through his bristly fragments of hair and sighed. Took another sip and placed it down on a bar mat. “Better.”
Mario went down to the other end of the bar, entertaining a young looking couple, odd looking Renato though. He squinted at them and noticed they wore walking looking gear. Khakis and thick hiking boots. Their skin looked a little pale too. Europeans maybe? After another sip of his beer, the lilt of their dialect fluttered over and he caught the twang of the east coast of the United States. “Tourists…” He mumbled into the thin, glassy neck of his beverage. Spite in his tone. He hated tourists.
No sooner had he thought this than Mario pointed down the bar at him, muttering something to the young man and his girlfirend. They smiled and thanked Mario and picked their drinks up. Don’t come up here, please, not today. He prayed to God. His prayers were ignored when they approached him, big pearly white smiles spread across their eager faces, and the taller man in a black collar shirt held out a hand.
“Hi there! I’m Jack, this is my fiancee Rebecca.” She leaned in, all canines and molars too, and shook his hand gently. “The bartender tells us you know the best spots in town for exploring. Is that so?” He peered down at Renato excitedly and whilst he simply sat guffawing at these fools, hand gripped vice-like on his bottle. “Sir?” Jack repeated.
The young man was a good looking lad and she, a gorgeous young lady. A reminder of his long since parted youth. Grumbling and curling up his bottom lip he gave them a short response. “Everywhere is nice here, I recommend it all.”
Jack was unperturbed and ploughed ahead, the pair of them still grinning stupidly, sticking out like sore thumbs in a local Mexican town bar. “Come on sir, this is our honeymoon. We really wanna see the spots, y’know.” Jack put a certain push on ‘the spots’ and grinned at him oddly. Frowning Renato assumed the man wanted to find a place for nookie. How romantic.
“Can’t help you. Sorry.” He turned his back on them and drank from his beer. Mario shook his head from behind the counter and Renato felt a soft and gentle touch of a hand on his arm.
“Please, we came out all this way. Wanted something… unique. Just for us. You must understand, you’re married as well aren’t you? The ring? Did… did you two have that special time together?”
Renato fiddled the golden band on his left wedding ring finger and sighed, closing his eyes and knowing they wouldn’t be leaving until he satisfied their plight for information. A destination for them to solidify their vows even further, a special moment of harmony they would remember forever.
“Sit down,” he said, chugging his beer and motioning for Mario to get him another.
Jack and Rebecca exchanged excited looks and sat down beside Renato. Leaning in to listen closely Renato spoke in a rattly voice, often a result from even the slightest drip of alcohol.”So? Know the good spots?”
“I do. Tell me, how old are you two?”
“Sorry?” puzzled Jack
“Old. How old are you two? You look hell young.”
Rebecca beamed, took Jack’s hand in hers and sighed. “We’re both 27. It’s perfect though, just, everything really.” She laughed. “Wow I sound bad, sorry.”
“No,” Renato said. “I’m… it’s just today. I’m a bit, sorry. Let me start again,” he grumbled, emptying his beer and starting on the second, wary of their puzzled expressions, trying to discern what he was saying due to his accent. “There’s a spot a few miles up the street here, right at the oak and up the hill. Past the church you’ll come to an open area and it gives you a view of the town, and it’s magical, especially around sunset. Bella bella,” he described, a faint hint, a ghost of a smile playing across his face like the dance of light through a hole in the curtain.
“Wow,” they both ushered in unison. “It sound beautiful. did you go there with your wife? What’s her name?” Rebecca eagerly quizzed Renato, much to his discomfort and dismay. His grip on the beer bottle tightened then and his lips parted slightly, to let a faded memory spill forth.
“I don’t want to-”
“Come on mister, we’re not shy to a bit of romance, are we honey?” Rebecca gushed and Renato tried not to gag.
“No. Go on Renato. Renato is it? Yes, please tell us. Then we’ll leave you alone.” He laughed and clapped the counter.
He sighed then, feeling defeated by this unbearable pair. Fumbling for a way to begin, Renato took a sip of the cool Corona, laced his fingers and looked up at the ceiling of the establishment, half expecting the images from his mind to be projected there. Instead a bland greyness looked back at him, an adventurous fly whizzing back and forth.
“Me, me and Mariana my wife. We also were married at 27. It was, it was beautiful. Not love at first sight of course, we knew each other growing up, living here in San Miguel, but we always caught each others eye. You know? I worked as a builder and she a nurse. The story is really not too funny… aah forget it. We’re not the same.” He turned then, his train of thought broken and the abrupt move from story abrupt and jolting for Jack and Rebecca.
“What do you mean?” Rebecca began but Jack shook his head and began to stand.
“No Rebecca, look, we’re sorry sir. We’ll find something ourselves I’m sure. Sorry we troubled you.” His heart ached a little then, looking down at this poor old fat man, peering into his bottle hungrily, a ruin and a shadow of a younger Renato. What had he looked like before?
The young pair made to leave and in the door Renato called for them, waving to the seats beside him. Pulling out his wallet, he peeled a small photo from between some scraps of paper and showed it to them.
Smooth skin, wide smiles, thick hair, eyes shining back fortune and lust. But there was something deeper there, a powerful moment that seemed to radiate from the photograph. Jack and Rebecca could feel it and she leant forward, timidly at first and touched it with slender pale fingers. Smooth. Smile wide.
“So beautiful! Is this you and Mariana?”
Renato nodded solemnly. “Many years ago now. Things have…. changed.”
“You look ok to me,” Jack tried to compliment but it fell weak, Rebecca winced inwardly and Jack shook his head. “I’m sorry.”
Renato laughed then, it was a strange sound. He hadn’t heard it for a long time, the rattle in his chest, the warmth in his throat and cheeks and the tickle on his tongue. He chuckled a little longer, causing Mario to double take whilst rinsing a few glasses. Was Renato laughing?
“No problemo amgio. I have changed. We both have. She… she has problems walking now.” he stroked the edge of the photo where her leg was and sighed. “You two are so young. Age creeps up on you like a mugger. It steals away everything you love, it takes away your time. You’re left with fragments. Bits of rubble and broken brick. I spend my life, building you see. Now,” he laughed again. “Now I see the funny side. I can build a school, a hospital but I can not rebuild this. I can not fix Mariana….” he chewed the side of his cheek, necking the rest of his beer.
“Of course you can!” Rebecca gushed after a silence. “Is she at home? I’m sure if you went back instead of drinking more beers, and told her you loved her. If you showed her that photograph-”
“-yeah show her the photograph.” Interjected Jack.
“-show her the picture. She’ll understand.”
“You two are so young and naive. Marriage is not but love and lust. It’s hate and tears. It’s a fight.”
Jack grinned then and looked up at the ceiling. “Hold a stone for a day, feel how soft a feather truly feels. Go back and make it up to her, Renato. You won’t regret it, I promise you. Sure, me and Rebecca are young and new to this thing but we believe in it. It’s not love or lust we married. It’s the people we are. There’s a lot to a person, don’t you think?”
Renato bowed his head shamefully, the wisdom in their youth jarring him to sense, a his eyes growing wet. He pushed away the beer bottle and smiled again, taking his photo and letting them look more closely at it.
“Atop the hill, where I told you, this is where it was taken. Before, I believe, we truly fell in love. A magic about that place that made everything fall into place.”
“Take her,” Rebecca said without pause.
Renato shuffled from his stool, pocketing the photograph and re-tucking his shirt down across his bulging stomach. Taking a deep breath he shook Jack’s hand and kissed Rebecca on the cheek. “Gracias. Gracias, you are both lovely couple. Jack. Remember there is sometimes no blame in this world. Just a way of things. Please remember that.”
Renato left then, Mario shaking his head in confusion and Jack also looking puzzled, trying to confer with his fiance over the notion uttered. “Blame?”
Rebecca suddenly realised, looked to the door and clasped a hand to her cheek. “Oh Renato,” she whispered.
The pair hugged tightly and set off, map in their hands, to find the hill Renato had mentioned.
The cobbled walk back to his small home seemed to stretch out longer than it ever had, and the millions of times he had walked it, this was surely a sorcery or curse. A way to punish him further for his ways, the drunken stupour he had adopted for so many years. The blame shifted, guilt twisted to knots in their stomachs. Walls built between them to hide and he was the builder. He must be the demolition man and he must be the nurse.
Rubbing a thumb across his cheek to spread a tear aside, he hobbled his wearing legs up the road and passed the oak, its trunk and limbs watching him. A tickle on the back of his neck. Renato cocked a head and peered up into the sky and felt the sun truly kiss him and heard a bird sing a song from over by the historico court yard.
“Who are you Renato. Who have you become? Mariana… oh Mariana.”
His tears dried then as a resolve took hold of him, a rigid determination to get home and set things straight and true with her. When he reached the front door, his wrinkled brown hands shook for the handle and he paused then, suddenly contemplating this. The nerves of a thousands years ago returning to his stomach, a churning of worms in his gut, a tingle on the hairs of his arms.
“Mariana…” he whispered and turned the handle, walking through into the hall, closing the door and entering the sitting room where she sat, asleep, her crochet out of sight.
Creeping softly across the tiled floor, Renato leant to kiss her forehead and spotted a photograph on her lap when she didn’t wake. He took it lightly and looked upon it, a wrench in his gut forcing to spill more tears.
The picture was identical to the one he had shown the young American couple at the bar, only taken moments afterwards. The quality was grainy, black and white like the other but Mariana was poking out her tongue at Renato, Renato gurning his lips together and pushing his eyes to the centre of his nose. They looked ridiculous, and it was then that he knew her truly. It was in that moment he felt all he could for her. What he tried to tell them before.
Renato sobbed, grasping Mariana’s forearms as he knelt and kissed her again, shaking her to wake and frowned. Before he shook her again he already knew and the knife of grief stuck his heart violently and the tears began to pour.
“Mariana, Mariana wake up, I remembered Mariana,” he placed his photograph into her palm and pressed it tight. “I remember Mariana,” he sobbed into her corpse. “I remember….”
© Jason R. Vowles 2014