Celia is in her bedroom going through some old boxes in her cupboard, as she sits on the floor opening the boxes and searching through them, she almost gives up on finding what she is looking for until she finds it at the bottom of the third box she’s searched through. It is a dusty brown envelope, a little larger than a letter envelope, there appears to be no writing or address on either side of the envelope, although closed, it is not sealed.
She smiles a little as she holds the envelope in her hands, walks over to her bed and lies down on the soft white bed linen. She lies on her back and closes her eyes, as her body begins to relax; she starts to recollect the secret behind the letter.
A young Celia, is sitting in the kitchen with her mother and 2 younger sisters, the windows are open and a cool breeze is blowing in from the shore. Celia’s mother is showing the girls how to make pasteles de yuca, the girls are sitting around the table watching their mother as she stuffs the dough with a mixture of meat and yam before folding the banana leaf. Celia’s mother is a replica of her daughter, the same wavy golden blonde hair and kind green eyes. She smiles at her daughters as she shows them the right way to roll the banana leaf without squashing the dough and filling inside. She tells them that one day they will be teaching their daughters how to make pasteles. The girls giggle at the thought of having husbands and their own children. Just then, Ricardo, Celia’s younger brother comes running into the house, he carries with him an envelope.
“Celia, Celia ”, he shouts ,” esta finalemente aqui!”, he continues to shout. Ricardo is panting as he bends over resting his hands on his knees and continues to pant uncontrollably. “Ricardo , mi amor,” says Celia’s mother tenderly, “how many times have I told you not to exert so much pressure on your lungs by running so hard, ” she tells him in Spanish, while she rubs his back and slowly helps him elevate his chest so he can get more air into his lungs and breathe better. Ricardo was asthmatic and could not go for long at a cardio exercise without feeling a pain in his chest.
Celia takes the letter from her brother, the envelope is white in color and slightly larger than the usual letter envelope, on the front, Celia’s full name and her address is written in a bold slightly cursive untidy handwriting, she recognizes it immediately as that of her beloved Juan Carlos. She carefully opens the envelope, making a mental note to preserve the letter and the envelope till her very last days. Inside the white envelope is a pressed red rose and another slightly smaller brown envelope.
Once again, she carefully opens the envelope to find a 3 page letter inside. Her mother and siblings watch her as her eyes scan the words on the letter from left to right. Her chest heaving up and down heavily in anticipation, the worried but excited expression on her face quickly turns in to that of happiness and excitement. Furthermore inside she finds a plane ticket to the US and 200 US dollars.
In the letter Juan Carlos tells Celia of America, the people, the food, the streets, but most of all he tells her of how much he misses her and how he cannot wait for her to come over so they may begin the rest of their lives together. He adds that he has sent her some money so she may buy some nice things prior to her trip.
Back in the apartment Celia remembers how often she had read that letter over and over again; she opens her eyes and looks at the envelope in her hands, inside it a copy of the plane ticket and the 3 page letter still remain.
Her smile begins to fade as she looks around the room, she sits up and looks outside the window from her bed, their bedroom window faces the apartment building beside them. Through her window, she can see her neighbour’s apartment, a tall Rastafarian man with unbelievably long and thick dreadlocks , is walking from the bathroom to the bedroom cupboard, he is built and quite light skinned for a Jamaican, his skin has more of a yellow hue to it. She watches as he looks for his clothes, he is dressed only in a towel around his waist.
For the first time in a very long time, Celia’s heart beats a little faster as it beats in anticipation of what she is about to witness. His back is strong and masculine, he clearly works out , his shoulders strong and broad – he undoes the towel and uses it to rub his body dry. Celia’s throat goes dry as she watches his strong arms caress his equally strong toned legs and rub them dry.
His buttocks are toned and reminds her of those Greek statues, she has often seen, “ so perfect,” she says to herself. At that moment, the man turns around and notices Celia, to her surprise he does not cover himself, in fact he continues to rub the towel along his genitals as he smiles at her.
He wraps the towel around his waist once again and walks over to the window, the front of his body is equally if not more impressive than his back. He smiles at her and leans on the windowsill flexing his shoulders and biceps.
Celia is frozen, she knows that she should turn away to do the least but for some strange reason, she doesn’t. “Have you been watching me long?,” he asks, before adds with a sly smile “….do you like what you see?”
“Where were you all day yesterday?” Sonya whispers into her phone as she shuts her bedroom door.
“Really sorry babe, but I had some problem to deal with” answers Brandon into his phone. He is at the Police station signing some papers and collecting his items from the officer before he walks out. One of his friends Tyrone, a buff Nigerian – American guy with very dark brown skin, big juicy lips and big brown eyes is waiting for him near the entrance to the station.
“Look babes, don’t worry – I am allright, I’ll call you later okay? I gotta go now. I’ve got some business to take care of now”, he looks at Tyrone who smiles and rubs his hands together in agreement and anticipation of “this business” that Brandon has just mentioned.
“Fine, just promise you are gonna call okay, I was so worried, I thought something might have happened to you,” says Sonya sadly as she looks at her mobile, almost as if to show Brandon how sad she is.
“I promise babes, ” he hangs up and walks over to Tyrone’s black Camaro and the two drive off to the coffee shop where Brandon works . “Where were you all day yesterday Brandon, you know you had the evening shift,” says the coffee shop owner , a Turkish man with blue eyes and a big nose. “ Sorry Mr. Ahmet, I had some problems and I couldn’t get to a phone to let you know – it won’t happen again” explains Brandon. Even though he is quite angry at Brandon, his heart softens as he looks Brandon in the eye after listening to his sincere apology. It is true that he does not know Brandon very well, but he knows a bit about his back ground. Enough to know that much like himself, Brandon was a young man trying to make a future for himself and trying to survive in this cruel world. He puts his hand on his shoulders and tells him to proceed to start his shift at the coffee shop, it’s almost noon and people are starting to line up for lunch.
The coffee shop looks like a Middle Eastern palace garden filled with fresh aroma of several Turkish delights. It is decorated with exotic flowers and plants that dangle from the ceiling walls ,while paintings of the Ottoman empire align the walls inside. The paintings showcase the glory of the Ottoman days, some are of the Shah and his many beautiful harems while others are of the villages, the bazaars and the natural beauty of the land. One of Ahmet’s favourite paintings is that of a woman washing clothes beside a river bed while her son plays nearby, in the back ground there are rich green bushes, woods and snow topped distant brown mountains. Every morning the first thing he does after he opens the shop is look at this painting for a long time, it is placed at the right hand side of the entrance into the inside of the coffee shop, this way those sitting outside as well as those entering into the inside of the coffee shop can see it. Not that it was hard to miss – for it was quite a large painting, with strikingly bold colours, the woman has an olive complexion with bright blue eyes, dark red lips, pink cheeks and is dressed in a traditional maroon and beige Turkish dress, on her head she loosely wears a maroon veil with a beige border. The little boy is in light blue pants and long shirt like ensemble, he too has striking blue eyes, a slightly protruding nose and pink cheeks. It is almost unbelievable how the painting bears a strong resemblance to Ahmet’s childhood, for on several occasions, he had accompanied his mother as a little boy to the river bed where she washed the linens and bed covers.
Brandon walks up to Ahmet and he watches him, Ahmet is looking at the painting, he seems to be deeply lost in thought. “You really like that painting huh,’’ says Brandon as he clears the cups and saucers from a table nearby. Ahmet laughs a little, without taking his eyes off the painting; he answers Brandon while lining the female figure on the painting with his fingers.” You might find this hard to believe but the way the painter painted this painting, ” he pauses before he continues to add, “ it is almost…..almost as if he was watching me and my mother”. He remains silent as he thinks of his mother, some days it is so painful for him to think of her , he often wonders how her last days were, was she alone when she died, how he wishes he could touch her one more time, just as he is touching her in the is painting right now.
Brandon looks down at his cups and saucers, then he lets out a sigh as he decides that it may be time for him to contact his parents. He hopes it’s not too late and that they are both alive and well.
Nicola is on the phone thanking someone for bringing justice, “I know, I, myself, was outraged when I saw him,” she says as Caroline walks by to go to the kitchen. Caroline gives Nicola a surprised look as she raises one eyebrow trying to make sense of what Nicola is saying. Once she has hung up, after thanking the person on the other end for about the one hundredth time, Caroline decides to ask her what the telephone call was about. Nicola seems to be more than happy to tell Caroline, “ well you know that black guy I saw in the apartment….well before he ran out of the apartment and before I ran out after him, I had called the police. Caroline’s eyes grow wild with concern and they almost pop out of her head when she hears what Nicola says next. “Thank God our elevator is slow, I keep telling Juan but he never seems to believe me, but it turns out that as the guy runs out of the building, who should he bump into but the Police themselves,” she concludes with a smile on her face.
Caroline’s knees grow weak and she stumbles on to chair to sit down, she stutters inaudibley, “so what happened next?” almost too sacred to know what the answer was. “Well, I had described him to them, so they took him in and locked him up for a few hours and fined him for his misconduct,” she continues to smile, proud of her service to the community as she put it.
“Whats wrong with you dear, why are you so pale?” she calls out to Caroline, who can barely hear her as her head spins with dizziness.