Luisa Kay Reyes

© Copyright 2018 by Luisa Kay Reyes


Photo of a neighborhood in Mexico City.

When we went to pay our rent to our always amiable and elegant classy blonde Spanish landlady, we learned to our dismay that she had recently passed away. Leaving her beloved son, who had unfortunately taken after her husband’s no account ways, in charge of the family’s affairs. And seeing this as a ripe opportunity to set up a hard-partying bachelor pad, he informed us that we would be promptly kicked out of our home in the neighborhood we all called La Privada.

The suddenness of discovering we were soon to be left without a place to lay our heads, left us with a sinking feeling as we returned home with a heavy weight on our shoulders to our enclave right in the heart of Mexico City. It wasn’t the first place my mother, brother, and I had ever called home. But for my brother and me it was the only one that we could remember, since our previous living quarters had been before we were old enough to form memories. And the empty feeling left inside of us at the prospect of leaving our childhood home, made everything seem so surreal.

All of a sudden, as we glanced around our neighborhood, we took in the sights with the realization that soon we would no longer be able to claim them as our own. In one sense, we had always been the outsiders in our cement enclave, since our mother was American of German, British, Irish, and Scandinavian descent. And everything we did, seemed to be a topic of interest to the entire neighborhood. But, to us, everyone in La Privada were simply our neighbors. With the family living below us including a grown daughter, who unfortunately was mentally disabled. But who always knew who we were by name and could most uncannily recall details about us, that we ourselves, had often times forgotten.

And beside them resided the family who started stealing our letters, once they figured out our grandfather and grandmother would sometimes send us almighty U.S. dollars in the mail. Forcing us to make sure and rush down to check the mail deliveries before they beat us to the draw and left us penniless. Somewhat notorious throughout the neighborhood, since the father would get drunk and beat his wife on a nightly basis, once even on mother’s day, as the mother’s screams echoing throughout the entire Privada made undoubtedly clear; the children were often times our main playmates. In spite of them being older and ripping off the name brand labels off of the inside of the collars of our clothing; all while pretending to give us a hug.

Then there was the mysterious unmarried older man who kept to himself. And try as I could, I simply couldn’t recall a time when any of us had ever actually spoken to him. Although, he lived but a few dwellings down from us. There was also the older lady with twin grandsons who would sometimes come visit her. But, by far and large, the most adored member of our entire neighborhood was Señorita Anita; the oldest lady in La Privada and also the one who had to climb up the most stairs to reach the front door of her home. A feat which she accomplished effortlessly on a daily basis, except for only once, that I ever saw. She often babysat for my brother and me and we dearly loved her. And one day, as I spent the sunny afternoon in her dimly lit home, she took the time to show me in which of her flowerpots she had buried the multiple miscarriages she had suffered during her youth.

With it not being easy to find both an acceptable and an economical place to live in Mexico City, my mother started doing some research. And we soon learned, much to our astonishment, that our landlords were not actually the true owners of our home. They had originally rented it during the time when the bargain priced rent control rate was established and in spite of the rule being that the fixed rate only applied if the family actually lived in the home; they had subsequently sublet it to us at a much higher price. When my mother approached the true owners about the matter, they personally came over and thanked my mother for her efforts. As they had been desiring for years to get rid of whom we had once thought to be our landlords.

Nevertheless, before long, my always resourceful mother did find us a nice new place to live. Albeit, not in the heart of town like before, but in the outer perimeter of our huge Mexico City metropolis. Complete with the advantage of it being closer to the Southern Annex of our prestigious German School. However, it did come with one rather large inconvenience . . . there was no telephone service. This being shortly before the advent of portable hand-held cell phones, the telephone companies simply didn’t provide landlines to the homes out in our remote neighborhood. And the only place where anybody could make a call, was the single convenience store in the area that had a landline.

So, once a week, my mother would join the throng of those standing in the long line that reached out to the door of the convenience store, to call her father and mother in the USA for a few minutes and let them know we were okay. It could only be for a few minutes, since it was costly. And the store had a ten minute maximum time limit on any telephone calls.

Then, one day, as my brother and I lingered after school while waiting for our mother to come get us. We noticed that the crowd of students waiting for their rides home from school had long before thinned out. And while it wasn’t the first time my brother and I were lingering about waiting for our mother to come pick us up, this seemed even longer than usual. We were kind of puzzled by it, but dismissed it as simply one of those things. Thinking little of it. Until the mother of one my school chums arrived in a bit of a flurry and told us not to worry. That our mother had had to fly to the States due to something with our grandmother. And we were supposed to go home with her. It was a very considerate gesture on her part to tell us not to worry, but right away I sensed something was severely awry. For she had just told us that our mother had had “to fly” to the States.

I was a merely a little girl, but I knew my mother well. And she had a terrible fear of flying. So much so, that when we made our biannual trips to the U.S.A. from Mexico City, we had to endure the lengthy journey via trains to the border and then via those dreadful Greyhound buses from Laredo, Texas to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. If our mother was terrified enough of boarding an airplane for us to be subjected to those really scummy buses year after year, there was nothing on this earth important enough for her to hop on a flight to America. Not even if it had something to do with our grandmother.

Despite my certainty that things weren’t anywhere close to being right, my brother and I did as my friend’s mother told us. And before long, we were safely at home in their comfortable apartment, complete with a nice full-sized window view of the city. My friend was excited to have us staying over in her home. And since she had a younger sister, my younger brother soon felt quite at home with us youthful school girls, as well.

Despite my internal reservations about what was truly going on, the four of us youngsters managed to spend a lovely afternoon playing and laughing about things that took place at school. My friend seemed surprised to find out that I actually brushed my hair. For, somehow, by the time I got to school in the morning, it always looked messy. Leading her to conclude that I didn’t know how to brush my hair. I was surprised to learn of this detail. So when all three of us girls stood in front of the window to where we could see our reflections in it, I definitely joined my friends in brushing my hair.

At one point, as the late afternoon gave way to evening, I overheard my friend’s grandmother, who lived across the way from my friend, say that she always came over at five o’clock in the morning during the school week to help get breakfast going and help get the girls ready for school. It was a detail that I made a mental note of. And as the evening yielded to night, my friend’s mother told us to come in and talk to our mother on the phone.

My brother and I took turns going into the small room where the telephone was and spoke to our mother. My mother sounded nice and so very sweet. Giving no indication that anything was the matter. But, I did notice that somehow she still sounded distant and far away. I just knew that something wasn’t quite right, but even she gave no indication that the story about hopping on a plane to the USA was anything but so. I desperately wanted to ask her what was really happening, but everybody around us kept up the charade so well, that I refrained from doing so. And, shortly after we spoke to our mother on the corded telephone, all of us changed into our pajamas and got ready for bed. Somehow, although I do not know how, my friend’s mother even scrounged up something appropriate for my brother to sleep in. And before long, I found myself alone on the couch in the living room with the only sounds echoing throughout the still of my friend’s apartment being those of my concerns pounding upon my heart.

After a while, I realized that my brother was still awake in his room in the back of the hallway. Being an extroverted and sociable sort, he was all jovial and content. And, perhaps thoughtlessly, I expressed to him my concerns that I didn’t believe my mother had had “to fly” anywhere. That somehow that just didn’t sound like our mother and I felt something was terribly amiss. My brother agreed with my deductions and wondered what we should do. I told him that my friend’s grandmother would be coming over at five in the morning and we should both stay up all night until she came. That way we’d be awake if anything were to happen. He was up to the challenge. And despite nothing to entertain us in the living room, we devised ways to keep each other awake as we checked the clock periodically to see if it had struck five, yet.

Exactly on the dot, when five o’clock in the morning rolled around, the door to my friend’s apartment opened to reveal my friend’s grandmother marching in. She didn’t seem all that surprised to see us up and about. And, focusing on the task at hand, my brother and I joined her in the kitchen as she helped direct the maid in getting breakfast ready.

We managed to look presentable in the same clothes we had on the day before and my brother and I joined my friend and her sister as her mother proceeded to take us all to school. After school, unlike the day before, my mother was right there waiting to pick us up. And as soon as we got home, with all three of us being together safely and soundly, my brother and I promptly fell fast asleep. It would seem that my little girl fears were mistaken. Except for one thing, our mother didn’t “fly’ to the States. She had in fact been kidnapped the day before after dropping off my brother and me at school.

As it turned out, our former sublessors weren’t satisfied that we had moved away within the time frame they’d allotted for us. And, seeking revenge for the discovery of their circumventing the law with regards to the rent control price; they decided to seek revenge by kidnapping. Consequently, the kidnappers grabbed my mother as she headed back home after seeing my brother and me safely to school. And pushed her into the car while she was walking along the sidewalk.

With a carefully laid out plan involving bribery, the kidnappers managed to quickly get my mother thrown in jail. And, most fortuitously for us all, our godmother and her father helped work to get my mother out of jail. With her English student, who also happened to be a judicial advisor to a government cabinet member, pulling some strings higher up than those of the vengeful kidnappers. And, thankfully, due their dedicated efforts, my mother was soon freed.

It wasn’t much of a welcome home greeting that my brother and I gave our mother, since we didn’t have the full knowledge of what had transpired the day before. And we didn’t have any “Welcome home!” banners nor festive balloons awaiting her arrival back at home. But, feeling so very glad that our mother was with us both safely and soundly, we realized there was no need to stay awake until five o’clock in the morning and we promptly fell asleep.

Luisa Kay Reyes has had pieces featured in "The Raven Chronicles", "Fire In Machines", "The Windmill", "Halcyon Days", "Fellowship of the King", "Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine", the "Route - 7 - Review", "The Foliate Oak", "The Eastern Iowa Review",  and other literary magazines.  Her piece, "Thank You", is the winner of the April 2017 memoir contest of "The Dead Mule School Of Southern Literature".  And her Christmas poem was a first place winner in the 16th Annual Stark County District Library Poetry Contest. Additionally, her essay "My Border Crossing" received a Pushcart Prize nomination from the Port Yonder Press.

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