thirty in the afternoon my uncle returned from work. I was watching television
and Papín was still sleeping. I received my uncle with an embrace, and he, just
like when I was a kid, lifted me by the elbows and smiling asked me:
---Are you feeling better -"Pichocho"?
---Yes. But I
have been so thirsty. No matter how much water I drink my thirst is never quenched.
---That's because of the dehydration you suffered during the
trip. But You'll be alright in a few days.
Upon hearing our voices, Papín got up. My uncle congratulated him because of the splendid food he had cooked.
My friend modestly denied that it was that good. After we told my uncle
a few details of the trip, Papín said to him:
---Manuel, I'm very thankful to you because of all you're doing
---Ah! Don't worry! If you're Raul's friend, you're my friend
---I would like ---continued Papín- to call the mechanic shop. But first I have to telephone La Romana to inform my family that I got here alive
and to get the mechanic's shop address and telephone number.
---Do you have a telephone at home? ---my uncle asked.
---No. I don't. But
we can call my neighbor across the street. They'll accept the call collect; we
already agreed on that.
The call was made. On
the phone, Papín expressed his satisfaction to have been able to get to Puerto Rico.
They brought Papín's wife to the phone. He spoke with her about the trip
and his plans... and, at last, after having explaining to her how he got to my uncle's house, he asked her for the address
and the telephone number of the mechanic's shop. She did not know any of this. They agreed that she would find out and that as soon as she could she would telephone
my uncle's to give us the information. And so she did: Two hours later she called and gave the information to Papín. By
then, Nereida had arrived from work. And I had called my sister Idalia in Santo
Domingo. She became excited to learn that I was already in Puerto Rico. When Papín picked up the phone to call to the mechanic shop, I was close to him and
my uncle was a little further away; both of us were waiting expectantly. We heard
Papín speaking with the son of his old friend. He was explaining something and
looked anguished. Without hanging up the phone, he looked at my uncle, asked
the one on the line to wait, he covered the receptor with his hand and with a great discouragement said:
---This guy said that he has too many people in the shop.
Upon hearing this, my uncle got closer and asked Papín:
---Did he speak to his father before asking you to come?
---Yes ---bitterly Papín answered---. He does not deny that he told his father that he would pay for my fare and the other expenses. But now he's arguing that I took too long and that he had to hire other people.
Then my uncle took the phone from Papín, and in a very firm
tone of voice said to the one that was waiting:
far as I know, you and your father made this man risk his life to come here to work with you, if so, the man is here. It's too late to give us sad stories...-
They kept on arguing without arriving at any conclusion. In a challenging tone of voice, my uncle concluded:
---Any ways, I'm
bringing this man to you right now!
My uncle Manuel is a very caring person, although sometimes
he becomes harsh. He is my father's brother and during the years of my childhood -spent with my grandmother-, although he was just an adolescent, he always treated
me with great affection. He enrolled in the army in the Dominican Republic, and
later he joined the National Police. For several years he was an instructor of
track and field for the sports team of the latter institution. One of his great achievements in Dominican sports was to become, with a brilliant performance, the greatest
champion of the national Games of 1979, celebrated in San Francisco de Macoris. My
uncle was just one of many excellent Dominican sportsmen who have seen that their efforts are never compensated and whose
salaries are not even enough for them to eat. That is why he came to live in
Puerto Rico. He accepted a scholarship from one university of Puerto Rico to
study and compete for the university sport team. Life had been less difficult
for him in this country.
At five in the afternoon, the four of us went to the mechanic
shop which was about three miles away. After we stopped in front of the business,
my uncle said:
---Papín, come with me!
Nereida and Raul, wait in the car!
They both entered the shop.
Fifteen minutes later, my uncle returned without Papín. He said:
---The man is not satisfied.
He said it's been a long time since he spoke about this matter with his father and that, since then, things have changed:
He has no place to accommodate Papín and he doesn't need help in the shop either.
---Then what's going to happen to Papín? ---I wanted to know
---He will watch for the shop in the evening and is going to
sleep in one of the old cars inside -with a sad tone, answered my uncle.
On our way back home, my uncle told me:
---I told Papín he could call us at home any time he wants
and I promised him that this very night I'll bring him supper, a sheet and a pillow.
There's nothing else I can do, at least until we solve your situation.
---I don't want to stay here.
I want to continue my trip to the United States.
---I understand ---said my uncle---, but it's too soon to think
about it. For now, you've got to remain here.
When you recover, we'll look for a job for you, after that, if you still want to leave, I won't stop you.
A few weeks after our arrival, my foot healed completely and
I even recovered a few pounds. Papín, for his part, stayed in the mechanic shop. We
kept in touch by the telephone. On sundays my uncle picked him up so that he
could accompany us to travel around the island. He was never satisfied in the
shop. A month and a half after our arrival, he had already made an irreversible
decision. One Sunday in the afternoon, we were at the beautiful Luquillo Beach,
sitting on the sand under the coconut trees. Papín looked at the sea somewhat
transported. There was much sorrow on his face.
He told me:
---Raul, I'm returning to La Romana.
have you said? ---I asked, alarmed.
---I'm going back. I'm
doing nothing but suffering here. I'm making fifty dollars a week; that's not
money to support myself and to send some to my wife. I even cried missing my
little daughter. I prefer to continue suffering there, but among the people that
I love. I can't resist this loneliness.
---Papín, please, continue struggling. Keep looking for a better
job or go to the United States. Remember all we went through to get here. Don't give up now!
---Ever, since I arrived here I have been trying to get another
job; but you know how it is when you are illegal... I don't have any where to
go in the United States. If I had some
one to go to, I would risk being caught. You know it's not easy to go through
the airport... very often I heard they arrest lots of Dominicans that try to go to New York.
---Papín, don't go back.
What will you do when you get there? There's no life there.
He lifted his head a little bit. His sight lost in the horizon. The man smiled unenthusiastic
and told me:
---You, do whatever you want.
I'm leaving next Friday after I get paid. I've already got my- "carta
de ruta"- and tomorrow I'll buy my ticket to return.