About Robertico (part 1)


It took me almost a week in Camaguey to really see Robertico. This may sound strange but so many people pass through the house – tios, primos, friends and neighbours of all ages – that his presence has seemed passing like all the others. It’s only one morning as I am up early with baby Maia that I start to wonder why, at 6am, he is there. My aunt is making him a packed lunch and he is brushing his teeth. He is dressed in his school uniform, the standard deep red shorts and a white shirt. His young face freckled, and dark hair bleached from the sun. All I know about him is that he lives next door.

I start to ponder on why he’s here so early. Maybe they don’t have running water next door or perhaps he needs to use the fridge because they don’t have one. As if reading my mind my aunt makes a sign, putting her thumb to her mouth in a drinking motion.
‘His dad,’ she mouths. ‘And his mother disappears to the country and comes back when she feels like it.’
‘Where?’ I ask.
‘Another province, where her family live. She went and hasn’t returned,’ she replies.

I think back. Every evening he has eaten in the house, quietly in the corner. At the weekend he was there when we were making paper animals. I bought a book that shows you step by step how to make a jungle out of paper. Systematically and with considerable talent he made a snake and an elephant. He followed the pattern carefully, drawing the detail on his elephant’s face with a sensitivity I admired. I could see talent there. ‘Next week let’s make grass and monkeys,’ I said. The animals he made are lovingly placed in his bag for school.

The day before he had shown me his slingshot. Made from twigs, an old rubber glove and a strip of maize leaf tying it all together. He’d set about fixing it with a machete the same size as him.

I ask him later that day how school was. ‘Mal,’ he replies and goes back to sitting quietly in the corner. He has a board on his lap with his dinner on, a slice of chicken, egg and rice. He’s watching the tv. That night I notice that he sleeps in the same room as my aunt and uncle, in the same bed. I realise he’s been here all week, sleeping here. Mouse-like, his presence barely noticeable. I have yet to see his parents.

I mention how great it is that my aunt is there for him. ‘There is no blood there,’ she tells me. She means she cares for him even though she is not related to him in any way. The saddest thing for him is that it’s true. There is no blood there for him at all.

clippedwingsflying

It took me almost a week in Camaguey to really see Robertico. This may sound strange but so many people pass through the house – tios, primos, friends and neighbours of all ages – that his presence has seemed passing like all the others. It’s only one morning as I am up early with baby Maia that I start to wonder why, at 6am, he is there. My aunt is making him a packed lunch and he is brushing his teeth. He is dressed in his school uniform, the standard deep red shorts and a white shirt. His young face freckled, and dark hair bleached from the sun. All I know about him is that he lives next door.

I start to ponder on why he’s here so early. Maybe they don’t have running water next door or perhaps he needs to use the fridge because they don’t have one…

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Filed under Cuba, EDUCATION, ENGLISH, España, HUMAN HEALTH, México, NADA, Podemos, PSICOLOGÍA, Silvio Rodríguez Domínguez, Silvio Rodriguez, USA, Venezuela

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