The Giant and the Moon
by Socorro Venegas
translation by Toshiya Kamei
The white light flowed through the giant’s body, just as the dream flowed into the girl’s wide-open eyes. Deep inside Candelaria’s glance, there was a huge man sitting on the edge of Earth, his head tilting toward the moon. Where did this giant come from to live in her dream?
She was too tired to blink. Her mouth tasted bitter and dry. All day she looked for her father. She walked through the streets of her barrio, went into the cantinas, knocked on the door of every acquaintance, and received negative answers. She wasn’t really keen on finding him, but her mother would get furious if she didn’t bring him back.
She searched outside her barrio, exploring unknown territory. On the corner between her street and the next, a couple of girls were playing hopscotch. Candelaria wanted to leave the decision to fate, whether to keep going farther or go home without news. Then she would listen to her mother’s insults. Her mother would begin to cry, complaining about her useless daughter. She would threaten to take her out of elementary school and put her to work as a servant.
It was only midday. The girls decided to let her join their game, but they made fun of her old sweater and dirty shoes. She skipped and hopped while they whispered. Candelaria remembered the thousand mornings her mother told her, even though it was a school day: “Your father didn’t come home. Now go look for him.” Her mother shoved a small bottle of rum into Candelaria’s sweater pocket so that he would follow her home. Bait. Candelaria hopped from one number to another, getting more focused and angrier. She didn’t like to obey her mother. She didn’t like the faces of the neighbors her father sometimes got drunk with and the useless question they repeated: “Your dad didn’t go home last night? What a bastard!”
One of the girls asked her if she ever bathed or took off her sweater, then laughed. The other girl came closer and took the bottle from her. She was going to laugh at her or run to tell the other what she had just found, but Candelaria snatched back the bottle and yanked the girl’s hair. The girl ran away in tears, her friend following close behind. Candelaria would have kicked and bitten the girls. How fast they ran away from her hatred and thirst. She spat on the ground.
She didn’t know how, while she walked to continue her search, she opened the bottle mechanically and took two long swigs. The liquor scorched her throat, making her cough. Why did her father like this liquid that stung and tasted horrible? The fire inside her chest burned more intensely than the fire of this white rum. She took another swig, this time the liquor trickling down her neck.
She passed the store “La Cordobesa,” put away the bottle, and went inside. A sweet sensation let her arms and legs go loose. She stood in front of the counter and bought a bar of chocolate. She unwrapped it with clumsy fingers and gobbled it down. The storekeeper paid no heed to her, only pointing to the trash bin.
When she left the store, she heard in the distance her mother’s order to look for her father. All the noises of day echoed softly in her ears: birds, cars, footsteps, voices. Her mother’s voice, no. Having walked for a long time, she felt exhausted. Then she remembered that she hadn’t had breakfast. Her legs buckling under her, she trailed one hand along the wall, fearful of falling. As she rounded the corner, she almost ran into a woman with two large supermarket bags. “Candelaria! Your dad is over there!” she said.
Candelaria always enjoyed the sun on her face. Now it seemed that a blinding, oppressive spotlight in the sky glared at her. She felt her cheeks, her eyes closed. She smiled, finding her eyebrows, the exact size of each line. Her smile deepened, as she touched her flat nose, her chin, her scar she got when she fell off a swing. The sky, seemingly far, fascinated her when she was younger. When she was at the top, she let go of the swing, stretching her arms.
She began to laugh. Now she didn’t believe she could touch the sky. She opened the bottle and emptied it on the ground.
She recognized the street that led to her school, a long uphill climb. Two years ago, her mother would still take her to school every morning. Usually, her mother made her late. Her mother couldn’t get up early because of the medicines she took at night. Candelaria often fell, trying to keep up with her mother’s quickened steps. Her knees were marked with scars.
She looked for some shade. For a moment, she felt as sluggish as the turtle she once stole from her neighbor. Distracted, her mother had stepped on the turtle. But Candelaria couldn’t let anyone walk all over her. She would defend herself against every insult at her torn sweater, her dirty shoes, her bad grades, the swearwords that came out of her mouth.
On the street, her father lay curled asleep against the wall. Candelaria felt so embarrassed. What would happen if someone from school recognized them? She no longer saw things distorted through the bottle. It was empty. She wondered, ‘How can I make him come home?’ She didn’t care. They wouldn’t go home.
As she sat next to him, the stink of urine and alcohol stung her nostrils. She felt like vomiting, doubling over, but she held back. When he woke, he too would think that from now on life was on the streets. Why would she go home? She wouldn’t be separated from her father. She wouldn’t feel ashamed. She would lurk by his side, take away bottles from him, and empty them without his knowledge. The hot afternoon air embraced her softly, lulling her to sleep.
It was getting dark when Candelaria sat up. She winced; her head ached frightfully. Her father was seated on the curb. In her eyes, he was a giant in his sleep, a destroyer, a sad colossal man. This image seeped into her eyes, burning and sweet. She clasped the empty bottle between her hands. She wanted to say something, but she could only swallow her saliva. Something else was about to come out from her throat, a mouthful of poison, bitter vomit she could no longer hold back. Her father heaved a deep sigh. He tilted his head toward the sky, wearing a silly smile. The moon. He stared at the moon.