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THE NEXT WAKE

 

written in Spanish and translated by Carolina Marquez-Serrano

                                                                                  

"Doña Ramona, es hora de irnos al velorio," insistió la niña Margarita.

 

"Sí, niña, ya es hora, vámonos, anda Elenita. ¿Por qué te tardas tanto?" preguntó Doña Ramona.

 

"¡Ay mami! No me siento bien, me duele el pecho," dijo Elenita, la hija de Doña Ramona mientras se acomodaba la blusa.

 

Elenita, vámonos, que luego el camión se llena de gente y no hay asientos.

 

#

 

"Doña Ramona, it's time to go to the funeral," insisted the child Margarita.

 

"Yes, time to go. Come on, Elenita. Why are you taking so long?"

 

"Mom! I don’t feel well. My chest hurts," said Elenita, fixing her blouse.

 

"Elenita! Let’s go, or there will be no room on the bus to sit."

 

#

 

La niña Margarita vestida de blanco cogió la pálida mano de Elenita que llevaba un vestido negro que la hacía lucir muy elegante.

 

Sí, Margarita, ya sé que te encanta sentarte adelante, ayúdame con mis cosas por favor.

 

Sí, Elenita.

 

"Bueno, yo ya estoy lista, me puse mi vestido nuevo, y mi mantilla negra de velo," dijo Doña Ramona mientras se miraba en un espejo y trataba de arreglar su lustrosa cabellera que de tan negra se veía azulada.

 

"¡Vámonos! Porque si no, mi prima Juanita me quita mi asiento," exclamó ansiosa Margarita mientras corría hacia la puerta.

 

#

 

Margarita, the youngest, dressed all in white, held the pale hand of Elenita who wore a black dress. Elenita looked very elegant.

 

Yes, Margarita, I know that you like to sit in the front. Please help me with my things.

 

Yes, Elenita.

 

"Well, I'm ready, I put on my new dress and my black shawl," said Doña Ramona. She looked at herself in the mirror, tried to fix her lustrous hair that was so black it looked almost blue.

 

"Let’s go! Otherwise my cousin Juanita will take my seat," exclaimed Margarita anxiously rushing to the door.

 

II

 

 

 

 

Me acuerdo que en ese velorio, yo no dejaba de pensar en lo maravilloso que era ir en el camión, aunque sólo fuera para ir al panteón. La gente pobre no tenía adonde ir más que al panteón o al velatorio. Primero íbamos al velatorio, luego al panteón, luego nos daban de comer y ya después cada quien se iba a hacer sus cosas. Claro que el muerto, ese no iba, a él lo llevaban y allí se quedaba o quién sabe adónde se iba, pero ya no regresaba con nosotros. Toda la gente en el autobús se sentía contenta, teníamos una misión: la de velar al muerto y enterrarlo. Ese día era como si los muertitos cumplieran años o se casaran, ese era su día. En ese día, todo se les perdonaba, aunque fueran malos, se les quería y se les alababa. Si nadie los conocía, ese día se volvían especiales, y se les amaba, pues ese día se volvían indispensables, al otro día ya no porque todo volvía a la normalidad.

 

#

 

I remember that funeral; I could not stop thinking how wonderful it was to get on the bus, even if it was only to go to the cemetery. Poor people did not have any place to go except to the funerals or cemeteries. First, we would go to the funeral home, then to the cemetery, and they would give us food, and then each person would do whatever they had to do. Of course, the deceased would not go on his own; they would take him and he would stay there, or he would go: I don’t know where, but he would not come back with us. Everybody on the bus was happy. We had a mission to bury the dead. Like it was their birthday or their wedding. It was their day. On that day, everything was forgiven. Even if they had been mean in life, they would be loved and praised now. If nobody knew them, they made them special, and loved, because on that day they were all necessary. The next day, everything would be back to normal.

 

#

 

Estábamos en el velorio, y Doña Ramona esperaba impaciente a que todo terminara para ir a buscar a su acompañante de la noche, mientras su hijita Elenita miraba al muerto y se cogía el pecho apesadumbrada por su suerte. Mi tía Natalia llevaba sus botines cafés de siempre y se estiraba la falda constantemente, se veía muy triste, quién sabe por qué, y yo me la pasé pensando en que en el regreso a casa tenía que coger un buen asiento. Y así estábamos todos absortos pensando en nuestras propias cosas, cuando el muerto se levantó de un salto de la mesa para empezar a vivir de nuevo. Todos salimos gritando asustados, pero nos quedamos afuera lamentándonos de que ya no nos iban a dar de comer. Pero luego salieron a decirnos que le recordaron al difunto que estaba muerto y se echó a dormir de nuevo. Y entonces todos continuamos con nuestro ritual del velorio sin más contratiempos. Después del entierro, yo conseguí los mejores asientos, y la pálida Elenita se sentó a mi lado, luego habría de ser su turno.

 

#

 

We were all in the funeral and Doña Ramona was waiting impatiently for everything to finish so she could look for her companion for the night. Her daughter Elenita was holding her chest watching the dead person, feeling sorry for his misfortune. My aunt Natalia wore her brown boots as she always did; she constantly stretched and pulled at her skirt. She looked very sad, who knows why, and I spent the whole time thinking about going back home, because I had to get a good seat on the bus. We were all absorbed, thinking about our own things, when suddenly the dead sprang out of the coffin. We screamed and left, then complained because now they were not going to feed us. But then they came out to tell us that they reminded the deceased that he was dead; he had gone back to sleep, now. So we continued the wake without any further interruption. After the burial, I got the best seats on the bus, and the pale Elenita sat next to me. Later, it would be her turn.

Professor Carolina Márquez-Serrano received her Doctorate in Spanish Language and Literature from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She teaches Spanish in the Department of Modern Languages, Communication and Philosophy at Tuskegee University, and has written several short stories, plays, and completed her fictional novel, La Noche del Jaguar. Currently she is working on her second novel, El Libro de las Transformaciones, from which she has published five anthologies of short stories for her classes.

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