What do I have for you today? Our years have been spelled out by p-o-v-e-r-t-y. I should stop trying to send you gifts I can barely afford; stop pretending I could even cook up your favorite spaghetti, or give you that branded hood you wanted so badly.
I have to be more upright; more down-to-earth. All I have are words. Let’s sit down and count the years we’ve been together. I still remember the precise hour when you arrived; I can reduce that entire year to one eventful second—only one second—that changed my life.
I can start at the dawning of the early signs. It was quarter to one in the afternoon on New Year’s Day of 1993 there at an old Tres de Abril apartment. I could not forget the bright red cushions on the rattan chair. Facing the wooden bookstand, I was glancing at the clock, timing the pain every five minutes, seeing your father’s anxious face outside the screen door. He had rushed in from his rented house to take part in this moment of great drama: The rush to the hospital on a taxi, the panic on his face, moments of exhilaration as I was led the way to a mysterious chamber filled with women’s screams.
My first encounter with snotty hospital attendants and edema, a form of women’s torture, angry voices scolding women giving birth to men; bloody sheets and writhing bodies on the beds next to mine, women moaning in great pain.
Sorry to give you these ugly images on your 17th birthday. But ugliness surrounded that moment of great beauty. If I fail to remember this, you wouldn’t understand half your life: You were raised in great pain.
Your father only came in when all the blood had been washed away. He actually missed the whole story.