Part of the ‘Cazique of Poyais’ story – read more here
Noemi slept loudly in her small cupboard room even as the sun’s rays beamed through her east facing window. Now was an occasion to fully indulge in her natural instinct to sleep as long as possible. The layer of exhaustion meant that nothing but the most violent of sounds, brightest of sunshine or forceful an action could rouse her. It was an indulgence for sure, but one deserved after her work and the high/low that was Uncle Toto’s revelation that the twins would go to London while he would stay in Belize Town. Home.
As she slept, Jose was awake, true to form. On this day he could not be industrious though. He was in his own cupboard room, lying on the bed, fearful of what it actually meant. Going to London, the journey itself and the prospects when they got there was pure adventure and exhilaration. It was now burdened with multiple pieces of baggage so heavy that Jose felt firmly pressed against the ground where he was.
There had been no conversations, no conspiratorial whispers in the night following Uncle Tito’s announcement. A look in each other’s eyes was all that passed between the twins. It was all that was needed. This was a deal breaker. For both of them. There was no way they could leave Uncle Tito behind here while they ventured off into the world. He said that he had friends, but none they knew of. Definitely none they would call more than acquaintance and none they would trust with their Uncle’s well being.
Jose lay on his bed with a heavy pit where his stomach once again was, thinking through the alternatives. One of them could stay with Uncle Tito so the other could off on an adventure. This would only sow resentment and guilt. They could both stay and get on with their lives as was. It was possible another opportunity to change their lives here could come along. This would just lead to regret and resentment. Of course, they could try to take Uncle Tito with them, but they would never get him along against his will. There would be only anger if and when they failed, with guilt on the off chance they did. Could they actually do as Uncle Tito wanted and leave him here? They wouldn’t be able to live with themselves. It was impossible.
He killed himself into a half sleep, half trance thinking about it all, so he was sufficiently startled when Uncle Tito barged into his room and roused him with a booming question, “what’s wrong boy, are you dead or just dying?”
Jose shot bolt upright at the question and looked around the room in disorientation, not focussing on Uncle Tito. For a split second his mind believed that the question had come from the ether, then he was brought back to reality by Uncle Tito shouting, “you better be dead or dying because this is no damn way to show your gratitude to my great sacrifice.”
Focussing on his Uncle now, Jose pulled himself over so his legs hung over the side of the bed and he sat with his head in hands as he responded, “neither Uncle,” and then softly, “but it is not through any lack of gratitude.”
“Speak up boy and look at me properly. What is the matter?”
Jose took a deep breath, but before he could answer, Noemi walked into his room. Uncle Tito turned and gave her a scowl which she knew to express the points he just shouted at the top of his lungs. She sat down next to Jose and put her hand on his back and gently stroking it. She looked at her brother and then at her Uncle Tito and said, “you have given us an impossible choice. You have done everything for us ever since our parents died. That is exactly why we cannot leave you here alone. It is not a lack of gratitude, but the complete opposite. We love you so much and are grateful for all that you have done so that there is no way we can accept this proposal of yours. Likewise, if you cannot or will not make the journey, then we are out of real options.”
Uncle Tito had never considered that this relationship he had with the twins was truly both ways. He knew how he felt and had felt that way almost since the moment they were placed under his charge. That they would feel such a deep love for him, he did not think possible. It was something he believed was reserved for birth parents. For those that brought you into the world. This revelation had stopped him in his tracks.
It is a cruel quirk sometimes that you don’t realise until it is far too late how others in your life truly feel. The feelings only bubble overtly to the surface when it is too late to truly appreciate them or act on them. They can be welcome or unwelcome. In Tito’s case, so welcome that he was completely awestruck. It was a warm feeling coming over him like the sun’s rays, but then quickly followed slamming feeling, like the waves against a beach. This was the last of there time together, because he would insist they go now. His mind was made up.
Would he have made a different decision if he had this information before? No, he was doing this out of love for them and a sense of an ending for himself. He had reached the end, they needed a beginning.
After the lengthy silence, he said with a heavy heart, “it gives me great joy to have the evidence that you love me so, children, but you must go. I am old and I have lived. You think there is opportunity at the end of this trip and adventure beyond it. Go and carve this out for yourselves. Leave me here with the memory of your parents. They would not want you to live out your lives with restraint and I would never forgive myself if I held you back.”
“But uncle,” they said in unison, “we can’t leave you here alone.”
“It was such unfortunate circumstances that lead to you two coming under my care. All in the past now, but you’ll never know how such an unfortunate event for us could end with me feeling so lucky. I got to raise both of you and be a father figure. Something I would have never done if your parents hadn’t died. From pain, joy. Not something that I would have thought possible. Here you two are though, proving that it is.”
Noemi and Jose were gobsmacked. Had Uncle Tito always thought they didn’t love him? They were ashamed that was the case. It was a quirk of the forced adoption dynamic. Uncle Tito thought they could never love him as they had their parents and the twins just wanted someone to love and be loved by. They always thought Uncle Tito was a begrudging participant.
Now they all sat in Jose’s cupboard of a bedroom in a stalemate of mutually stubborn love, not allowing either side to have their way.