Part of the ‘Cazique of Poyais’ story – read more here
Jose had the misfortune to discover Uncle Tito’s cold body. There was a release of tension when he and Noemi had left Uncle Tito alone. It gave each person time to consider the momentous conversation they had just endured. “Endured,” was the only word that felt adequate to describe it. Not only had there been a great revelation, there was also immense sadness and finality in all that had been said. Well, Jose had thought it felt very final then, but he didn’t know he would soon stumble upon his Uncle’s dead body. That was truly final.
When he entered his Uncle’s room, his initial thought was that Uncle Tito was napping late after the emotional toll of the day’s events. It wasn’t the most unusual thing in the world to think, yet it was ever so wrong. As he approached his Uncle to wake him for the food that Noemi had made, he became very certain something was off. He noticed the vial that had fallen to floor, a liquid residue seeping slowly out of it. Jose had never seen poison. That didn’t stop him knowing that his Uncle has just poisoned himself. Silently, he fell to his knees.
Should he scream, yell or cry he thought to himself in the split second before he burst into tears. This was always a possibility that Jose thought was the most distant. Such a sacrifice on top of everything else was far too much and yet it was.
Death had felt like it was forever hanging over Jose and Noemi’s shoulders. There was a time before their parents had died where this wasn’t the case, but that was long ago overshadowed by the brutal reality. Still, they had never actually seen their parents dead. It was just that one day they didn’t come home. A young Jose and Noemi waited at home in their beds and then instead of their parents coming to wake them in the morning, it was Uncle Tito. They had met this Uncle many times with their father, though they had never really spoken to him as he showed no interest in them. Those first few moments, none of the three knew what to make of the situation. That was when the shadow covered their lives. Their unknown and uncertain fate of their parents. Though Uncle Tito advised they were dead and they had no reason to disbelieve this at first.
Now death hung doubly over Jose’s shoulders and creeped towards Noemi. Jose’s sobs would reach her ears before long and then there would be no escape from this truth. In that moment as he hunched over Uncle Tito’s body, he prayed that his sister would be able to enjoy a few more moments in general peace before discovering this. Would she blame him, Jose thought? He hoped and believed not, but he was now preparing himself for anything. Including not going to London.
Low sobs soon began to fill the house in the quite moments without movement. Noemi heard them faintly at first, thinking it was some odd background noise around the house. Maybe a cat or dog that was meowing or whining. She was working on a basic meal for the family. Throwing together a stew from the little pieces of food that was left after leaving Uncle Tito and Jose substantially alone for a few days. Using allspice and chilli to add a bit of flavour and kick, she declared in her head that the food was done and ready to be eaten. Jose had gone to get Uncle Tito, so she began to plate up the food and set the table. This was when the sobs became less than faint. She listened for a sounds she expected and so she didn’t actually register that it was sobbing at first. Then Jose let out a few wails that were slightly louder and Noemi knew.
Noemi rushed into Uncle Tito’s room as soon as she knew. It was not that her brain had registered that her brother was sobbing, rather that the sobs themselves meant that Uncle Tito was dead. Her mind had wandered that direction when they were debating the stubbornness of both sides earlier in the day. From time to time she would have these dark thoughts and pray they didn’t come true. That was the case earlier, but somehow she knew it was a futile hope. Uncle Tito was looking out for them and was far more stubborn. Suicide was the only true option.
The reactions were as different as the two twins themselves. As Jose sobbed on the floor, hunching over their Uncle Tito, Noemi comforted her brother and remained stone faced. She would cry later. Now was not the time for her to do that. She looked at her brother and said, “I think it was the only option he truly saw brother. He wanted us to go and he would never go with us. It was not his style to go along with something that he didn’t want to do.”
“Do you blame me, sister?” Jose asked through his low sobs.
Contemplating her answer she heard Jose sobbed deeper at her silence and so she responded, “No, brother. This is of Uncle Tito’s doing. Neither of us forced this upon him.”
“I can’t believe he did it so quickly.”
“That’s what I mean brother. He obviously thought about this for some time. Maybe even before you brought up the whole London move. So, I can’t blame you. I do wonder why he felt the need to have a vial of poison around the house though.”
She thought on this and agreed that was right and so she nodded to her brother as he continued his low, muted sobs.
They were both much older now, but it did not make it any less awful that they found themselves alone again. Without any elders to look up to. With each other. If they weren’t so unlucky with the course of their lives, they would consider themselves lucky to be twins. Now they simply felt cursed to be alive.
It would be a long way to travel before they forgot their Uncle. They both looked at him and etched the memory on their brains. One day it would fade, but that would be long from now when the edges of everything they knew were blurred by age.