Ok, meeting my own challenge, here. This is a ” fictionalized” account of one of my recollections from my First Memories post. Consider it a draft (I’m the type to revise ad nauseum) and feel free to critique, everyone.
The shrill of the doorbell crashed through the silence that lay, thick, oppressive, throughout the whole apartment. Thankful for the diversion, Alia ran to the door, opened it, and found a soldier standing on the threshold. He held a cardboard box.
“Is this the home of Senor y Senora C. ?” he asked, looking ill at ease.
Alia sent a worried look back.
« What is it? » asked her aunt, walking heavily to the door.
She was drying her hands on her housedress, but as soon as she saw the soldier, she let out a piercing wail and ran back to the lavadero. The tiny balcony held a sink with an inclined board where Tita Lola washed the laundry before hanging it to dry on the circling line that ran outside from one end of the balcony to the other. Alia loved making that hanging line turn as fast as she could.
The soldier looked visibly distraught. Alia didn’t know what to do, what to say. Her aunt cries seemed to rebound off the walls of the narrow patio outside the lavadero, and a few neighbors showed inquiring faces. Alia went to her aunt and gingerly touched her arm.
Her aunt made a visible effort to compose herself, and after what seemed an eternity, she walked back toward the soldier and took the cardboard box. She lay in on the table, opened it and found some photographs, papers, and a belt. She grabbed the belt, and let out a whine of wounded animal, before she rushed back to the lavadero. But this time, she banged her head against the walls. She paced the narrow space and banged her head against each and every wall, letting out scorching cries. Alia could see the neighbors at their windows looking in with concerned faces.
“I need a signature,” said the soldier, clearing his throat and showing a piece of paper.
Alia looked at him.
“Maybe you could sign?” he added, glancing again toward the lavadero where Tita Lola was now sobbing as she could never stop.
Alia hesitated. She looked helplessly toward the patio, where the neighbors now seemed to be exchanging comments on how to get her aunt’s attention, some even trying to talk to her from their balcony.
She nodded, took the paper and the pen that the soldier gave her and scrawled some letters that were supposed to represent her aunt’s last name. What difference does it make? she thought. Tita can’t write, anyway.
The soldier pocketed the paper and the pen, and left with an obvious look of relief. Alia closed the door after him, and walked to the lavadero where Tita Lola, still crying and moaning, and holding the leather belt tightly to her chest, had pushed her back to the wall and let herself slide down to the floor next to a pile of dirty laundry. The shirt she’d been washing was dripping water on the tiles.
The neighbors had gone back inside their apartments and silence had returned. Alia felt it seeping into her throat and lungs, making it hard to breathe. She squeezed in next to her aunt and sat on the wet floor. And she waited.