Jeanne Cordova


Excerpt: Mulatto’s Eyes

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His ancestors settled in the silver mines of San Antonio, in the Sierra Laguna Mountains. They were born in the same country, as I was, the Rhineland. We have both come a long way and found our way to Todos Santos, Baja Sur, Mexico. He was born dark skinned in a family more fair, as was I. Hence his childhood sobrenombre, Mulatto.

Mulatto never speaks because peasants don’t speak to their Patrons, back in the day where his mind still lives. But we both watch and speak with our eyes. When he is happy his exuberance shows only in his eyes. A brow twitches as if he has discovered his own highway to delight. Slowly he turns away from his private amusement, and returns to his identity as my ayudante de Casa, the gardener of my estate. No one has noticed that his eyes have traveled another path. But wait; watch his departing footfalls as he skips down the driveway.

When he knows I am unhappy with his work, he averts his eyes from mine. Often at such times, he cannot be found at all about the premises. Or he spends two or three hours watering the cactus behind the casita in back of the big house, out of my view. He is late back from lunch. I know he is late when no respectful rap echoes on the lacquered office door. No low voice notifies me, “I come.”

Later, I see him hiding with his hoe in some ladrillo-strewn corner of the garden. He is turning the dirt over, rapidly. Making up for lost time by imitating gringo industry on last week’s now obsolete project. I lean against the terraza door and stare at him. He knows I am talking to him.
After a moment we are finished speaking, and we both continue our work.

Occasionally we speak in words. After I make out his Lista del Dia, we trade vocabulary furiously. He translates my instructions into his tongue. We pause over culturalisms like, “Get rid of that shit.’ Our joint reliance on infinitives avoids the dangers of verb declensions. He is gracious and doesn’t like to embarrass me more than once a day. 


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from "Remembering Jeanne Cordova" March 5, 2016

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