Myths

“My mother told me that I cried in her womb.
It was said to her: he’ll be lucky

A voice whispered to me every day of my life, softly, in my ear.

It said: Live! Live! Live!
It was Death”
.
-Jaime Sabines
.
Four months after I was born Mexico City was hit by an 8.0 earthquake. It is estimated that close to 10,000 people died that day. My parents lived on the seventh floor of an apartment complex that nearly collapsed. My mother tells me that she remembers seeing the walls and the ceilings crack, and the horrible sound they made. It sounded like the growl of a hungry beast, chasing them as they made their way down. Emergency shelters were quickly filled and many families were left out to fend for themselves on the streets. My parents decided that it was safer to go back to their village in Southern Mexico; the life they managed to build in Mexico City was now gone.
My grandmother said that during this time a vulture of unnatural proportions used to circle her adobe house at night and more than once it tried to claw its way through her tile roof. She always believed that it was a shapeshifting witch trying to take me away.
Upon returning to the city I developed respiratory problems, quite possibly from the earthquake, and spent most of my childhood trying not to asphyxiate in my sleep. During a visit to the village an old men who lived there asked my mom if he could perform a ritual on me. I was anointed with the spirit of a deer and cleansed with ritual herbs. The nocturnal visits by strange animals stopped and my lung problems eventually cleared.
My mom always says the old man just “knew stuff.” Old knowledge possibly, forbidden by 500 years of colonialism. My dad never believed any of it and says the old man was only trying to gain favor with my grandma who was a widow. Maybe he’s right. Maybe my lung problems cleared when we finally left Mexico City at the suggestion of a doctor who assured my parents that the pollution was aggravating my respiratory problems. Maybe it was all a coincidence. Maybe some of it never even happened. But to make it through life we depend on the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and sometimes reality isn’t good enough.

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