I was 12 years old, playing tag with my two sisters at home in the backyard. When I talk about my sisters I am referring to my biological sister who was one year older than me, and my cousin who had been living with us for about five years, who we considered not our cousin, but our sister.
Suddenly, our game of tag was interrupted by loud voices coming from inside the house. Then the noises turned to screams – there was an argument taking place.
My mother was arguing with her sister, my aunt, who had suddenly had a change of heart after five years and wanted her daughter back. My mom was having none of that.
“You are not better than me,” my aunt was screaming at mom.
“I’m just saying that she will be better here with me,” mom responded.
“Bitch, you are not better than me,” my aunt said again, and with that she slapped my mother across the face. Soon they were exchanging punches and kicks, pulling each other’s hair.
My sisters and I ran to hide under a bed.
“Don’t worry,” my sister and I told our cousin, “we won’t let her take you.”
A few minutes late, the police showed up to break up the fight. Someone must have called them.
“What’s going on here?” one of the officers asked my mother.
“She is trying to kidnap my daughter,” my aunt answered.
“She is my daughter,” my mom barked angrily.
They started to fight again. This time the police not only separated them, but took both of them to the station for questioning.
When my sister and I saw our mother being taking away, we started to blame our little cousin: “It’s your fault, it’s your fault, just go away with your mom,” we told her.
Early the following morning, our aunt came back with a police officer to take her daughter away. My aunt picked her daughter up from the bed she shared with my sister. My niece and I glanced at each other one last time; I was too ashamed and she was too sad to say anything.
My mother didn’t come home for two days after that. The police had kept her in jail so she wouldn’t try to stop my aunt from taking her daughter.
“Where is she?” my mother asked as soon as she got home. When she learned that she had been taken away, my mother had a nervous breakdown. My father carried her to the bed, and she stayed there in a coma-like state for the next two weeks.
We were extremely poor, and had no way to pay for a doctor to come see her. I cut limes into halves, added ground coffee to the lime halves, and placed them on my mother’s temples. It was an old wives remedy, but it was all I could do to try to make my mom better.
But she didn’t improve.
Two weeks into my mother’s breakdown, we received another surprise visit. Our great-aunt came to see us. My great-aunt was a witch, and I don’t mean a witch in the sense that she was a bitch or that she had a bad temper. I mean a witch like bruja – she did brujerias, black magic.
My great-aunt took one look at my mother before she told my father, “There’s a black chicken with an upside-down cross buried in your yard. Take it out and wash it in holy water to take the curse away”.
“What?” my father asked. “How would you know that?”
“Cause I put it there, that’s why,” she answered. “I got paid to put a curse on your wife, but I don’t want any dead family member because of that.”
My father did as he was told. Less than two hours later, my mother finally opened her eyes. Twenty minutes after that, my mother was sitting up on the side of her bed. My great-aunt sat beside her.
“Sorry about that,” my great-aunt was saying to my mom. “You know it was your sister who paid me to put the curse on you. If it makes you feel any better, I could reverse the curse. Get her back for what she did to you.”
My mother took a moment to answer – not because she was thinking about it, but because she was still too weak to talk.
“No,” she answered finally. “I couldn’t do that to my sister.”
At that time, I couldn’t understand why my mother wouldn’t want to get back at her sister. After all, she had fought her and put her in jail, taken my niece away, and sent her to the brink of the death. But now, looking back, I can see clearly that my aunt was wrong about many things:
She was wrong about leaving her daughter for five years with my mom, and expecting that my mother was not going to fight to keep her.
She was wrong about putting a curse on my mother.
But most importantly, she was wrong about my mother not being better than her.
Nestor Gomez was born in Guatemala and has lived in Chicago for most of his adult life. He is a self-taught writer and poet who started to tell stories as a way to get over the stuttering that plagued his childhood. Nestor Gomez holds the record for most Chicago Moth Slams wins, he has also won Moth slams in Milwaukee and Madison and has told stories all over the United States but if you ask him he will tell you that his greatest achievement was to make his mother and family proud and wining the hearth of his fiancée “sweet Mel”. You can learn more about Nestor in his web site, http://www.nestorgomezstoryteller.com/.