His hands caress her, the morning sun filters through the curtains, instrumental music makes the atmosphere perfect for love. She closes her eyes and is happy. Suddenly, the music is swept away by a car horn and shouts calling for Vicenteee, up on the third floor. The hands no longer caress, they are just one, small, shaking her shoulder. The hand has a voice: Mommy, wake up, the sun is already up.
She wakes up walking to the bathroom, once again the alarm didn’t go off, she’ll have to check it. There’s no water, she uses the two buckets she filled last night. She makes coffee, and breakfast for the kids. Makes the beds and goes out to buy milk. She’s in a rush thinking about the line. From the corner she sees the truck; instead of plastic boxes with bags there are sacks falling over. When she gets there she learns the milk came in powdered form and they have to wait to open the shop until they can weigh it before selling it.
To wait or not to wait, that is the question. She has an image of the four people ahead of her in line, a mulatto in flip-flops and a mesh shirt, an old woman with a flowered bag, a girl in an orange lycra outfit with a ring in her navel, and a bald guy with three big bags, with the look of an errand runner. She speaks to the one behind, I’ll be back in a minute, and goes to the bakery.
Passing near the building she learns they haven’t started the pump, so it follows that there’s still no water. In the bakery there’s an enormous line, just seeing it raises her blood pressure, but it’s not for the rationed bread, it’s the line for “the bread of glory.”
This is an interesting story, as she remembers, while asking who’s last in line, and unavoidably smiles, they’ll think she’s nuts, laughing in a line. The “glory bread” is bread exactly like the rationed bread, but it’s freely sold at six times the cost of the other, and comes with added syrup, dry sugar, or nothing, depending on the level of intransigence of certain anonymous defenders of the status quo. When they began to sell it, the glory bread came out syrupy as if God sent it, but the people didn’t care for it and suggestions were heard to make it a little bit or totally dry, and yes, without changing the price.
One fine day the bakers were encouraged to try and they didn’t add anything and all the bread sold very quickly. The people of the neighborhood were very happy, because they might have a little more bread for a snack for the kids, to make a pudding, or to eat before going to bed in the cold season. And word spread through the neighborhood and the lines for the glory bread started to grow, until it attracted the attention of the status quo defenders, who must be people who don’t need any more bread than what is rationed, so they started to complain and make anonymous calls to certain places, places from where they sent certain inspectors to the bakery.
And because bakers are people who above all love their profession and are sad to be away from it, they returned to the bread soaked in syrup for a while, until the inspectors were gone and the status quo defenders focused their eyes and tongues on more important matters that claimed the attention of their modest efforts. The cautious bakers waited for a while before returning to ordinary bread, today they added a little syrup, tomorrow a little dry sugar, which you could brush off with your hand, until a cycle of plain bread started, along with the enormous lines. People are happy and take it easy, we have to seize the opportunity, because you never know when the anonymous ones will return, along with the inspectors and the unnecessary syrup.
It would be funny if it weren’t so fucked up, she thought. Everyone knows what goes on, the absurdity of the situation, but nobody can do anything. Nobody tries to change the status quo. It’s incredible how there are people who need to cling to the rules in order to live. And she advances toward the counter, her smile fading away.