She finishes getting the children ready and they head out on their daily rounds. First the older one to school, after that, backtracking, the little one to the daycare center. Going past the building, the sound of the pump announces that the water has arrived. After a brief chat, she leaves the girl at the center and walks back. Each time it’s harder to convince her…I wonder what happened that she’s rejecting it again, she asks herself. Nevertheless, the answer is right there in front of her, and she knows it.
Who’d want to, she thinks, spend a third of the day in a place with peeling walls, painted with a white powder that sticks to your skin and clothes; where the doors and windows are disintegrating because of the termites, sitting on noisy furniture made of iron bars and wire that are being attacked by rust, competing for faded and boring coarse wooden toys, with not even enough to go around. A whole third of the day wriggling around in a churning crowd, exchanging bites, lice and colds, tended to by shouting women with bitter faces who, with equal lack of care, teach how to recognize colors, basic shapes, the photos of those who died in some long-ago war and of those who now govern us.
Much is said about the parents’ sacrifice for their children, but this is a sacrifice by children for their parents, that is what she believes. Nobody can imagine how the children suffer when subjected to such treatment. And though it may hurt them to see how their children’s childhood slips through their hands, hurrying them in the mornings so they can be on time, hurrying them in the afternoons to take their baths and to do their homework before dinner is ready, and hurrying them to eat and go to bed early, so as not to wake up tired and not to have to hurry in the mornings; though the impotence overwhelms her for not being able to counteract the influence of the violence, the vulgarity and the four letter words that they are absorbing each day; though she suffers because she can’t dedicate the time to them that she would like to on weekends because she has to do the shopping too, wash and clean; though she doesn’t know how to be creative so that the money will stretch every once in a while to fix them up with a toy or some candy that’s only sold in convertible pesos; she knows she has no other option, she can’t afford the luxury of not working. She didn’t want to do it when she was married, and now that she’s alone, she simply cannot.
While climbing the stairs to her apartment, she starts to sweat.