Monday, March 9, 2009

A Castrated Childhood

A Castrated Childhood: The Cry of a Nation
Por: Azael Vigil

Once again Maximus Salvador woke up in a pool of sweat. The nightmares he once thought were gone keep coming back to him stronger than before. There are times when he wishes that he could just forget, and not even think about what he dreams every night and just continue the day, normally, like everybody else. However, his dreams are so strong that the images, words, and every emotion in them, instinctively keep beating the drum of his fate, whether he likes it or not. His dreams most of the time are full of life, optimistic visions that brings him peace of mind, creativity, humanity and hope. Yet, three to six days a month, Maximus finds himself fighting Dragons, Hydras, Evil, Hatred and the demons of his past as well as his present.
His dreams sometimes turn into nightmares, then; he becomes disoriented, like a lost child in an empty dark monastery, not knowing where the exit door is or what saint to pray. Today, there he is lying in bed. He looks as if he was coming up from the depth of an Olympic swimming pool, barely making it to the surface. His face seems frightened, and his eyes are red scarlet. His whole body appears to be paralyzed with fears, drenched in panic. He grabs his face with both hands feeling astounded, and psychologically beaten, as if a train has ran over him. Slowly, he begins to decipher the images of the recent dream, not knowing or expecting what he is about to unravel.
Maximus Salvador has the candid habit of writing down all his dreams the morning after. His diary is full of them. He begins reliving, seeing his dream all over again. With a pen in his left hand, still trembling he starts to write in the present historical tense:
“My friends and I are playing soccer on the street. The streets are built with cobblestones, beautifully shaped like the ones in the Romans’ period movies. A bunch of men wearing masks, all dressed in black uniforms arrive in a red Ford pick up truck, and start beating us for no apparent reason. They are beating us with the butt of their M 16. Blood is all over the cobblestones on the street, I can see blood puddles all around me. It is happening so fast, nobody in the neighborhood is aware of what is going on. In a matter of seconds, everything changes. They hit me on the back of my head with I do not know what, I think it is a punch, and I fall to the floor. I can see how they keep kicking Santiago, one of my friends, even thought he is no longer moving. I think they have killed him. As I turn to see the rest of my friends, they are being dragged, and thrown into the bed of the red truck. Then a big black boot hit my entire face and gushes of my innocent blood drips all over the floor. I lose consciousness, but I can hear what they are saying. They are going to kill us. It does not matter that we are only twelve and fourteen years old kids, or that we are not in any shape or form involved in the civil war crap. One of the men keeps saying, “Let’s peel these sons of the Queen of Bitches like bananas, and make them cry like little bitches like they taught us at West Point and Panama.” “NO, no, no,” said another voice, “We will just cut their head as usual, and leave them on the side-road of the Pan- Americana Boulevard for show, that’s it. Those are the orders of the Superior.”
Maximus continues: “I can feel the bumps of the road while I lie on the bed of the truck in fetus position, with my hands tied behind my back, chocking in my own blood. These men are taking us somewhere. I cannot think straight. I do not dare to open my eyes, fearing the consequences that it might bring me. Suddenly, the car stops. My heart begins to beat agitated wanting to come out of my mouth. I sob silently praying. Death is imminent and real, it is here, agony move stealthily into my soul. I am desperate, and want to scream. My friends and I are about to be beheaded, the feeling of it is terrifying. I try desperately to find an answer as to why this horrible thing is happening to us. We start crying and begging for mercy. Nevertheless, the more mercy we ask the more sadists and cruel the men dressed in black become. The air smells like fresh blood and dirt, nauseating. I wish my family were here to save me. It is almost dark, and I can see the orange Sun, and the blue-white clouds in the distance. I do not feel any part of my body anymore, although I am moving. I sense that a part of my being has already left my body.
Like a vision, I find myself up on a cloud; I can see my body walking to the slaughterhouse, with my friends behind me. Some of them can hardly walk, I try to help one of them but someone punches me on my face again and I fall the third time. From up here on the cloud, I can see everything clear as when I watch a movie seating in front of my TV, with the only difference that I am not enjoying the show this time. This time everything that happens to the actor is link to the spectator one way or another. I feel like I am dreaming, and just the thought of it temporarily stop my anxiety. I will wake up soon, I think to myself. Then, the pain of a machete cutting my throat makes me realize that I am not dreaming. I am awake, and I feel my body going on and off as streetlights during hurricane season, the pain and stupefaction is agonizing. I hear men laughing, goofing about who can use the machete the most effective way, and finish the job in one struck. The scene changes fast, then I am on my knees sticking my head out, waiting bravely to take my last breath of air before the guillotine (machete) finally divides me in two. I hear my friends crying hysterically, Simon’s front teeth are broken, and I can see his bloody teeth scatter all around me. I close my eyes, and get ready to meet my maker. Then, I hear a sound, as when an ax hit the root of a young oak tree in the forest. Suddenly, I see my head rolling Juan Baustista’s style, with its eyes wide open staring at me sadly, as if saying, 'Forgive them they do not know the dimension of the crime they are committing.'
Yet, I can still see the rest of my friends’ mutilated bodies resting on the side road; mine lies next to Santiago, our heads are 33 centimeters away from one another. The events keep happening so fast and so vivid that I think that eternity has stand still in agony mode. I tremble sweating, but my body is cold dead, I can see it next to Santiago’s. However, the sweating continues. At this moment, I hear the radio of the red Ford pick up truck saying, “Dragon! Dragon! Copy! You got the wrongs guys. Copy! Those boys are not the guys we are after. There has been an error in our report. Please return them to their families immediately. They are good family children, over.” Then, a long dark silence invaded the atmosphere. I could see everything but I wanted to close my eyes, and not observe. Then, I opened my eyes and saw the men without their masks on. The massage in the radio had transformed them. They are looking at each other in disbelief. Their faces look pale and full of remorse. They are all running amok pointing the finger at each others now, crying as if they have accidentally killed a brother or a son. The air smells like dry chrysanthemums flowers burning in an abandoned funeral home. I feel like telling them that I am alive, but I notice my friends are not with me. I get angry. I missed my friends. I can see the killers, but they can not see me. I feel like a ghost or a corp. I think I am dreaming. I am scare! It is dark in here! I can’t see! I scream, Jesus! Please! Take me out at once! Then, I woke up.”
There he was, Maximus Salvador swimming in his own thoughts and sweat, with his hands still holding his face. Forgotten memories of his childhood growing up during the war in El Salvador began to unravel within. The sound of machine guns, bomb droppings, bloody images, mother crying, and the images of dismembered young children being taken away from their parents came back to him at once. He thought of his friends, Abél, Simón, Francisco, Romero y Santiago, and the last soccer match they played together. He felt guilty as if he had anything to do with the bloodbath that day. He wished the men in black had killed him too. Why was he still living? He could not understand. These dreams were common years ago, now they were back stronger than ever. I wonder what he is going to do next. Who knows, he might write an autobiographical book about his experiences and use it as therapy for himself and others.
Finally, Maximus Salvador got up from his bed, shook his head, and headed for the shower singing a Gun’s and Roses’ song: “Knock, knock, knocking on heavens’ door! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” He was no longer sweating. Once again, he’d beaten another demon, another dark night. He lit up a candle, did a prayer and went out to work to pretend all day how normal he was, asking himself if what he has is an illness or a voodoo job. In the US his condition is called post war traumatic stress syndrome, but in Salvadorian medical terms his disorder is still undiagnosed, never heard of, or ignored. The final result of such a Salvadorian medical attitude is the silence torment of thousands of individuals that isolate themselves, afraid of speaking out about the demons in their head causing them endless nightmares and an unhappy and unproductive life.

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