The Mark

By Aida Bahr

On October 12, 1971, in the evening hours, a group of terrorists in an armed speedboat from Florida attacked the hamlet of Boca de Samá in Banes, Oriente province. Two persons were killed and several were wounded, two of which were minors, Nancy and Angela Pavón, 15 and 13 years of age, respectively. One heavy caliber bullet ripped Angela’s foot and had to be amputated.

It is not the pain that bites like a dog. Pain can be borne, pain passes. It is that des- peration inside and you have to learn to live with it. Some days it seems you can forget; your mind is busy and you feel like a normal person, like all the rest; but then someone arrives and looks at you, or you lie down to sleep and the old nightmare comes back; or you see a photograph in the newspaper and, there again, is the agony, the rage, the hatred tightening your chest. Sometimes it is worse. Things happen that bring it back. It is not even two months … In the afternoons I sit there by the window, with my embroidery, the people pass and greet me; some- times they stop and buy something, or ask. I am at the window and I am a woman like so many others working for my living, honestly. Those are the good moments of the day. The children play in the street, a neighbor may stop and chat; one feels safe, calm, and happy, because that is happiness for me: to feel I belong to the place and the people around you, to give affection and receive it, a routine only interrupted by pleasant surprises. That is what I thought or did not with such detail, but I was calm and happy, one after- noon like so many others, scarcely two months ago, when the dog got loose. A Stanford. They train them to fight, I don’t know how they do it; the owner lives at the other corner and we only hear the barks here; but everyone knows the dog is fierce, just as they know that he makes a lot of money with the fights, that are forbidden, but they do it just the same. They get used to seeing blood, suffering and the only thing they have on their minds is the money they are going to get, all they can buy with that money. The rest of the world doesn’t mean anything to them. Well, what happened is that the dog got loose; they say he broke the fence and flew at the children. Can you imagine? He got the slowest one or the most frightened one, a little boy who was playing in the street with his friends, so innocent like he was sleeping in his bed; first the dog bit him in the arm and then he bit the leg. I saw it. I saw the teeth biting into the flesh and I felt cold, because that is the first thing you feel; a coldness of fear that becomes fire right away, a burning feeling and such great pain that you can’t even scream. The bite of a furious dog. He would have ripped the boy apart if the people hadn’t run and beat him off with a club; they had to leave it unconscious to free the child. They picked him up and ran to stop a car. They passed by here and I saw the wounds, the black flesh, the drops of blood; I heard the screams, theirs, mine were burstinginside,explodinginmyhead;myhandsswelledsomuchfromgrasping the bars of the window so strongly; because I couldn’t run, I couldn’t carry the boy; the only thing I could do was look and feel a terrible agony. I saw the dog’s owner pick it up and carry it off under the shouts and threats of the people. I waited for the return of the people who took the child. They had left him in observation and the parents were with him. Everything returned to normal gradually; but I have felt despair as the days pass, the same as what I felt then. Because I simply cannot accept it. Now the boy is playing in the street again, he’s got scars, but they will begin to disappear with time; he was lucky. The dog’s owner went to trial, paid a fine and now has the dog on a chain and wearing a muzzle. But, when he considers the dog re- covered he will fight him again. He has to be careful in the barrio; they say he gave the boy a crate of malt refreshment. There are those who excuse him. But, I ask: who trained the dog? Who taught him to be a killer? Who gave him a treat when he tore another to pieces? I turn my head every time he walks by. Others can forgive; say that so much time has passed. In my case, years have passed and they were not dogs blindly attacking but, also, trained to kill and expecting their reward. In the hospital someone told my mother, trying to console her: “God did not want your daughter to die”. And, mother, in desperation, shouted “And did He want her to lose her foot?”And the person who spoke to her added: “Think that she could have died, accept it”. My mother didn’t answer and I didn’t even know who was talking but the words were engraved in my mind forever because, many times, I was told the same thing, perhaps a bit differently.And, I don’t want to think that I could have died. Quite the contrary, I could have lived like a normal girl, running, skipping rope, use high heels, dance at my fifteenth birthday… I could have done all that, I should have done it and they didn’t let me. I didn’t have polio nor was I run over by a car, those things that perhaps we don’t know who to blame. But, I am sure who the guilty ones are. That is why forgetting is not possible; simply push the memories back for a while. Of course, you are not going to be bitter and ruin the life for the rest of the people around you. You’ll reconcile yourself with your lot, you pretend that you would have wanted to be a singer and that you don’t have the voice, you seek refuge in embroidering and sitting at the window but, although you don’t say it, you always carry the mark inside, deeper than the scar of the stump that no longer upsets me. Because the worse is not the pain, it’s the desperation that is left inside of you.