14. The first time Juliano
The first time Juliano hit Magdalena, she was pregnant with your father. They were still in the United states. They forgot the keys inside the apartment and were trying to force the door open. Father, said Maximilian, ordered Mother to move aside. She told her not to rush her. He replied to her with a punch in the middle of the face. Her nose exploded, the hemorrhage lasted for a while.
Things escalated from there. Even though Juliano drank at least once a week, he never hit her when he was inebriated. Juliano was always fully aware of what he was doing and to whom he was doing it:
Mother told me that months after I was born, Juliano tried to strangle her when they were visiting one of his sisters. Juliano’s sisters Helena and María Teresa, alarmed by Mother’s screams, closed the door of the room where Juliano and Magdalena were and patiently waited outside. Maira and Lorca coincidentally arrived at the apartment while the strangulation was in course. Their arrival saved her.
Mother picked me up once after giving an English lesson to someone, Maximilian said, and we went to Unicentro, a shopping mall in the northern part of the city. We got to the place, entered the parking lot, she parked, and got off the car. Your dad is here, she said to me smiling, said your father, what a coincidence. Father darted our way, stopped in front of mother, and crushed her arm with the door of the car. She screamed and cried, father whispered something in her ear as he pushed the door harder, let her go, and left. The red, purple, and yellow bruise extended the next day from her shoulder to her elbow. A man who worked for Father had seen Mother driving accompanied by a man. It was her student, but Father didn’t care to ask.
A certain night, Father arrived in the Mitsubishi Pajero and parked in front of the gate of the house in the suburbs. Mother went out to say hi and to see why he wasn’t coming in. Father, once again without a single question, grabbed her by the hair, punched her in the right eye, and smashed her face against the door of the Pajero. Another gossip was apparently the cause.
I don’t recall what started another argument, continued your father, this time in the morning. Something about him coming back from a business trip and the fridge being empty. But that, I could have supposed or invented. Father smashed some eggs against the floor, shouted something, and slapped Mother across the face. Father was a tall and strong man who weighed much more than Mother. The slap sent her flying across the room. I stepped up, I was nine, maybe ten at the time, and told him not to hit her. A second slap sent me to the ground.
Fear was a constant. The memory has blurred, but I still see Father hiding behind a yellow telephone cabin holding a long knife he used to keep inside the glove compartment of his car. Mother, sister, and I were across the street, running away from him. Mother, cradling sister in one of her arms and holding my hand with her the one she had free, edged her way between the parked cars and entered a Wimpy. She quickly explained to the cashier what was going on, and the employees of the restaurant helped us hide behind the counter. One of them called the police. Two agents arrived on a motorcycle and escorted us home. Father was nowhere to be seen.
There were more incidents like these. A kick he gave her in the chest tore the pleurae of her lungs. Mother was put in an induced comma for days after the doctors operated. Magdalena underwent three reconstructive nose surgeries. She was hospitalized again as the surgeons tried to reattach the retina that a punch had detached. She spent some hours in the operating room again after another of Juliano’s kicks made her womb collapse.
Days after each beating, Juliano asked her for forgiveness, brought roses to her room, either in the house, the apartment, or the hospital, and gave her a porcelain doll. There were often roses in the house. Magdalena had a substantial doll collection.