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ROSALES, Guillermo

The Halfway House (Boarding Home)

This is the end of me. I, William Figueras, who read all of Proust when I was fifteen years old, Joyce, Miller, Sartre, Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Albee, Ionesco, Beckett. I who lived twenty years within the revolution, as its victimizer, witness, victim. Great.

There were some relatives waiting for me . . . They thought a future winner was coming, a future businessman, a future playboy, a future family man who would have a future house full of kids . . . The person who turned up was instead a crazy, nearly toothless, skinny, frightened guy who had to be admitted to a psychiatric ward that very day because he eyed everyone in the family with suspicion and, instead of hugging and kissing them, insulted them.

[U]ntil the day when, at the advice of other friends and relatives, she decided to stick me in the halfway house: the house of human garbage.

“Because you’ll understand that nothing more can be done.”

I understand her

[Arsenio] ’s square and sweaty torso is slashed through with a scar that goes from his chest to his navel. It’s from being stabbed in prison, five years ago, where he was doing time for stealing. Mr. Curbelo pays him seventy dollars a week. But Arsenio is happy. He has no family, no profession, no life ambitions, and here, in the halfway house, he’s a big fish. For the first time in his life, Arsenio feels fulfilled somewhere.

”I taught five peasants how to read,” she confesses.

“Oh yeah? Where?”

“In the Sierra Maestra,” she says. “In a place called El Roble.”

“I was around there,” I say. “I was teaching some other peasants in La Plata. Three mountains from there.”