“Get down from there,” he says to me on my perch in the tamarindo tree, “or you’ll turn into a bad monkey woman.”
I think he is joking, so I throw my head back and laugh my best carefree laugh.
He is teasing me as if I were his little girl. In my country they tell children they’ll break their necks. Monkey woman! Ha ha.
“Get down from there.” He says it again. “It’s bad to climb trees in Semana Santa. You’ll grow a tail like a monkey.”
“Me?” I ask.
Is he serious? This man honestly thinks climbing a tree this week could turn me into a monkey? Oh my.
I smile my most reassuring smile.
“Yes. Get down from there. Now.”
Suddenly I can’t move.
He is serious. Holy God.
“Come on,” he says.
His eyes are shifting and they won’t look at me. His voice has gone cold and his face is turning dark as night. Everyone has grown quiet. Everyone is looking away. Only the radio continues to blurt out tinny salsa music.
Suddenly I sense the fear.
I try to swallow my disgust as I swing down out of the tamarindo, embarrassed.
How in God’s name was I supposed to know that climbing a tree in Semana Santa puts you in danger of becoming a monkey? How?
And don’t tell me they really think that.
“Let’s go back to the house,” he says and it isn’t a suggestion, it is a command. We start back to the house. His face dark and fearful.
Tears of humiliation begin to prick my eyes and nose like pins. I am being taken home like a disobedient child.
I didn’t know. Geez. I’m sorry.
“You can’t climb trees in Semana Santa,” he explains. “It’s bad. You can turn into a bad monkey woman.”
“I’m sorry,” I say, my lip quivering uncontrollably like the child I feel I am being treated as. “I didn’t know that.”
“I know,” he says. “Don’t cry.” He pats me on the arm and laughs nervously. “Don’t cry.”
“Ok,” I say, wiping my nose with the back of my hand and feeling the start of a flood. I want to turn into a bug and crawl away.
When we get to the house, I go into my room and quietly cry out my humiliation and frustration. I don’t want to be a bad monkey woman. I want to be happy and good. On one hand, his believing I could turn into a monkey and my crying about it are equally ridiculous. But he can’t help it and neither can I.
Thinking about how funny it is makes me cry harder.