As far as days go, this was a good old “middle of the road” summer day. Gilberto, a law-abiding family man, was driving his two boys to get a much-dreaded but needed haircut. The place was Maracay, a city in Venezuela, and the period was sometime in the late nineteen seventies. The town was not large but it was big enough to house the hustle and bustle of an industrious urbanized community. Street vendors of all sorts populated the picturesque streets of El Centro, downtown. Crowded mini-vans without air conditioning were the main source of public transportation and many people used them. In fact, they were so accessible and popular that a fifteen-minute wait, or less, assured a citizen a ride, a trip that would cost him one Bolivar, the local currency.
Raspados were one of the boys’ favorite treats. A Raspado consisted of crushed ice served on a conical paper cup, liquid flavoring, and sweet condensed milk. There were several flavors available but the preferred one by the boys was Colita, a strawberry-like substance. This particular day, Gilberto bought Raspados for his two sons, one for each. It is no surprise that the flavor they picked was Colita. Having to run some errands, the boys enjoyed their treat while riding in their dad’s Ford, a powerful blue Fairlane 500.
While gradually decelerating to stop at a transitioning traffic light, when it changed from yellow to red, a big flesh-tone Ford LTD, out of nowhere, suddenly cut them off forcing Gilberto to abruptly slam on the breaks. The cars’ bumpers barely missed each other! It was with great surprise, however likely, that Gilberto, upon turning his head, saw blood in his younger son’s face. “WHAT?” he exclaimed with great anguish. Gabriel was riding shotgun, he was on the copilot’s seat, and Junior was in the back. It was painfully obvious that, in coming to a complete stop, his seven-year-old son hit his face against the dashboard and cut himself in the process. He was not wearing a seatbelt. Most people, back then in Maracay, never wore seatbelts. Gabriel, upon his dad’s reaction but unaware of his present state, was able to utter some words. The grammar was sufficiently coherent for Gilberto to realize that immediate emergency medical attention was not necessary. However, he was alarmed, agitated, enraged, outraged, and overtly excited at the sight of blood on his little boy’s face as it trickled down his son’s chubby milky-white cheeks. All this mishap because of an ignorant FOOL! Gilberto then turned his head to face forward and noticed that the FOOL did not even gesture to apologize or even acknowledge any wrongdoing. By this time, thick veins in Gilberto’s forehead and neck enlarged and an endless sea of words started to unravel, only some of the language was discernable and rational. He subsequently turned back to face Gabriel again only to aggravate his condition to an ultimate and inevitable climax. His eyes bulged out and adrenaline pumped through his body like El Rio Orinoco. He instinctively resolved to confront the other driver face to face. Without an ounce of hesitation, he opened the door and marched out, in rapid long strides, towards the culprit’s car.
The FOOL apparently had his whole family in the car. The grandmother, the son, and the daughter rode in the back while the wife sat in the front. All the windows were closed. When Gilberto finally arrived, the FOOL, noticing the obvious intensity of Gilberto’s demeanor opted to signal and talk through a tiny crack in the window, a deliberately small opening between the glass and the doorframe. Gilberto could no longer contain himself. He placed his fingers in the crack and pulled the window down two thirds of the way. He then started swinging his fists left and right! He threw the punches while simultaneously uttering derogatory words of disgust. It was an unbelievable scene of passionate distress! A parent’s display of desperation! The boys, at this time, were still in the car and completely perplexed at the situation. The grandmother, in the meantime, yelled from within the cabin of the FOOL’s car while everybody else from the same made sudden violent gestures. No one, however, exited the car. Driving off was not an option because they were still in the traffic gridlock.
After a minute or two of swinging away, Gilberto walked back to the Fairlane and, just at the time when he was about to seat in the car, he saw Gabriel’s bloody cheeks again. A new burst of energy immediately drowned him for a second time. “WHAT? Do you want more? TELL ME! Is it that you want more? I WILL GIVE YOU MORE! Pendejo!” His body, itching from the rush of adrenaline, could not sustain itself and so it jumped. As before, his fists and arms whipped back and forth through the window without showing any signs of fatigue. This time, in between punches, he stepped back and signaled the driver to step out and face him like a man. Before giving the driver a chance to react though, Gilberto closed the gap again and kept on swinging. This process continued for a couple of rounds. The driver never had a chance to get out of the car. This move might have been deliberate on Gilberto’s part to ensure a painless victory. On the other hand, it might just have been the result of pure unadulterated exaltation and exasperation. Gilberto, eventually, walked back to his car. The driver, even in the interim of Gilberto’s stroll to his car, did not attempt to get out of the car.
Not surprisingly, the episode repeated once more when Gilberto again saw the blood in Gabriel’s face. “You want more! YOU IDIOT!” Deja vu, it was just like a broken record; the same scene repeated yet another time. Junior, from the backseat, finally came to his senses and realized, when looking within his own stained hands, that his brother’s face was covered with COLITA, the red blood-like dressing used to flavor the Raspado, and his dad mistakenly thought it was BLOOD! “Clean your face Gabriel! Papy thinks you have blood on your face! CLEAN IT NOW!” By the time Gilberto came back, the traffic light was turning green and the cars, including that of the FOOL, started to drive off. “Papy, it is NOT BLOOD! It is…”
We are, after all, the bright blinding headlights staring down Papy’s lustrous eyes!