People laugh at me when I tell them my name, or they frown, or they work hard to hold down a judgment. Or they feign interest.
“What kind of a name is that?” they say.
I tell them it might be Arabic or French or Brazilian. And that my mother was very dark, with green eyes and long black hair that was as shiny as a raven’s back.
Then they ask me where I was born, and I say I don’t know exactly where, because by time I could speak my mother was ill and soon too sick to talk.
By this time, the person has lost interest or tells me I should be a writer or looks away at a passing someone who is pretty or handsome or walks with their chest out, shoulders down and full of confidence.
When I went to the city hall—I continue explaining—to apply for my Crendential, which is what they call the voting card here, they said I was first far too young and second I didn’t have a last name—not to mention a middle one.
Then my mother died. They dressed her in a long white dress and laid her on her back on a table, put flowers in her hands and placed candles around her. Four people came to see her. One, an older woman said my mother owed her money. Then a neighbor who spent her visiting time looking at dishes and linen and things in my mother’s special box. Then a boy I knew, who wanted to know where I was going to live—and finally a handsome thin man with a mustache and gentle eyes who said he thought he might be my father. He said I should come and live with him in the city. I said I would like to but that I didn’t have a last name, and I didn’t want to leave my mother, who still needed me.
My father said, fine, we’d stay a while, and he and I slept on my mother’s bed, where he said not to worry, I could have his last name Opolo, which he didn’t need anymore. I thanked him and fell asleep. In the morning, my mother’s body was gone, plus all the dishes and linen—plus my father.
At first, besides feeling lonely, I worried about him no longer having a last name, since he had given it to me. But, with time, I thought less and less about him, and more and more about my mother, who was very beautiful, if a little sad. Why I never learned.
I have a voting card now. And I am a teacher for children between five and ten. They call me Señor Bojón. Which is the name I use—because my mother gave it to me and because it reminds me of her.
I grow vegetables and fruit trees. I have a garden area devoted entirely to grapes. I have started making wine each year, which I bottle and store in the first part of an old, unfinished mining tunnel. The label on my bottles says “Bojón” and people have started buying it from me.
One day, a young woman—the mother of one of my youngest students—asked if she could buy a bottle of my wine. I said of course. She and her little girl came home with me and I sold her the bottle. Two days later, she brought me bread she had baked. She was both kind and pretty and seemed to like me. I learned that there was no husband, no father for her daughter. I grew very fond of her but was understandably afraid she might die. I mentioned my fear. She said she would die some day but that we could, if I wanted to, be together until that day came.
For some reason, she had never asked me my name. I was always Señor Bojón. Then one day she asked me.
“Bojón’s my name,” I said.
“But what’s your first name?”
“What’s your last name then?”
“Bojón,” I said.
She smiled and said she liked that and took my hand.
I thought I should ask her, too. I knew her first name was Rosa.
“And your last name? I don’t think I know it.”
“Rosa,” she said.