“To The Barrio” by Shakira Sison
On the ride to the barrio I thought about the nearby river and how strange the mud felt between my toes as a child. During a summer at my nanny’s house when I was ten, a nephew of hers picked me up one morning with his carabao to take a ride to the river. When we got there, I jumped in from the bank and swam to the other end where all the children had all gathered, looking like they were reaching down for something stuck in the mud.
Someone raised his hand and screamed that he had found an oyster. Another pair of hands approached with a knife and shucked the shell open, and yet another pair grabbed it from the shucker and handed it to me.
“Eat it,” he said.
I did, feeling the warm mollusk meat kiss my throat before I gagged and spat it out, washing out my mouth with water. They laughed and swam away.
I got sick that night and my nanny fanned me with a piece of cardboard, lathering my tummy with aciete de manzanilla in methodical circular strokes.
In the car on the way to her house decades later, the thought in my head was of her hands on my belly, taking my aches away. I closed my eyes until we arrived.
But something was wrong. Her house was brightly lit and buzzing with people in a solemn hum. When I got out of the car, a man was weeping outside…
In response to the creative prompt Coming Home.
“It is a strange thing to come home. While yet on the journey, you cannot at all realize how strange it will be.” – Selma Lagerlof