resting place for sheep

*Author: Darila Eslava

My grandfather is in prison. I didn’t know him. I didn’t miss her figure until I started to understand adult conversations. I think they thought I didn’t understand, so no one gave me a concept, a meaning. When you’re seven, you have a lot to learn. So it took me a while to not quite understand where my grandfather was and what that prison was.

My grandmother’s house is filled with pictures of her. I asked him over and over if that was my grandfather. My grandmother affirmed and explained something about him to me. Other times, she gets tired and asks me to stop asking. I have been holding on. My grandfather was neither handsome nor ugly. But it sure looks like fun. My grandmother once told me that she knew how to imitate the sounds of many animals and it used to scare her. I would laugh out loud, but grandma’s eyes would get wet, and sometimes she would even cry, hard to stop. I asked him why we didn’t see him. She told me that was too far. “I would give him my heart if I could,” he repeated.

In the few photos my grandfather took with a herd of sheep, many are white and some are black. The place where they are is very beautiful, with high earthen walls. I don’t know why I’ve come to believe this place is a prison. I like it very much.

One day, when I was talking about transportation in class, I asked the teacher how to get to a place that was far away. He answered by air. When I got home, I was so excited, I suggested to my parents to fly to see Grandpa. That day, my brother, already worn out by my innocence, explained to me that prison is a place where you can only go if you do something wrong. And I, listening to him very intently, realized that I didn’t need a plane to meet my grandfather, I needed to behave badly. So I started lying to my parents and classmates. But the days passed without me going to that place. Exhausted, I gave up.

As time went on, I learned the true meaning of prison. Not long after, my grandfather died of pneumonia. They won’t let me go to the funeral. I stayed home with my brother and watched him play the game console for hours. Years later, my grandmother stayed with him. And so life passes, as all lives pass.

Many years later, my mother decided to sell my grandparents’ house. She was reluctant at first, but she knew it was for the best. My brother and I accompanied her to empty and clean up. What would my grandmother say to us if she saw us throw away everything she had carefully kept without batting an eye. We stay away from any emotional moment. A mechanical and boring task. I took things I thought were interesting, like a small box with letters and some clothes from my grandmother.

After the cleaning day, Mom invited us to dinner at the bar below the house as a thank you. In that space, we start remembering. They laughed at me at the time because I didn’t understand what a prison was. Then we held hands and cried. We paid and went home.

At dawn, I began to read the letters. They belonged to my grandfather. I hesitated to read them. They are hers, intimate, and I know I don’t want people reading them. However, curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to do it. These are his letters from prison to my grandmother: war stories, everyday business, nothing else. He also told her that he missed her. I knew she answered him because the line implied it was a conversation between two people. I noticed that in every letter my grandfather told her that soon he would be able to go with her to the place where the sheep had rested for the summer. What kind of place would that be? I remember the pictures my grandmother took of him and the sheep, always in the same landscape, and I went to the garage to get them.

The next day, I spoke with a colleague who was familiar with the province. I updated his info and he showed me the pics. He recognized the place immediately. My curiosity was aroused. My partner told me he could come with me. I told her no, I’d rather go alone, so she explained how to get there.

The following Saturday, I didn’t mention it to my family and drove there in the morning. After the car was parked, I started walking, memorizing directions and trying not to get lost. Those things were horrific to me. After about half an hour, I stumbled upon this place. It is impossible not to recognize it. Having seen so many photos, I have etched it into my memory. He had just discovered that behind the black and white lay orange and red.

I went there for a spin. I didn’t find anything special other than the impressive scenery. However, I fell in love with it when the sun started hitting me hard and I started looking for shelter. My grandfather was referring to shadows. So I checked out the place: there was no alternative, only a small patch between those massive walls for sun protection. I go there. There was sheep droppings on the floor. I imagined it would still be a place to rest in the summer. I sat in a clean alcove thinking about them. They are together. I feel like my childhood memories, misunderstandings, doubts are all gone and I can find peace. I never even asked about my grandfather’s story. But what I want to know is the story of their love for each other.

Then I saw a plaque on the ground. Engraved with a sentence. It got some dirt after the rain so I cleaned it up until it was ready to read.

Seek the shade for another summer’s rest while you wait for me wherever you are. I would give you my heart if I could.

puff. I put my hands on my chest.

*Graduated in Psychology with a specialization in Social Intervention. He has published articles in the cultural magazines “Turia” and “Kelatza” and participated in the Quema de Artistas and Rasmia festivals. His poem “La costilla del hombre” won the fifty-eighth Teruel National Poetry Competition. In 2020, he published his first collection of poems Entropía Ediciones (Longing for Innocence).

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