Hello, my name is Giuseppe Caputo and I send a greeting from my place in Bogotá, Colombia. I am going to read an episode called
“The mirror and the shield”. It goes as follows: The glass that separates me from the sky —which I sometimes
call a window— has a portrait of my mother. Blurry, surrounded by a black world, I can see it from
my bed as I recall the dream I just had: It was dawn, like now.
My mom and I were walking down a dark road. Halfway through, amidst the dust, our bed
appeared —this same bed on which I am now sleeping alone. As we approached it, my mom began grumbling, “That’s not our bed!”,
she screamed, and continued on her way —her face was dusty, just as the path.
“I am lost; I need to rest.” Confused, I followed her as we left our bed far behind. Then a strong wind, like the tail-end of a hurricane, began throwing
stones at us —stones and boulders until the sun was completely out. “Be careful!” I warned her, squatting and
covering my head with my hands. But to protect herself, my mom started to run:
farther and farther away from me. The rocks grazed us in passing. I called out
to her “Mother, where are you going?” From the distance, she called back,
“Quickly, come, run!”—as she opened her arms to receive me. “What are you doing there?” In my dream I thought, “My mother has found a hiding place,
a roof to protect us at last.” Relieved, I ran towards her—the raging wind
was still throwing rocks at us: more than one would hit my face. “Run,”
mother cried again, and I ran. “Come quickly!” When I reached her side, she hid behind me. “What shall we do?” I asked. “Where shall we go?” “I don’t know,” she said, still hiding behind me.
“I don’t know. Stay here, and don’t move.” I woke up a moment ago, right when
a stone was about to hit me —and still in my dream I thought:
“That rock won’t hurt my mother: I will shield her from the blow.” For quite some time, exactly as in that dream,
I was my mother’s shield. Once, pointing at a door, she asked me —this is a
very old memory, we were wandering downtown—: “Go inside and tell the man I won’t be able
to pay him back. I’ll wait for you around the corner.” So I opened the door and said to the man: “My mom says to tell you she can’t pay back.”
He insulted me. He called me: “Rascal.” He called us: “Shameless.” And he went on,
with more anger: “Like mother, like son.” I stood there waiting for him to yell whatever
else he wanted. “I won’t lend her money again! Tell her not to ask me for money ever again!”
He insulted us some more. And then he said: “Get out of here!”,
and mentioning my mother he added: “Tell her at least to show her face!” I looked for her around the corner. “How was it?” she asked. “Was he upset?” I wanted to say:
“Not that much,” but instead I responded: “Yes, a lot,” because I wanted her to kiss me.
And my mom kissed me, I knew her all right: if an errand didn’t go well,
she would cuddle me. We went ahead to another door. “Ask the lady
if she can lend us some money. Tell her we’ll take anything, a bill, a coin.
I’ll wait for you around the corner.” So, I opened the door and again spoke in my mother’s place: “Good morning, ma’am. My mom asks if you
can lend us some money. We’ll take anything, a bill, a coin.” The lady insulted me. “How dare you?”
Her eyes were now wide open. “You already owe me a lot and you want more? How dreadful! It’s sad to see what your mother
is teaching you! Don’t ever turn into that.” After the roar of insults, I asked: “Turn into what, ma’am?” And she added: “Don’t turn into someone like her.” So, I went to the corner to meet my mother.
“How was it?” she asked. I answered: “Not good, she won’t lend us anything.”
Looking worried, she kissed me. We wandered about a little bit more. “I need to find a job,”
she said, and begged God for patience —a lot of patience. “It’s always the same thing,” she complained, “
always the same thing.” In the next corner, as if God had heard her wish,
a sign was hanging on the door. “Now hiring,” it read in yellow letters.
My mother instructed me: “This is it. Wait for me out here,
but before entering she asked, “How do I look? Do I look alright?
I replied: “Yes.” Then she crouched down—until we were face to face— and asked again: “Really? Do I look well?
Tell me the truth, how do I look?” For quite some time, I was my mother’s
shield as well as her mirror. I told her, “You look fine, I’ll wait for you out here.” Mom entered; she was inside for a long time.
When she came out —I was sitting on the curb just outside the
door— she sighed and said, “Nothing.” I kissed her: when life didn’t treat her well, I cuddled her. “I am tired, that’s it. You can see it in my
eyes and in my back that I’m tired… Look how hunched I am.” I repeated,
“You look fine, you don’t seem tired.” My mother didn’t hear me. “It’s very difficult
to find a job this way: I’m old and burnt out.” We sought our way back home. In a corner
a few blocks down, a woman saw us and smiled. “Like mother, like son”, she said. “You can’t deny it”.