Dirty Laundry, the Telephone Game and Accountability…
Like every Friday, V left early to work on the new road in our village. And like every other Friday, the motley crew ended their cement mixing at noon to go to Zitacuaro, stand in a long line in a government office, and pick up their meagre weeks pay.
V had my shopping list in his pocket and would bring the missing ingredients for posole when he returned in the evening.
Well evening came but V did not return. The sun went down, the kids and I ate a late dinner and went to sleep. A while later I woke up and noticed that he still wasn’t home. It was after 9, so I called his phone. No answer. I waited, and waited but still nothing. Midnight passed. No longer tired, I decided to just get up. I sat in the kitchen in the dark until 1am, when I heard the dogs barking. Then the gate quietly opened and shut, followed by footsteps that I could tell were meant to be quiet. Clumsy tip-toeinng to the back of the house then the sound of the locked door handle.
I flipped on the kitchen light and opened the door. V stumbled around the corner, through the door and fell into the nearest chair. He had his hand over his eyes shielding them from the bright light. I observed him for a moment and asked why he’s so late. And more importantly, where is the truck? He moved his hand away and I noticed he had something black all over his face. He didn’t seem to be aware of it though.
“Ohhhh….. Frickin line was too long. I got late. Then the police stuck me and take the frickin truck because I don’t have the papers…. I have to call my brother to come get me….”
My kitchen now smells like a bar. I ask how much he’s had to drink. One beer, he says. I stare at him in disbelief. Ok, two beers. I don’t blink. Yeah, three beers, thats it…. What I can’t drink a beer…?
So he tells me he will walk to town in the morning, buy the things on my grocery list and bring them home before he goes to figure out how to get the truck. He staggers off to his room and passes out.
The next morning he leaves before anyone wakes up. Around mid morning I begin to wonder where he is with my chicken, so I call his phone. No answer. I wait, call again, no answer. Well I’ve had about enough of this! So I make another call, this time to his mother’s house. The house keeper answers. I tell her I’m looking for Valentin, and using my best español, I briefly tell her about the previous nights shenanigans. She promptly hangs up on me! That went well.
About twenty minutes later two of V’s sisters are seen running down my driveway, yelling. I run outside to see what’s going on. After a string of rapid fire spanish and excited wild gesturing, I finally understood that they ran to my house as fast as they could after the house keeper told them that V was missing and the police were at my house trying to take the truck!!! I explained to them what really happened, and after exchanging some words, they said they were going to go find him and get to the bottom of this for me….
They left and I went back to what I was doing. A little while later I see V’s brother running down the driveway! (Keep in mind, we live far outside of the small town and nobody ever comes here.) This is the brother that was part of the late night rescue after whatever had transpired with the mexican police. Also, unlike the sisters, he speaks a fair amount of english. He gets right to telling me what happened. In his version, they went to the city to get paid. Somewhere along the way the truck broke down and now it’s with a mechanic in Zitacuaro being repaired as we speak. V is working in Zitacuaro, but will be home in an hour or two depending on when the truck is ready. He doesn’t know why V told me the police stopped him. After the truck broke down, they had a few beers and then he drove V home.
Huh. Ok… V never told me he was working in Zitacuaro, I thought he was working right here in town. Anyway, hours pass, still not answering the phone… When he finally arrives home near dusk, with the truck, I have lost all interest in speaking to him. For two days I deliver the silent treatment, knowing that I wont believe anything he says anyway.
On the third day, I decide to ask what really happened. I said tell me something true. So this is what he said…
He went to get his pay in Zitacuaro but it took longer than normal. Afterwards, he went with the work crew, including his brother, to drink beers. They drank a lot and lost track of time. The garage that the truck was parked in had closed by the time they came back so they had to take a taxi home…
So, here is yet ANOTHER version of the same evening…..
Well later that day, the brother came to our house again to talk with V. So I asked him why he told me the story about the truck breaking down? He tried to say something but couldn’t really get any point across. So I turned and asked V why he told the story about the police? He couldn’t come up with a solid answer either. So then I offered the third story, about the parking garage and asked them both which story was true?
Then I asked both of the brothers WHO IS LYING?
The brother shoved his hands in his pockets, started mumbling and backing away… Then he literally turned and ran away up the driveway to the road! He hasn’t been back.
V sat where he was cleaning the corn and didn’t say anything.
These were their individual responses to being held accountable. I have never experienced a grown up physically running away after being caught in a lie. It was interesting, and I realized very clearly, once again, that the men here are never made to be accountable for their actions. They do whatever they want and the women, for the most part, sit quietly by and take it. Subservient, cooking and washing and never speaking up or talking back.
Well not me. I’m just four short weeks away from delivering a baby, I run a household single-handed with three kids under five and this huge belly. V picked a really bad time to start drinking and lying about it. And the brother should know better than to try to deceive an independent, intelligent American woman.
The moral of the story is be honest and clearly communicate the truth. Every time. All of this could have been avoided with one simple phone call. The house keeper could have asked a question if unclear before hanging up the phone. The brother could have chosen not to concoct an elaborate story to cover for V. And most of all, V could have chosen to come home to the hot meal that was waiting for him.
Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!