I can say that I worked in different trades throughout my life. I had different jobs, I did different things, I was the one in charge and I was also in the lowest rung of the labor hierarchy, all the jobs left me something special and wrote an important chapter in the book of my life. My first job, although it didn't help me much in improving my work experience, did leave me unforgettable moments.
My first job consisted of cleaning the windows in my dad's tailor's shop.
Loli Tailoring was the business that provided us with all the financial security the family had. It was half a block from the Plaza Mayor of Lima, one block from the Government Palace and the Cathedral of Lima, and only a step away from the Municipality of Lima. Due to its location, my father was able to serve presidents, politicians and "important" people from the local scene.
The business was very fruitful while the fashion for wearing suits on a daily basis lasted, and especially when they were used for almost every occasion. Although my father did not directly participate in the making of the suits, he did other types of activities such as taking the measurements, distributing the work, buying the cuts of fabric and other supplies that were needed for the preparation.
Regarding my work, after a quick training by my father, I started with the Saturday job that consisted of cleaning, one by one, the windows of the store where combinations of shirts and ties, cufflinks for shirt sleeves, accessories and toiletries, in addition to the counters, the store had two other large display cases where my brother showed us his good taste in decoration with his sets of perfectly coordinated sweaters, shirts and pants.
For me, the windows that I liked to clean the most were those of the large window that overlooked the portals of the Plaza de Armas, there I had to climb and clean with the special liquid? Do I still remember its smell? and a beige cloth that, when I reached that point after almost finishing all my work, used to be completely wet, at the foot of that window was where, at the end of my day, I extracted from one of the pockets of my pants, two carts to start my break playing solo.
A few meters from the window, two or three street vendors almost always set up, offering alfajores, pencils and sixth stamp paper for paperwork in the municipality and sweets accompanied by the classic shoe shiners.
During one of my games I noticed the insistent gaze of the lady who sold alfajores who, smiling, watched me sitting on her small bench where she used to offer her sweets with her tray on her knees. I have a son about your age, he told me. How old are you child? What's your name son? He kept asking without stopping smiling, I'm going to bring him the other Saturday so they can play.
Don't think that I forgot about Carmen's promise? I think that's what she was called? and I waited for that Saturday with great concern, that day I cleaned the windows much faster than usual to be able to go out and clean the window as soon as possible.
He greeted me politely saying: my name is Victor, and you? He stretched out his hand to me, it was the first time someone had introduced himself to me with such formality. My name is Pablo, I'm six, I said, he smiled.
Víctor was a boy with a lively look, his gestures betrayed a propensity for intense activity, with straight black hair cut almost close to the head, brownish skin. Did he ever tell me: we are almost the same color? he was wearing a plaid shirt and well-pressed jeans.
We played a lot with my carts. I remember that I had carried six hidden carts, we were playing for a long time until I heard the noise of the metal curtains closing announcing that it was time to go home for lunch. See you the other Saturday, said Víctor.
This is how many Saturdays passed where Victor's presence within my world of work became more and more familiar, we would go shopping together. Don't get detached from him, he's "more alive," my sister whispered to me. We wandered through the Jirón de la Unión, we went up and down the escalators of Sears, which was one of the few department stores, and we climbed the elevators of the Oechsle store where the elevator operator always looked at us suspiciously.
We put ice cream sticks in the pool in the square, we drank sugarcane juice at his friend "the landlord Luis" and once he tried to invite me a "cevichito" that he used to "gorrear" from his mother's street friends. We also played inside the tailor shop, we went up and down from the attic to the basement racing before the astonished gaze of my dad's employees who murmured and questioned that as the son of the street vendor he could play with the son of the owner.
Víctor was invited to my house for lunch and also to my seventh birthday party. I remember that he arrived well combed, dressed in new clothes that I had never seen on him before and with a gift in his hand that he gave me as soon as he entered. I hope you like it, he told me shyly.
After my birthday we saw each other again a few more Saturdays and it was on one of them that Víctor asked me if I wanted to go to a secret place that he was forbidden to go to, it's the pet market, but you have to cross Avenida Abancay, I said; I've already crossed it several times, but I don't know why my mom says it's dangerous. Come on, I told him. Let's go then, answered Victor happily.
Crossing Abancay avenue was worse than I had imagined, but Víctor deftly stood next to a couple who were crossing with their shopping bags, dodging all kinds of minibuses, cars, motorcycles, and tricycles full of fruits and vegetables.
Upon arriving at the famous pet market, a whole block full of exotic, wild and domestic animals awaited us in captivity inside their cages. There was a bird section where the colorful macaws and albino cockatoos stood out. Inside the exotic zone there were little monkeys the size of a hand, even a small feline? According to Victor it was a jaguar?.
The pets were predominantly puppies with their ears glued on to make them look like German shepherds, they make good watchdogs they advertised.
We walked the animal market up and down several times and I remember feeling like I wanted to have a big house and have all those animals to myself. Can you imagine if we let them all loose? They look sad, I don't like injustices, he told me when we were already walking back.
The following Saturday I waited until the last moment to say goodbye, I was going to go with the whole family to spend the end of the school vacation season at my uncle Lucho's farm. I'm sure we'll see each other again, he told me. Sure, I managed to say. I gave him inside a shoe box? Secretly from my mother? three of the cars he most liked to play with: the Batman one that fired plastic bullets, a gray James Bond car, and the black Green Hornet car. Here, it's for you, I told him and gave him a hug.
I never saw Víctor again, although sometimes he appears in my dreams crossing Abancay avenue with me and, this time, freeing all the animals from the pet market.
This story is dedicated to Víctor Santisteban ?55?, cowardly murdered during one of the protest marches along Abancay Avenue against the government of Dina Boluarte. Víctor was killed by a tear gas canister fired directly at him at very close range by a member of the Peruvian National Police.
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