many rooms, 3


December 2016

where I faced death

“My Father’s house has many rooms...”

- John, 14:2


Above the room where I faced death was a high, pitched gable roof, built with rustic wooden beams and trusses, covered with slightly overlapping asbestos-cement # 6 Eternit corrugated sheets, hooked with a few steel, mostly corroded clamps.

The nine square meters of the room were enclosed by four walls, built with hollow cement blocks, and finished with a single hand of lime wash, dampness spots and mold in the corners. One wall met the roof’s southern eave under a thin tin gutter, and was punctured by a small glassless window, which could only be closed partially with a shutter door, built with scrap wood, and hanging askew on two rusty hinges. Opposite stood a wall with a narrow threshold, where a coarse wooden door separated the room from a long hallway. Outside, this door and its wooden frame had two steel rings, for a padlock; inside, there was a cheap black iron latch. The other two walls, perpendicular to these, divided the room from the living area, on the east, and from another room, towards the coast. Aside from the first, these walls only reached the wooden trusses’ bottom chord, and were mostly unfinished on top. There was no further ceiling, except several for cobwebs.

The floor was clad with smooth, square encaustic cement tiles, twenty five centimeters on each side, colored with yellow and dark red mineral pigments in random combinations. There was no skirting between these tiles and the walls; floor and walls simply touched in an unclear edge, where the lime wash peeled off under traces of mud. Cladding started from the southwestern corner of the room, with complete tiles edging the northern and western walls. Tiles in the other two edges had been cut by hand, rather clumsily. The floor was mostly levelled, cool and clean

On this floor lay a coarse cotton mattress, bound with green and blue crude canvas-like cloth, under a nylon mosquito net, hung with several two inch long steel nails from the north and western walls of the room. Next to the mattress, lay a Coleman fuel lantern, a red plastic battery powered torch light, and a plastic bottle with drinking water. A meter and a half high five story shelf, made with leftover wood, stood next to the window, against the higher wall. On this shelf, under piles of folded, humid clothes, and three worn out books, sat an old leather duffel bag, zipped with a small traveler’s combination lock, and containing an envelope with a little cash, for emergencies.

Jorge Mejia Hernandez