- Posted September 2, 2012 by
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HOW COULD I TAKE THIS STORY TO THE WHOLE WORLD
I grew up in New York City where I met a character who lived in much need and it is something I can testify, for even up to this day, he has been a loyal companion. This individual has influenced my life in such a way that I can even say that he is miraculous because he had so much faith in God.
Let me explain why miraculous. One day, while biking with him and other peers on the Triborough Bridge on our way to Randall’s Island Park, as we began to plunge down the ramp, his brakes snapped and his bicycle hit against the fenders of the Bridge and I saw him in the air. Well, you know what happens when someone crashes a bike against a wall: the biker flies. And he was flying. I thought he would get killed because the fall would have been fatal. I only know that he was drawn back to the Bridge and he thought we had grabbed on to him.
He told his mom what had happened and she said that it had been her prayers; that the angels had been the ones that had grabbed him because whenever he was not beside her she would beg God to care for him and to deliver him from all evil things. That is why I believe him to be a man of faith or plainly miraculous.
His stories are very exciting and, of course, true. I know that many of you are going to identify yourselves with him and that others will be motivated. Even though I am not very eloquent I am committed to write about this personage, for if I did not, a good story would be lost. It is my privilege to proceed with the narration. It is possible that other authors will read and be inspired to write about him, also. His name is rather peculiar, with several meanings, some negative and some positive. Not that he is negative; on the contrary, he is admirable. All his life was about struggling and surviving. He used the negative things for motivation; things others would complain about. I have a lot to say about him. His name is “Centellita”. Dear reader, get ready because Centellita is at large and, maybe, you will discover that there is one deep within you.
I never thought that if I were to write a book, it would be about this character, and less that it would have to do with success. This child has been an inspiration to me all life long and I hope that the readers will be inspired by Centellita, as well. If I have been successful, I owe it to this very special human being that, in all the negative and worse experiences, saw that his future was in his hands and not in the hands of others.
CENTELLITA, WHO’S HE?
Now, I want to tell you Centellita’s story as I recall it.
This a boy called “Centellita”1; his name was not a positive thing because in his country “centella”1 is a meteor fallen from the sky or very noisy lightning. Actually, it was not that he was a bad boy but, rather, that he did not allow anyone to trample him.
Centellita was despised, not for being mischievous but for being extremely poor. He grew up in the Bronx, NY where everybody was poor and he was the poorest of the poor. He was not permitted to play with the other kids.
The mothers would tell their children “Don’t hang out with Centellita because he is going to be thief and a drug addict. What’s more, he is going to end up in prison at a young age but not you. You are going to be doctors, engineers, lawyers; so don’t you gather with that boy.”
I ask the reader if at eight years of age you are told such negative things, how would you end up in the future? According to psychologists, bad. Centellita, however, had something very special: he was a dreamer. What do you think was going to happen by prohibiting the rest of the children to play with him?
Like all children, the would always manage to be together but whenever the mothers saw them together they would shout, “I don’t want you playing with my boys because you are going to be a junkie, a thief and you’ll end up in prison. Not my kids; they are going to be upright men, doctors, engineers, lawyers… They cannot share with your kind. Furthermore, you are filthy. Look at yourself; your sweater is torn; you live from welfare and we don’t.”
Centellita would reply, “I don’t know if I’m going to be a doctor, a cop or the President of the United States and that I live from welfare but I’ll never be what you say. I promised my mom and I am a reliable man. Some day I will take her away from this poverty and I will not lose my dignity. I swear it.”
Some conviction, Centellita had! I wanted to be like him. Even today, I want to be like him because at times I get discouraged for lacking convictions. His mother did not know what was going on; he hid it from her. He did not want her to get in trouble with the other women for he knew her temper. Nonetheless, just like everything under the Sun, sooner or later it is discovered.
Some time thereafter, his mother decided to move back to their homeland where Spanish was the official language. Centellita did not know it because he only spoke English in the Bronx and did not attend a bilingual school there. In his home country he was registered in school because his mom, of course, wanted him to learn something. Despite being dyslexic, she had expectations about her son’s education.
One day, in a classroom, the teacher asked him to read something and he replied, “I don’t know how to read in Spanish.”
And in front of the whole class, she yelled at him, “What are you, a retard?”
Another name; first, thief, junkie, a prisoner to be and, now, mentally challenged. What else could a child be called? Surely, some would probably say I crawled. But no, he always kept the promise he made his mother so she would be proud of him.
At twenty-one, in a pastry shop or bakery, I don’t know how it is called in his country, he met the teacher who had called him a retard. You know that children’s faces change but that of teachers’ do not, hence, the teacher did not recognize Centellita and he said to her, “I want recite you something.”
Serene beach that envelopes its offspring with light, such brilliant task.
Its sand conquers the most deserted skin,
The sea with its majestic beauty influences some greatness.
The sky covers your skin and mine for it is a witness of your warm surface.
A small tree of abundant foliage seems a pristine and shiny castle.
Determined feet that walk on the sand,
Determined hands that hold hard.
Words that come out and only the soul hears within.
It is the simple language that conquers your face.
The teacher replied, “What is the matter with you sir, are you mad?”
“No. I am that retard in your Spanish class that could not read nor write. Now, I am a poet and a writer.”
She did not excuse herself and it was the best thing she could have done. Since her comment was like the fuel that impelled him to learn how to read and write.
Years later, Centillita decided to go visit his old friends, the “doctors, engineers and lawyers” he left back in the Bronx. He went around the whole neighborhood en reminisced of the good and bad moments but focused only on the good ones because he wanted to enjoy summer in New York. While walking along a block he came across one of the mothers that did not allow him to play with her son; she turned pale and, trembling, said, “You’re not dead?”
“Dear madam, I am very well alive!” said I.
“You are Centellita, aren’t you?”
It had been years since he was last called by his childhood nickname.
The lady goes on, “But, aren’t you in jail?”
“Don’t insult me; I am a respectable man in my country.”
Centellita inquired about her son, the doctor, and she paled again; shaking, she told him that her son had passed away. He thought that, as physician, he had been assaulted and murdered but she said, “No. He died of AIDS in prison.”
He looks at her and embraces her with pity thinking of what had happened. I don’t know if he ever thought of me but I did. I had a lot of memories of him when he cried as he saw his mother shake me. The boy only wanted to play, as all kids do. The advice he got was good but the examples were bad.
You know what the difference between the two boys was? That no one could rob Centellita of his dreams.
The day a human being allows others to rob his or her dreams, would be the day they stop being human. God gave us the power to dream!
Do you want to know who Centellita is? It’s me.
Felipe Rivera alias Centellita