Funeral Story Tellers

The crowed train rides are fatal. All of the people pushing, people stumbling, falling on top of each other, smelling each other. Women arguing and laughing. Men arguing, laughing, and making gestures to the women, and ignoring the scolds in return. Children crying, and squealing. Zombie men and women trying to keep her heads high until reaching their final crypt to lay down for a night.

Now, these days of holidays celebration, kids and parents take over the streets falling victims to the seasonal commercialism. The number of people in the streets doubles and this particular ride is deadly. Of course, the people previously described here are present, and much more. I feel I’m dying with the lack of air in the room. The poor beggar next to me is currently trapped between me and the nicely dressed business man leaning against the door.

“Please stand away from the closing door…” Even the machine operator sounds annoying. I was tired after eight hours of traveling.

An old man with a 1950s hat joins the massive body salad collusion that we are all part of. He stands and looks around briskly. The beggar takes advantage and escapes swiftly though the door. Thirty minutes into our ride the man makes a comment about my enormous suitcase. This comments turns into a story, and this story turns into five minutes of hysterical laugher. He keeps going and going on his stories.

“Wow, you know so many stories,” states the very nice Puerto Rican man, I agree together with other five people.

“I was a funeral story teller you see,” says this story-teller, “in my years of youth people would pay me to tell stories in the funerals. You see, people wanted to be entrained by us. We spent hours after hours telling stories, people would stay longer that way.” People laughed, but amazed they start asking questions. Now, I find myself privileged to this old man’s history. He has something to tell me, that I want to know, and I refuse to leave the train without it.

“Interesting,” I commented, “I didn’t know people did that.” He laughs and sighs.

“Oh querida,” says he, “that is the Dominican Republic to you. I remember those says.” Here, for a slight bit of a second, I see his past flashing in front of his eyes as he stares into nothing. He starts speaking with the tone of voice of a man who has years and years of life on his shoulders, heavily and sadly. “The family of the difunto wanted us to keep people as long as possible. There was not point in having a nine days funeral if people were not present. We were their entertainers, sometimes they would even pay us fifteen pesos to cry.”

He laughs again together with everyone else who is listening, at this point I notice that means haft of the train car.

“Those were the days,” finally sighing he looks at us, “we were the funerals story tellers.”

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