Lawton Hill

So the adults called it in the far off years of my childhood. It was, and still is, along Giral street where it led to Dolores Avenue, near the old slaughterhouse. On one side, toward the railroad tracks, there was a huge metal water tank. It was one of the neighborhood kids’ favorite places. Going up the hill was like a great excursion. We always went with an older person, because we thought it was too far. We would go some Sunday, after lunch, as the sun was going down. We’d get ready and start walking along the winding paved road, which we called a street, between cattle farms, crossing the bridge of the tortoises. Our dogs would come with us. It was rich in stones and gravel and almost completely bare of trees; just small thorny bushes. We’d nimbly climb the natural terraces until we got to the top. Once there, we’d breath the pure fresh air of the heights, looking all around as far as we could see: to the side of the tank, the cattle trains heading for the slaughterhouse; toward Dolores Avenue, a few scattered brick houses; toward Giral street, land and more land with scented shrubs and more cattle; and behind us, small villages with dirt roads, adjoining El Moro castle.

We stayed there until late in the afternoon, looking across at the huge flocks of blackbirds on their daily flight from Managua, El Calvario and other places, to the trees in the Paseo del Prado and Fraternity Park, where they slept. There were days when we saw the Firestone or Goodrich blimp pass over, with signs painted on their gray sides, or trailing some enormous red banner with Coca Cola in white letters, or political propaganda for some candidate for mayor or president.

The road back was always longer than the way there (at least so it seemed), and in those childhood times the fear of ghosts instilled terror in us. Why bring up these memories. It happens that a few years ago, forty years after these happy and enthusiastic visits to the hill, by a twist of fate, after having been to many mountains in my own country and in Europe, Africa and Central America, I found myself back on that hill. It was not the same. It seemed small and insignificant, surrounded by a belt of poor settlements (much poorer than before). I did my work and, when everyone retired, I sat down to think. Like a strange hallucination, it seemed that my life had drawn an enormous circle back to the same starting point. It was a violent clash with the reality of the passage of time, and now retired and dedicated to writing, I revisited it. In reality, the existence of a person is made up of their successes and failures, their pleasant and unpleasant times, their usefulness and idleness, happiness and sadness. And so it has been for me as well, but of all the hills and mountains I have known, I prefer my Lawton hill as it was in my childhood.

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