Neighbors

                The hazards, the hazards.  Lince was certainly not the most inner of the inner cities.  Yet her neighborhood became a center for drug dealing.            The house, like most houses in
Lima, had a “front” entrance and a “back” entrance, but they were both on the street.  In the earlier days it had been a one family house with a small patio and servant’s quarters in the rear.
            A widow and her unmarried daughter and brain-damaged son depended on the income they could gain from renting the house.  They occupied the second floor, renting the first floor to various small businesses through the years.  The third floor was rented to two or three families, a room to each.            The renters in the rear servant quarters had more power than the owners.  A combination of deflated money and strict rental laws made it possible for them to live there for many years, paying the rent in figures that had become the equivalent of only a few dollars in the current economy.            They sold drugs.  Consequently, day and night, mostly night, all sorts of characters came and went through the side passage, which was also the only way for Constantina to get to the stairway that took her to her third floor room.            As her son grew into the adolescent years, her fears grew accordingly.  Could she be sure he would “just say no” as she had taught him?  Would the neighbors slip some drugs into food or drink that he would feel obligated to accept for politeness sake?  Would he be an innocent victim in the fights that sometimes erupted among drug-crazed customers?            Her vigilance was constant.  During the early years, the little boy held her hand as she greeted her neighbors pleasantly and continued to the upstairs room, which became almost like a prison as the years passed.  As her son grew older, he learned to do the same.  As long as she lived in that room she never ceased her protective concern.  On into his twenties, if he was out with friends at night, she sat by the window and watched the street until he came home.            The side passageway was not without its drama.  A blind beggar began to come to sit against the wall every day—dirty, unkempt, surely one of the “locos” often seen in the city.  Perhaps a son for whom parents had high hopes, his brain now addled by chemical addiction.            But there was something about this beggar that piqued Constantina’s curiosity.  She had an odd intuition that he was not really blind.            One day the sensation was so strong that she asked the woman in the neighboring market stand to watch hers long enough for her to walk home quickly.  The beggar was there, and she bent down to look into his eyes.  She was convinced he could see.  Her suspicion grew that he might be an undercover agent gathering information.  In a few days there was a police raid in the neighborhood, and for several months the passageway and streets became the quiet neighborhood she desired for her son.  The beggar never returned.

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