She said it like it was obvious – like it was foolish that no one else was doing it. I felt the force of a stubborn will that I knew well, that I’d seen in someone I knew, many times before.
I helped her collect more wood. We collected ten pieces, maybe 15. The Mass started. She looked much older when I leaned down to see her close –skin pulled taut by the sun but for the few wrinkles framing her mouth. She smiled with five visible teeth. We tied up the wood and tucked it into her capulana, and she hoisted the makeshift sack of sticks onto her head.
I watched her walk away from me, and sensed the presence of someone I knew and loved, departing. I couldn’t let her go – not once I’d realized who she reminded me of. Not once I’d realized what she could mean to me. So I followed her into the church. Maybe she knew I wanted to stay close to her, because she beckoned me to her pew.
Once the Mass ended, I showed her where I lived, and I gave her water when she asked for it. I showed her my stove and charcoal, and walked with her for a long while back to her house, inviting myself into her life. She meant a great deal to me, for someone I’d just met.
She showed me her farm a few days later. She told me she didn’t know how old she was, and that it was becoming more difficult to eat with so few teeth. The more I saw her and visited her – watching her prepare her own corn flour, cook and cart water, travel to and from her farm alone – the more I felt a comfort, a familiar strength from home.
It's a rare thing – to sense something so familiar in another that we feel we already know them. The pride in Paulina's voice made me feel – in a deep, profound way – the presence of my mother. She was like my mother.
And so I became one of her followers.
Her name is Paulina, and she is the first of the Great Danes.
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