I used to have this one alkansya. It was a tube wrapped in some pink velvet. It might have had a fuzzy face on it…it reminded me of a totem pole. My parents kept it for me inside their overflowing aparador, on a shelf in the center of all the clothes. Sometimes you had to reach all the way in the back, past all these chonies and tshirts and polos and blouses just to get to it.
I don’t know how long I had it for, but I know it was a pretty long time. I remember having birthdays and getting money in envelopes, and finding creative ways to fold the paper money so that it would fit through the small slit on the top surface. I remember saving leftover allowance money and depositing my piso piso into that bank. Sometimes I would take the sukli when my mother would send me to buy bread from the bakery down the street, and stash it into the alkansya before she remembered to ask for it.
I was proud of my alkansya.
After Christmas parties, my parents and I would sit at the foot of the aparador and count the money in all the envelopes that I received. We used to argue because they wanted to take some of the money and put it in the bank, but I wouldn’t let them. I wanted it ALL in the alkansya! I liked to take my little pink column, and weigh it every chance I got. I would hold it with both arms and marvel at how heavy it was! My dad would try to give me alalay and let it rest on his palm while I held it, afraid, he said, that I would drop it on my own foot. But I was strong enough. They would laugh at me when I would push it around the floor, pretending it was heavy furniture. One day, I thought, One day, I’ll get to open it! And my mind would start racing with all the things I would buy with all that money! One day…
And one day, it did come. But it wasn’t at all what I thought it would be like.
It was a few days before we were leaving for the United States. The aparador was empty, vacant of all the cottons and jerseys and polyester that once cluttered it. There were huge maletas everywhere, clothes strewn about, our belongings suspended in a state of “to bring, or not to bring.” And there it was, alone on the aparador shelf: my alkansya.
My parents were whispering to each other, which signaled that it must have been about me because there were only three of us in the room. I think I was folding a shirt into a bag when they called me over. I don’t remember the words that were said, but they were said softly. He touched my arm, and she held my hand. They explained the need, and it was important. They promised.
I was frozen for a moment, and then I nodded.
Papa stood up and walked over to his side of the bed. He picked up his itak, this big bolo he kept by his pillow “in case of an emergency.” Mama reached inside the closet and took out the alkansya, and set it on the floor. He took off the sheath to the itak, and he looked at me one last time. I looked him straight in the eye, and then he swung.
He sliced it almost perfectly in half, and all I could hear was the sound of coins spilling onto the linolium floor.
I didn’t cry. I just stared at it.
I think that was the moment I grew up.