Today, the news of Miss Maria Silva´s death caught us by surprise. She was our boss and example at the ACPB for years. This goes to her.
I had finished my training (now called “induction”) with Ita Valcárcel and was waiting for “the call.” It never came. So I got kind of angry, why had they made me go to training for one whole week? I couldn´t resist the temptation and went to the ACPB on Avenida Arequipa and asked to talk to Miss Silva. I had seen her only once and didn´t know what she was like, but I didn´t care, I wanted to know why they had made me waste my time.
Miss Silva is not available, said María, the secretary. I thought that maybe she didn´t want to see a Mr Nobody who wanted to talk to her for God knows what reasons. So she´s not in? I stared at her. Well, can I leave a message? She was silent, waiting. I said: Please, tell Miss Silva that I want to know if I am going to be assigned classes or not. She looked at me as if I was some kind of madman. Surely she was thinking that classes had already started! I continued: Tell her I won´t get angry if I don´t get anything but I want to know, that´s all. She pressed her lips and wrote it down.
The next day, I was summoned to her office: a little partition in a big room where she sat at a tiny desk full of papers and books and many other things: a coffee mug with pens and pencils sticking out, a table calendar with curled corners, a cup and saucer (empty), post-it tags; on the wall behind her a cork board announced the opening for teacher courses at Bell College (two years later, what a coincidence, I was sent to that same place!). The “office” was really minuscule, that´s probably why I though she was larger than she really was; or perhaps, her desk was too small. She looked at me, motioned me to sit down, put on her glasses and read a piece of paper: You asked to be assigned here in San Isidro, didn´t you? She moved her mouth in a peculiar way, as if she was about to spit something. I said I preferred San Isidro, yes, Ma´am. She Looked at me and offered me a couple of classes in Lima. The centre of the city? I thought, and almost rejected the offer but then a light that nobody saw enlightened me and my mouth, without my permission, said: OK, Lima is fine. She sent me to see the supervisor there, Miss Vicky.
Three weeks later, she called me in again. Do you still want to work here in San Isidro? She looked at me knowing in advance what I was going to say. Since then, I taught at the San Isidro branch for almost 7 years, and took to going to see her with ideas and suggestions (that she listened to attentively). Sometimes, she just sat there with her eyes closed, I would stop my talk thinking she was falling asleep, but she wasn´t. It´s the migraine, she said to me once, and you´re wearing a yellow shirt. Yellow made her headaches wake up, and they never left easily.
Miss Silva was loved, respected, feared and even hated, all at the same time. And I understood the different feelings. She wasn´t easy to content. She wasn´t there to make anybody happy either. Her presence, even in the other two branches –Miraflores and Lima– was felt: she didn´t need to be there in person to really be there. That´s the type of woman she was, and will always be in the memory of those of us who remember her. So long Miss Maruja, now you´ll be keeping Ita company, and waiting for us to join you one day.