By Juan Montoya
Next time you're in downtown Brownsville and find yourself near the corner of Madison Street and 14th Street, look at the house on the north side.
It is across the street from the new Cueto Building parking lot used by UTB now.
We had a friend who related an experience he had just recently (about three weeks ago) that set him thinking.
We have all heard of the apparition of ghosts across International Boulevard at Texas Southmost College. The late Yolanda Gonzales used to tell of janitors telling her of an old lady dressed in black looking for her son within the walled courtyard of the student union. After she had left, the janitors would wonder how she had managed to climb over the high fences surrounding the courtyard before she disappeared into the darkness.
Our friend said he had spent a night of carousing with some people who are tenants of the house on the corner and that – since it was after 3 a.m. – he had taken up their invitation and crashed in a roll up bed in the covered common area between the house and a building in the back of the property.
The back building used to be some sort of garage that had been converted into apartments. There was no inside toilet and the only bathroom was shared by the dozen or so tenants from the big house and appended one-room apartments.
Just as daybreak approached, our friend woke up and realized he was sleeping in the roofed common area and turned to look at the apartment across the slab. There, standing framed by the door of the apartment, was a kindly-looking middle-aged Hispanic woman. There was nothing unusual about her. She was dressed in light brown polyester pants and had a light colored flowered blouse. Her stringy hair was dyed ash blonde as many ladies dye theirs in in this area. In other words, a nondescript, everyday appearing lady, one of the many one is apt to meet in the streets of downtown Brownsville.
He looked at her and said good morning.
"Buenos dias, señora," he said.
She walked over close to to where he was on the roll away and answered.
"Bueno dias. Como amaneciste, mijito? (Good morning, how are you, son?")
"Bien, gracias, señora," our friend said he replied.
"Hay, que bueno," she replied and walked back into the door of the small apartment.
He dozed off for another half hour or so and then woke up to see one of the male tenants standing at a distance by the entrance to the roofed common area. He was already holding a 24-ounce can of beer in a brown paper bag. He knew him, our friend said, because he was one of those car washers who plied his wares downtown carrying a plastic paint bucket looking for customers.
"Ya estas pistiando?," he asked him. ("You drinking already?")
"Yeah, the store on the corner starts selling beer at 7 a.m., but since they know me, I can get it at 6:30," he said.
"Hey, bro,' said out friend, "where can I take a pee?"
"Go into my apartment all the way to the corner where the concrete slab ends and you can take a pee in the dirt there," aid the car washer. "No one will bother you."
"But what about the señora who lives there?," asked out friend.
"What señora?," said the other. "I'm the only one who lives there. Go ahead."
Our friend went into the door where he had seen the woman enter and looking around saw only the bed used by the car washer and the usual single-man possessions. At the far end of the corrugated metal building he saw where the cement slab ended ended and the dirt began and he relieved himself.
Once outside, he told the car washer about the lady he had seen and spoke to.
"Aqui espantan," said the other, knowingly. 'They tell me that a doctor used to have a clinic next door where he would treat people who had been shot by the Texas Rangers many years ago. Maybe that was someone looking for one of her relatives."
Needless to say, our friend says he has never gone back anywhere near the house and avoids being near it when he can.
"I don't know who she was, but I know I talked with her," he asserts. "Maybe she was my guardian angel, one of the good ones. I really don't want to know."