He lived in my Aunt Yolanda’s closet. “Portate bien, o’ va salir El Cuco!” she used to remind me when I got a lil' rowdy. The faceless, anonymous Dominican boogeyman, an entity I had never actually seen face-to-face became my greatest fear as a child. To me, El Cuco is proof that fear is something that traverses space and time. It is a notion instilled in you that never goes away. It starts with El Cuco and as we grow older, that fear evolves into bigger, uglier monsters. Growing up, that closet door remained shut. I guess I wasn’t too bad as a kid if it was never open, right? Bueno, my aunt’s accomplice was trapped in her closet, no food, no light and I felt no empathy towards him. All I felt was fear..
Years later, I went back to my aunt’s house, a grown ass woman, una pariguaya2, yet I couldn’t shake the fear I once felt as a little girl. I walked in, besé la manó and in my peripheral I could see.. Oh my God, The closet door was open now! For the first time in my years of going over to Tia Yolanda’s crib, I can see the interior. I didn’t want to look in, but I did, I quickly glanced and snapped back. My heart beat increased, due to a mix of nearly breaking my neck turning it and trying to gather my senses to understand what I just saw. A dread-headed, slender man with no limbs stood in the shadows. Oh shit, El Cuco. In disbelief, I slowly pivoted my neck back to the entity, my eyes following 6 seconds after. I peered again...El Mapo. A Mop.
1. “Portate bien, o’ va salir El Cuco!”- “Behave, or the Cuco will come out!”
2. Pariguaya- Has many different meanings, but in this case, a Dominican word for someone who’s a punk.