We were in September, and the sun had been hiding away for many days from Chiloé, a southern island of petite Chile, and rain thudded the brick-tiled roof unabashedly. As I shivered after a shower on a cold evening in Castro and to avoid getting scolded by my host mother when she would have seen my wet hair at dinner, I walked down to warm my head near the kitchen fire.
My host mother, who was already sitting at the round, wooden dining and sipping mate from her cup, called me to join her while patting the thick sofa cushion on her left. Perched on her right, the British volunteer, who was also teaching English with my program, rolled his eyes as he saw me accepting her invitation and approaching them. Respecting our usual friendly banter and rekindling the Indo-British feud, I threw some bad words in his direction.
Then as the three of us huddled at the dining and sipped tea in the cozy kitchen of our uninsulated home, my host mother told us that her brother had just come home to request some wine, and then she warned us not to trust him as he was an alcoholic.
Though I had seen her brother visit us every day, eat bread and cheese at the dining, drink wine, of which she kept a big bottle in her kitchen especially for him, I never realized that he was an alcoholic. Maybe I was focusing on cracking the heavy Spanish that darted to and fro between the siblings.
But his alcoholism was not the devastating part of the story.