Thursday, February 26, 2015

Wanted and Unwanted Memories

For the first time in nearly 70 years, Ángel looked out of his window when he woke up.  The clear blue light of midmorning washed over him, painting him in a soft, flattering light.  Ángel had slept in through his alarm, he realized.  He quickly got dressed and made his way down the street.  New Hope was giving haircuts in exchange for donations, and the fundraiser was expected to be the largest of the year.  Ángel needed to attend.

Across the street from Ángel, a young woman gazed into the fountain, her hair floating on the breeze.

Ángel stopped.  He knew this woman.  He had seen her before.  The creaky cogs in his mind began turning, slowly searching his vast vaults for some connection.  Suddenly, he realized.  Hazel.  She had grown up at New Hope, playing and laughing and eating for nearly 10 years before Ángel’s eyes.  Another piece clicked into place.  She had been in the Home just a few days before, and he had caught a glimpse of her just as she turned a corner.  How stupid of him to not even think of it at the time.  Why had he never talked to her?

Ángel approached the woman to see if she might remember him, and there was suddenly a deafening screech of tires.  A blue bomber swooped low over Ángel, dropping its cargo over the Popular Front troops.  There was a smattering of gunfire and Ángel heard the scream of a man as the ground exploded next to him.  A dismembered body fell out of the sky onto Ángel, and he caved under the weight.

Ángel returned to the present and found himself kneeling on the sidewalk.  Once the noise had lowered to the excited hum of onlookers’ conversations, Ángel looked up and tried to process the scene.  It from people’s conversations, he gathered that a blue Subaru had come careening around the corner toward Hazel.  A young man had ducked in to push her out of the way, but had pushed her into Ángel.  She glanced off of him and went tumbling into a sinkhole in the middle of the road, where she was lying presently.

Ángel had not come for this.  He left and quickly ducked into O’Harley’s to recover.  The smoky room served to obscure his thoughts and dull his senses.  Ángel sat down next to a young man and ordered a whiskey.  The young man was inebriated and apoplectic about the rates on student loans.  He began to yell, and Ángel was overwhelmed by the noise.  He left the bar without even looking at his drink.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


The bell tolled at New Hope on Monday.  Ángel broke down in tears in the hallway.  The child was 3 years old and died of a bad case of bronchitis.  Ángel had not known the child.  He would never know the child.

Through the iron tones of the bell, Ángel heard the incessant clinking of a Ruby semi-automatic pistol.  He watched as a young Republican embraced his newly wedded wife with tears in his eyes and went to stand facing a courthouse wall.  He heard gunfire as his best friend collapsed to the ground next to him, having taken a bullet to protect him.  He felt the heat of the explosion that took his abuelita.

The bell tolled for the child, but also for the countless men and women Ángel had watched die and the countless men and women he had neglected to watch die.  It tolled for Ángel.  When Ángel had committed suicide in 1939, he had succeeded.  The villagers had saved a walking carcass of a man.  Ángel floated through life, blissfully unaware as countless children passed through the doors of the New Hope Children’s Home.  He listened with ears of tin as molten-golden marriage bells rang in delight and brazen alarum bells rang in fright.  He sailed in serene ignorance as the years passed below him.  Men had sacrificed for Ángel, but he had cut his thread from the web of life.  He had done nothing to justify their loss.

Ángel was not happy.  Death would soon take the body of Ángel Ortega, and he feared it.  As he sobbed on the wall in New Hope, reality pounded upon him with each mournful moan and groan of the bell.  Ángel left the Children’s Home muttering to himself.  “La Parca ha venido otra vez.  La Parca vendrá pronto para mi.”

Thinking of no where else to hide, Ángel made his way to O’Harley’s.  He stumbled through the door, made his way to the counter and ordered a whiskey.  Each sip tasted of blood, but Ángel continued drinking.

As Ángel sipped his whiskey, a young man sat down next to him.  The man was in high spirits, and quickly downed six shots of Cuervo Silver.  Several minutes later, he was slumped over, with a dejected look on his face.  Ángel looked over at the sorry man.  He did not frequently talk to strangers, but this was as good a time as any to start.  Besides, he recognized the stranger’s face.  “What’s your name, son.”

"Lane Masterson."

"I thought so. I've seen you with your wife a few times back at the apartment."

"She's not my wife, or girlfriend anymore for that matter."  The man began to cry.

Ángel was not used to this, and the tears frightened him.  He turned away and contemplated the young man.  After sitting at the bar for almost an hour, Ángel spoke.

"They say life is bittersweet, but I can't say I have often tasted sweet life. I can tell you are in great pain, and I can tell you that you shouldn't be here as well. Not like this at least.  You want some advice son?"

"What the fuck do you know about pain?  What do you know about a drug taking your soul, calling you night and day, ruining everything you ever thought would make you happy?”

Ángel reeled.  His mind flashed to his abuelita, her cottage in pieces and her baking dishes shattered in the street.  He took several seconds to collect himself.

"Wipe your nose off.  Do not speak to me again like that.  I can tell you a lot about pain.  I don't normally talk to people like you, or people at all.  But you remind me of myself in a different time and place.  You’re not lost, not quite yet, but you are close.  Listen closely.

“You can not run away from reality.  You have tethered yourself to a false happiness by separating yourself from your problems.  As long as you surround yourself with an illusion, you can never be happy.  You must break free.  You must run break leave your crutches behind and begin to walk for yourself.  You want to get a better life?  Quit fighting your emptiness and sorrow with an artificial high.  Find what truly sparks your heart.  Find meaning.  You can chase empty promises and false dreams all day long.  They will never fill your emptiness."

Ángel paid and returned to the tranquility of his apartment.