Monday, April 13, 2015

Picadillo a la Habañera

On Thursday morning, Ángel woke up drenched in a cold sweat.  He sat up bleary-eyed and racked his brain, trying to figure out what had happened the night before.  As he pondered, each detail slowly returned, more vivid with each passing second.

Ángel had been following a young boy out of a dark tunnel.  The sides of the tunnel were coated with grime and Ángel had to step over large chunks of rubble on the floor as he struggled to keep up with the boy.  But Ángel knew that the boy would lead him out of the tunnel, into the light.  He followed the boy for hours, tracing a seemingly endless path of labyrinthine passages.  Finally, a light emerged in the distance, and Ángel began to speed up, hastily stumbling over the odds and ends that filled the tunnel, trying to grasp the boy for support as he reached for the end of the tunnel.  In his haste, Ángel knocked the boy over and continued without him.  He crossed the threshold into a brilliant light, but he looked back and saw that the boy had not come with him.  The boy lay in the shadows of the tunnel, nursing a fresh wound.  No matter how hard he tried, Ángel could not enter the tunnel again.

Ángel had renounced any belief in a righteous God soon after the Spanish Civil War, but he still believed there was some kind of alternate spiritual dimension that occasionally interacted with reality.  He could travel through time to revisit old times and old friends with such vividness that seeing the future did not seem too far fetched.  Dreams were powerful, and Ángel did not like the feeling of this dream.  It came so soon after Ángel had taken in a new child.   It didn’t seem right.  It could not be a good omen.

Despite his nervousness, Ángel continued preparing for the day.  He began to prepare a dish of rich paella, but he stopped.  Ángel pondered the dream and the Cuban boy, and decided to make sure that the boy felt at home.  He reluctantly cleaned up the paella that he had started, and began preparing a new dish, picadillo a la Habañera.  The leftover smells of the paella still wafted through the air, and they floated among the new Cuban notes of the picadillo.  Ángel was no longer at home, in Spain.  He had started a new journey.

On his way out of Dreamwood Terrace, Ángel bumped into a reclusive-looking middle-aged woman.  She gave him a knowing look, and turned away.  As she left, she spoke over her shoulder, “Good luck with the new developments…”

A New Son

On Wednesday, Ángel’s life was turned completely upside down.  He woke up as normal and made his way to New Hope Children’s Home.  But the moment he entered the building he was overwhelmed by a raucus cacaphony.  The hubub of an energetic debate emerged from the conference room of the Children’s Home.  Overwhelmed with curiosity, Ángel decided that he had worked in the background long enough.  He shambled up to the old oak door and peered inside.

Through the scattered voices and excited traces of conversation, Ángel gathered that New Hope had been given a new child, a young Cuban boy who’s family had immigrated to America only several weeks before.  The family fled from persecution by Raul Castro, but they had no greater luck in America.  The small, ill maintained apartment that they rented had a gas leak, and an accidental had caused an explosion.  Everyone in the family but the boy died.

The boy had not lived in America long enough to learn English, and the New Hope did not have the resources to develop a language program for him.  Moreover, New Hope was already occupying above capacity, and Ángel knew that they could not justify accepting another child.  Sensing that he would not be much help in such a trying time, Ángel slipped out of the room again and shuffled down the hall to begin his daily activities.

Ángel did not get far.  The new Cuban boy sat alone in a room to the side of the hallway, looking at his feet.  Ángel could not resist entering the room.  As Ángel peered down at the youngster, he heard his father’s voice and felt dust in his face.  Ángel looked up and saw the walls of a bullfighting arena, and he was back in Spain.  “¡Ataca!  ¡Ataca!  Cuídate, mira a la izquierda.  ¡Ahora sí!  Tienes el control,” his father yelled from the side.  Ángel nervously eyed the bull, absorbed in the fight.  He felt his father’s caloused hands on his shoulders, and leaned away from the fight into their comforting embrace.

Ángel knew that he could not allow this child to grow up alone.  He made his way back to the meeting room and announced that he would foster the child.  He had saved up the money to be able to, and he was able to speak Spanish.  He was the perfect fit.  Everyone agreed, and Ángel’s coworkers quickly filled out the forms for him to foster the child.  By the end of the afternoon, Ángel was the legal guardian.

As Ángel walked home with the boy, he suddenly felt very old and very tired.