Chapter 70

My room. Warm, soft. It feels so good!

I move to stretch and my legs burn. My nightmare in Mexico was not a dream. My face is warm and very dry. My tongue feels like it’s coated in wax. I brush large amber rocks from each eye, and my room slowly comes into focus.

I must have been out cold, but I don’t remember any dreams. That makes sense, considering every waking moment of the last week had been a nightmare.

My bed is so soft and warm, and I have my digital alarm clock to tell me the time whenever I want. Nine o’seven. Nice.

Memories of my adventure come cascading back like the shuffling of a mental deck of cards. The desert, the underwear tree, Roselyn, Uncle Carlos, Grandma, I have the blood, the party, El Burrito Crazy, Cheech, border shark, jails, horses, the bull, beer, tequila, drug tunnel, so many jails, fishing! Mexico, family, border, job, meeting, my alarm clock—Nine o’ seven. Ay-yay-yay! I was hoping to meet Robb at the restaurant before it opens today, so we’d have time to talk before it gets busy.

I jump up and pain rips through my entire body.  As I stagger over to the shower, I marvel at it’s design and ingenuity like it was just installed this morning.

I find a good, warm temperature and jump in. It burns my face, neck and hands so I turn it down a lot, lather up, rinse off, jump out and grab a towel.  I begin patting myself dry, not wanting to feel the friction of the towel grating over my sensitive, sunburned skin.

The white clothes I wore the last couple of days are on piled on the floor. They are the color of dirt. Did I walk around in public in those?

Wow, I got dark! And thin. I must have lost twenty pounds. I barely notice the person with the funky farmer’s tan staring back at me in the mirror. The Saint Christopher’s medal is hanging around my neck. It feels natural, like I’ve always had it on.

Hey, I’m starting to grow a mustache. Nice. I’ll leave it for now. I’m very careful shaving the rest of the face—it’s tender.

Ay yay yay! A toothbrush. I never thought I’d see a day where I was so grateful to have a toothbrush. I take an extra minute and really scrub my teeth, but they still look a bit brown after I’ve finished. I’ll have to do this again later. As I comb my hair, the mirror stops me. It has a suggestion.

I part my hair to the side just to see . . . It’s my dad; he’s smiling at me in the mirror. I do look like him. Eyes, nose, mouth; all his. So is the mustache. I throw on some jeans, underwear, socks, a shirt and head back to the mirror. Perfect! Now all I need is a big black horse.

I head toward the door and see the plastic baggie with the slips of paper with the phone numbers and addresses is sitting on the counter. I must have put it here last night when I got home.

For the most part they are worn, yet legible. A couple of them have some ink that ran a bit, but it’s darkest where they wrote, so I can still see the names and phone numbers. Others, written in pencil, fared even better. Even the paper held up pretty good, considering the journey they’ve gone through. I smile as I think that family is stronger than the border that separates us. I get a very warm feeling, verging on emotional.

Opening the front door, I see grey clouds moving eastward. It looks like it might rain. I run to the closet to get out my jacket. The cardboard box at the bottom of the closet doesn’t look so scary any more.

I put it on the sofa and open it. Right on top, as if waiting for me, are two very happy people. Dad was solidly built; he probably did a lot of hard work in his day. He sure didn’t belong to a gym, not in those days. Did they have gyms back than? I should work out.

Sadness creeps back into my heart like a bitter aftertaste. My eyes blur. I can’t even tell what I’m feeling right now. My whole world has changed so much. Everything I thought I knew: I didn’t. I don’t even know who I’m supposed to be any more. What if I had not gone down there? What if I never learned the truth? What if I never met my relatives? Would I have grown up living a lie? My whole life would have been a waste of time and energy. What am I supposed to do now? Do I check Hispanic, or Latino on registration forms? Am I really in trouble with the border people? Do I have a record in Mexico? Do I have a record here? After all, I’m a citizen and it’s not against the law for a citizen to enter America. I touch my St. Christopher’s medal through my shirt. Am I a Catholic, or what?  Who is Pancho Villa? What am I supposed to do with my life? What’s going to fill this empty hole where I used to store my anger? My insides feel like an echo chamber of confusion. I feel hollow and exposed.

Something breaks inside me and I surrender to it. I’m just too tired to hold it back any longer. Years worth of emotions come flooding down my cheeks. I’m sorry Dad. I’m so, so sorry.

 

 

 

After a few minutes I wipe my face and get myself together. I have a feeling I’m gonna need some serious counseling some day.

My father would not grow to be much older than this photo. Not much older than me right now. Just a few years, really. What a short life. At least it looks like he found happiness. I study the similarities in the eyes and forehead. I also notice some differences, which don’t seem the same as before.

My dad, at about the same age as I am now, had ventured across a dangerous border, bringing only his wits and his belief in himself. His future held the promise of a life more than poverty on a mountaintop, in his father’s house. He supported his family. He was an asset, sending money back home, worked two jobs, lived on his own, and married the woman he loved. I’m still living at home with my mom.

Hanging above the TV, a medium-sized print of a trolley car going down a steep hill in San Francisco. It’s the center of the room. I never really paid much attention to it before. It feels out of place now.

Picking up the wedding picture, I walk over and remove the San Francisco print and replace it with my parent’s picture, then stand back for a better view. I bet Mom will be happy when she comes home and sees it hanging proudly in the house.

I put the trolley car picture in the closet, but leave the box out in the living room. I’ll want to explore it more when I get home. I stop to look one more time at the picture on the wall.

 

The picture stays in my mind as I walk to work in the light drizzle of another early Arizona rain. Sure could have used this rain yesterday. Thanks!

Mike J Quinn About Mike J Quinn
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