Archive for February, 2015

024

Since her, I am a cultural Christian at best.
The bright spirituality of my youth, so vibrant, has waned through the years.
Petered out, as they say.
I don’t trust in God any further than I can see Him.
I see the Divine as the hope dangled before me like the proverbial carrot.
Prodding me onward, never to be satisfied with where I am.

An Unsettling Hope. Nothing more.

This diminutive spirituality of mine, I believe, is self-inflicted.
All the wrong in my life I can trace back to a singular act of cowardice.
A decision so selfish, so disgusting and perverse, I know full well that I deserve every ill that has come way because of it.

I abandoned a woman. Left her in a state of divorce, to her own devices, when she needed me the most. I committed this Cardinal Sin in full view of the sun. And now, only Night is left to me.  I had vowed before God to love her and cherish her, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health. Then I turned my back on her like some such dish at a buffet I no longer wanted. A dastardly deed if there ever was one and I wasn’t ashamed of it then.

I am now, utterly so.

Since her, all that I have loved has been unrequited. All my dreams looked upon, without the full bloom of experience. I have been on the outside, looking in. Like a phantom. The Odorous Act was insidious like that, like the loneliest little sin on the planet. A puddle in my path that to this day, I have not overcome.

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A Chronicle of “Barnia”

Posted: February 5, 2015 in Fiction

Mr. Maldonado

“…it seems like a crossroads of existence and for a small town, it might as well be.”

For a place like Kingsville ripe with paradox (a curse-of-a-small-town nestled within the largest ranch in the world), their lives seem so mundane. And by mundane I mean broken and perplexed, triumphant and forward-looking, over worked and under paid; like the rest of the world but in the microcosm that is small town living, Taking what this life gives and making anything out of it whether the best or the acceptable, I have the lot of seeing them everyday in this endeavor. It’s my job.

The frantic mother who’s always late hurrying to buy breakfast for her kids before school. The still sleepy student who, in frustration, confides in me that he still hasn’t memorized Avogadro’s number for the Chemistry quiz he has in 30 minutes – Red Bull, please! There’s Maritza. Sweet, precious, efficacious Maritza Maribel. Every time I see her I can’t help but hum the chorus to Rod Stewart’s Some Guys Have All the Luck. It tugs at my heart until what’s left of me is a platonic oblivion. Then, there is Mr. Maldonado.

I have often sat in judgment of his drinking habits which start bright and early as the dew. He drives into the Party Barn with his fingers raised in a “V.” This is the sign letting me know he wants two 24 oz Bud Lights. “Dame dos,” he always adds making sure I’ve gotten his order right. He’s always joking and there are days he checks his shirt pocket and adds Camel Filters, always in the soft pack, to his order. Most times shit he says isn’t at all funny but I’d like to think he jokes for the sake of joking, just to have a reason to let out his raucously big laugh. A laugh fraught with all the character that decades of beers and cigarettes have given him. A laugh as deep and varied as the insistent wrinkles all over his face.

My judgments often take the form of snide remarks held within myself. Thoughts like “Ah yes, the breakfast of champions,” or “Are you on a liquid diet or what?” With these, I indulge in little victories. I’ll never forget the day my judgment came to a sudden end. As usual, he drove in full of purpose, his gray Camry sporting a new spare tire. Only later did the lack of “the signal” become obvious.
Como estas, sir? Dos? I asked him before he could say a word.
Si, dame los dos, he said averting his red swollen eyes.

I plunged my hands deep into the icy water that held the coldest beer. Solemnly, he informed me, “Se me murio mi vieja a noche.” I could hear his voice cracking along the fault lines of his sentence structure. It took just a second to register and my inner voice, the one reserved for judgment, chided me: No pendejo! This is no joke. By now, his words brushed cold upon me like the water that surrounded my hands.
“Apenas vengo del hospital.”

I looked at him feeling dead in the water, wondering if I should say anything at all. Or, whether to let my silence speak for me and just listen. And really, what does one say that has any semblance of meaning at a time like that In a haste, all I could think to say was what I’ve heard my mom and countless elder relatives say at news like this: Pero como? It turns out diabetes had struck its interminable changes upon yet another soul. “No se que hacer ya. Voy a tomar hasta que me muero yo tambien.”

He offered this foresight with a rather shallow laugh, almost entirely through his nose like he was half joking. But the tears in his eyes told a rather different story. Commerce can be cruel at a time like this. With such emotion hanging in the air refusing to be denied or overlooked, the price of his purchase lingered like the proverbial white elephant in the room; oh so ready to burst the bubble of poignancy he had created. That’ll be $4.58, please. Combing through his hands, he countered: “Aqui tengo unas centavitos.” Continuing, he bleakly surmised “Pos, que le hacemos? Alla vamos todos.”
Very true, I dimly offered.

I’m very sorry to hear about your wife, Mr. Maldonado.
Wanting to relate further, I reached out in clumbsy Spanish: Que descanse en paz, eh
He let off a sigh, gingerly shaking his head. “Pos ojala que puede, era bien repelona mi viejita.”

And there it was! Like a gritty refugee breaking through the tyranny of grief, his laugh. His raucously big laugh. His Grand Laugh. His I-miss-her-so-much-I-just-wanna-fucking-die laugh! It was early, like 7:15 in the AM and the cars where stacking up behind him. The morning rush had overtaken the Party Barn and not even the death of a cherished one could stop that. With polite acceptance he looked into the rear-view mirror, bid his farewell, and drove away.