Monday, May 16, 2016

Dispatch: #52: Pain is a Time Traveler

by Lupe Fernandez

April 27. I am in Romita, Mexico with my mother. The last of her brothers had died. Mom is here to pay respects. I am here to make sure mom gets through the airport without getting lost or exhausted or injured. Out of the Leon GTO Airport. Fierce sun. Acrid smell of petrol and burning wood. Mom is fine and enjoys the company of her two sisters.

I miss my wife, my house, my girls, my cats, fishy the fish, and my routine. This is the first time I've been away from my wife and house for a long duration. Mom intends to stay two weeks. This is my fourth trip to Romita. I know the narrow streets packed with cars. I know where to buy tortas con pollo. I know to guzzle bottled water. know the family and can speak rudimentary Spanish to get by.

I miss my wife. An ache in my abdomen. That's where my pain goes.

Tears stream down my face the first day here. Complicated by anxiety of traveling. I'm not afraid of planes or doers of evil.

Pain is a time machine. I'm five years old, stuck somewhere. I don't want to be an adult, but I'm most qualified to accompany Mom on this emergency trip. As a five year old, I badly want to go home regardless disappointing Mom or the expense of changing airline reservations.

A tear drop tumbles me backward, to 2012. I spend two weeks with Angel during our dating phase. We wanted to see if we could live together. After the living trial, I drove back to LA weeping at 70 miles per hour. My heart torn. I didn't want to leave.

A tear drop shoots me back to Fall 1980, first quarter of UCLA. I buckled over, homesick. Freshman in the dorm partied. Beer flowed. Girls everywhere. The great university beckoned.

Tear drop. Fall 1977. The first day of high school. A cold fruit drink pours from the locker room vending machine. Cigarettes smoked in the quad. Lockers clang. Bells ring. I want to go home. I'm overwhelmed. I keep the gnawing fear to myself.

Drop. Drop. Kindergarten. First day of school. Stephanie E. points at me and announces to our teacher Mrs. Meanes, "Teacher, he's crying." Snot. Crayons. Tan bark.

I wipe my face. Fall asleep on a hot afternoon in a spare bedroom at my tia's house. Portable fan rumbles. I wake up an hour later. I've returned to the present. April 2016.

As an author I often take time trips to a character's past and future. But I'm the tour guide. I'm in control. I say when, where and how long.

As a writer, I often have to emotionally go to some dusty, humid, cold, bright aching place, dry mouthed, nausea paralyzing place in an ocean of memory. It's the job.

But wait.

Is the pain burning backward or forward? Am I still in kindergarten and a five year old's hot tears drip into the 21st century? Or do they originate from some middle place? The locker room at Winton Jr. High smelling of bleached towel. I put my jockstrap on backwards. I didn't know how to wear it and Chris Whatley and Michael Lee laugh at me.

Pain travels through time. Who's to say which way?

1 comment:

  1. Is it harder to go back to the past for material or to go somewhere you've never been before? Love the post.


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