Each day opens up to an authored script. The culprit is the one who leads the distant matters of a savage end.
By early May that year, the sun was bright and glittering. Lingering spring winds whipped up in an aching defiance to the on-coming summer heat. The brown and grey desert had turned into an immodest green with the early spring rains, especially in riparian areas. The more recent of downpours carved new paths into stream beds. The desert was in bloom, suffused with sparse swatches of bright colors — the pink neon crimson of the cholla bloom, brilliant purples and lavenders of trailing windmill and brownfoot flowers, and the vibrant orange of the common fiddleneck. But on that afternoon, houses in Douglas were emptied, doors locked.
The inside of the church was painted a soft chiffon yellow. The ceiling was painted sky blue with puffy clouds whitewashed above the pulpit. The stained glass windows lined the church walls, each with a different mosaic from the Bible were framed and painted in stark white. Sunshine reached the walls and wrapped behind a statue of the Virgin Mary. The pews were shiny oak and neatly matched Mary’s coffin. The off-white satin lined coffin was adorned on the outside with shiny brass handles. Mary lay with her wavy blond hair neatly placed on each of her shoulders, looking as if she just returned from the beauty parlor. Her hands clutched a small copper picture frame that enclosed a photo of her two children, Juan Jr. and Carlos. The rosary, given to her by her father when she received communion at 16, was draped over her hands. Her face, once animated and full of life, dreams and hope, now held a squeemish yellowish tint from the makeup used by the funeral home. I placed my badge on the coffin. The gold star of my badge caught the sunlight and glinted alternating beams of yellow and red.
A line weaved around the coffin, through the pews, and around the outside doors. The walls echoed and intensified the sounds of sobbing and weeping. The fractured family, Mary’s mother Sherri, Juan Jr. and Carlos, stood huddled together, absent of Juan Senior. Sherri wrapped her arm over each of her grandchildren’s shoulders. Juan Jr. clutched his arm around Sherri’s waist. Carlos buried his face into her side. Sherri always dressed in bright colors, except on the day of her husband’s funeral and today. A fractured woman brittle with exhaustion, her own grief from the loss of her husband was now dwarfed by her heartbreak for her grandchildren.
Juan Jr. and Carlos’ tired eyes were accented with smeared half moons. Their eyes glistened like the smooth bottoms of small shiny indego glass bowls as they peered over the edge of the coffin of their mother. She was 31 years old when she died. She certainly was not an old woman, but this was a die-able age. Juan Jr. remembered one of the times when his mother laughed at a joke that he learned at school. Carlos thought about the taste of vanilla ice cream that she gave him after she woke him from a nightmare. For the boys, life earlier was fluid and days seemed to morph from one into another. Only a short time ago, Carlos and Juan Jr. thought of their family, mi familia, as the four of them together. ‘Us’ defined their father Juan Sr., their mother, Juan Jr., and Carlos. And now, as they hung onto their grandmother nana, they each seemed to know, broken in a way much beyond their youthful years, that they were at a place in time where they shouldn’t be.
The procession of vehicles snaked over to the to the Calvary Cemetery. Cars lined up from Dolores Avenue around to Fifth Street. Many cars were double-parked. The air stood still at the cemetery and the sun shined unusually bright onto the shoulders of the bereaved and other onlookers. On her tombstone was inscribed a message, “Too briefly we walk upon this earth. Live your life with passion.”
Family and close friends passed single-file by the coffin, the steady thump of dirt pitched into the grave and onto the coffin sealed the shredded fabric of the family. Even to this day, Juan Sr. has never been seen. The boys learned that day, the world has other ways of breaking a woman. Decidedly, the borders, boundaries, and lines that separate us now define their lives.
I once arrived in a car filled with two guitars, a trunk stuffed with clothes, and heart filled with hope. To be hopeful is an uneasy choice we unfortunately make. Sometimes a choice is not one you made. The old saying that ‘if you want to make God laugh, then make plans’ cannot sit with someone who never made the plans in the first place. But if hope is said to be hopeless, this is the mantra for a confidant of a once uneasy dilettante. This script was written for me a long time ago.
I turned the key in the ignition. The sun peered through the windshield of my old Plymouth. I settled into the front seat. Ahead of me was a Cochise County Sheriff’s Deputy that I once met in court who was directing traffic away from the funeral. I tipped my hat as I passed by. In the backseat rested my guitars, suitcases, and a photo of Mary, with me and her two kids — just for good luck. As I turned on G Street, I headed west and out of town towards Tucson.
The story was long ago in some youthful season, in a place that now dwells in my dreams. It was at a time where hope once sang, the desert stretched out far before us, and the scent of spring was the strongest.
(c) 2018, Ron McFarland – All Rights Reserved