Thursday, March 9, 2017

Healing Sessions





Healing Sessions


Pedro was thirteen years old, Luisa was twelve, and summer vacations had just started. No more school or homework for two months, it had always been their favorite time of the year. But that year was different.

For Pedro was just lovely. But it was miserable for Luisa. When her mother took her to the clinic, she couldn’t quite understand what the doctor said, but it sounded seriously grave. Something to do with her heart, on top of that, her liver was not functioning properly. She was bedridden; she needed help to take baths and to do other things in the bathroom. She was very weak, thin and pale.

Her mother suffered more than anyone in the family did. Luisa was her favorite child, although she never mentioned it. She agreed with what people say; parents have more love for the child that needs it the most.

Luisa needed more love. She was very helpful and friendly; she always said how lucky she was to have a family like hers. Luisa was very loving, expressive and caring. When her little sister Rosa was born Luisa said that Rosa was her little doll and that she was going to take care of her, and she did; her mother hardly did anything for Rosa.

Luisa loved reading, but lately even lifting her books was a difficult task. She enjoyed going to school, but she had to miss the last month of the school year. She was too weak to walk or study. The doctor didn’t give much hope to her mother. He said she’ll have probably just the rest of the year. 

Her house was in a poor neighborhood. These hard working people had seen better times. They still kept their dignity; the small and narrow streets made it easier for them to feel more united. Luisa felt sad with all the happy noises coming from the street. Kids of all ages jumping and running full of energy. She felt envious; she was happy for them but sad for herself.

Luisa didn’t know, but her mother had asked her other children to play in Luisa's room for at least two hours, one hour in the morning and another one in the afternoon. They had permission to make noise and play anything they like.

They called it Luisa’s room, but all four brothers slept in the same room. They had two beds, one for thirteen-year-old Hugo and nine-year-old Paco, and the other one for Luisa and seven-year-old Rosa, or the more affectionate way Luisa called her: Rosita.

Pedro lived across the street. His best friend was Hugo, (Luisa’s brother) they were the same age and went to the same school. They had been inseparable since they began to walk. 

Pedro had no brothers; his dad worked as a night watcher for a large warehouse and slept during the day. Her mom was very busy baking and selling cakes for birthday parties and weddings. Pedro had little supervision and spent a lot of time at Hugo’s house. 
 
Pedro loved the streets, but at lunch and dinnertime, he had to be home because he was always hungry. Besides, his mom was the best cook in the neighborhood and (he thought) possibly the city. He never got in trouble. His mother never had any complaints about him. Everybody loved Pedro because he was a good kid.

One night, Pedro was watching TV at Hugo’s house. The only television they had was in Luisa’s room, they were watching a marathon of Lassie reruns, and it was getting late. Hugo asked his mom if Pedro could spend the night, and she said yes. Then Pedro went to ask his mom for permission, and she agreed. 

Before they turned the TV off, Luisa’s mom put several layers of bed covers and comforters on the floor between the beds for Pedro to sleep on. Bedtime was hard for Luisa because then she had all the time to think about her gloomy future. She knew she was gravely ill and at night was when she suffered the most. She had nightmares about funeral ceremonies, about burials and graveyards. One time she dreamed she was being buried alive and saw dirt fall on top of her coffin.

But now she was thinking about Pedro being next to her. She had always liked him. He was gentle and patient and polite. She never heard him say a bad word. He was fast and eager to help anybody in need.

“Are you awake, Pedro?” she heard herself whisper.

“No, I was thinking about what happened to Pinto (a dog from the neighborhood) this morning,” he whispered back. “Pinto was chasing a car, and when the driver stepped on the brakes all of a sudden, Pinto couldn’t use his brakes and hit the rear bumper with his head real hard. It was funny,” then he added, “I miss my bed, the floor is real hard.”

“Why don’t you come to the bed and tell me what happened on the street all day, you can go back to the floor early in the morning before anybody wakes up.”
With some doubt, Pedro went to her bed; Rosita was already asleep with her arms around Luisa.

Pedro had been caught Luisa staring at him lately, and he thought that she was beautiful even in her current state, although a little skinny and pale. Pedro lifted the bed covers and lay down on his back; Luisa was on her side facing him without touching each other. They both lifted the bed sheet and covered their heads. 

Then Pedro started talking about the dogs in the neighborhood, “Do you know that dogs have their own personalities too? Take Pinto, for instance, he is very independent, ignores people and hates cars. Did you know that Tuno (another neighborhood dog) and Pinto are brothers? Yes, they are, and they're very different, just like human brothers. Tuno is friendly and trustful, he is not afraid of strangers. They could fight any other dog that comes to their territory to the death. They’re totally loyal to each other. And ‘Kiss’, now that’s my favorite dog for sure, his body is smooth, strong and muscular. He’s very playful; he seems to be happy all the time. And then Nikki, that poor dog, he’s very skinny, skinnier than . . .”

“Me?” Luisa interrupted him.

“No, skinnier than the rest,” he was glad Luisa interrupted him because he was going to say ‘skinnier than you’ and he continued. “He is sad and miserable, always enclosed in a small patio; they never let him out . . .”

“Like me” Luisa interrupted him again.

“No, no, Luisa, I’m sorry I didn’t mean . . .” now Pedro was blushing and stuttering, “I better go back to the floor.”

Luisa grabbed him by the hand and said, “No Pedro, stay; I like what you’re saying, I never thought about dogs that way.”

“I know all these dogs like me better than their owners because I pet them and play with them any chance I get.” then he changed the subject and asked her, “Luisa, are you always in pain?”

“Yes, always, but I’m used to it now. In my heart, I feel a piercing pain, and on my side where my liver is, I feel a suffocating ache. My body is constantly tired from lack of exercise and I can’t exercise because my heart is weak. I feel miserable.”

“Can I touch your pain?” he asked. 

She took his hand in her hand and guided him to the side of her body and then to her heart. Through her pajamas, he felt her side was warm, and her heart was pulsating slowly. He felt sad for her. When he was touching her chest, he also felt her undeveloped breasts and started to get excited, but he fought this feeling, it wasn’t proper, he thought.

In the morning, a scream provoked everybody to awake at the same time; it was her mother, “Pedro! What are you doing in Luisa’s bed?” she yelled at him, “get out of this house immediately, Hugo take him out!” and she proceeded to examine and question Luisa.

“I swear, I didn’t do anything wrong, Mrs. Valdez, the floor was too cold and hard and, and . . .” Pedro was trying to find a reasonable excuse but couldn’t find anything on his defense, and of course, he wouldn’t say he was invited to the bed by Luisa.

“Please mom, don’t throw him out; it was my fault, I told him to come to the bed to tell me a story. I swear we didn’t do anything wrong, mom, please don’t do it, please.” Luisa was now begging with tears in her eyes.

Hugo pushed Pedro softly out the door and started to question him “I can’t believe it, Pedro, what did you do to her? She’s my sister and you’re my friend.” 

“I wouldn’t dare to harm anybody in your family Hugo. I didn’t do anything bad, I swear. You have to believe me. She’s just suffering a lot. She just wants some comfort, some company. We were just talking; I’m telling you the truth”. Pedro replied.

“Okay, okay, Pedro, I believe you. Just . . . just . . . she’s my sister, and she’s dying.”

Inside, Luisa was telling her mom that the night before had been the most peaceful night for her in a long time. That Pedro’s serene voice and stories were very soothing to her heart. That she was very relaxed and didn’t have the usual nightmares and begged her to allow Pedro to stay once in a while to tell her more stories. “I’m dying,” she said. 

Later that day Luisa’s mom apologized to Pedro. She asked him if he could stay a couple of nights a week to tell stories to Luisa because she seemed to have enjoyed them very much and told him that she had already talked to his mom and that she had agreed. 

The next night Pedro stayed with them, and they watched TV for a while. Luisa’s mom came to prepare Pedro’s ‘bed’ on the floor. When they all went to bed, Luisa asked Pedro to come to her bed; she said her mom had given her permission. Pedro turned his head to see if it was okay with Hugo, and Hugo just moved his head up and down. This time Rosita was wide-awake with her arms around Luisa and waiting to hear the stories too.

That night Pedro told them four stories. He began with the story of Joan of Arc, who fought fiercely on the battlefield along with the French Army against the invading English forces, advised by Saint Michael, just to be later abandoned by her King and falling into the hands of the English who burned her at the stake. 
 
Followed with Saint Sebastian, an officer in the Roman Army who fought against the powers of evil and at the Emperor’s command, was pierced with arrows and left for dead, but God raised him up, came back to accuse the Emperor of his persecution to the church and was sentenced again to die beaten to death by clubs.

And then about Saint Martin de Porres from Peru who established orphanages and hospitals for the poor and who had an extraordinary ability to communicate with the animals. 

The last story was about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Mexican writer and poet from the 17th century, who became a nun to be allowed to study in the convent’s library at a time when women were not permitted to go to school, and who’s still considered one of the best poets in America.

When he finished, Rosita reached over Luisa’s body to kiss Pedro and then, Luisa kissed him too. After that night, it became a ritual to kiss Pedro as a way of appreciation for his stories. That night Luisa went to sleep with a smile on her face.

When Pedro started to read, his father used to bring him small books about the lives of saints, heroes, and villains of universal history. After a while, reading was his favorite pastime. Then, he began to read some of his father’s books. Later, he borrowed books from his teachers and neighbors. Soon he was using his allowance to buy second-hand books. He read anything that fell in his hands; he had no specific preference of themes or genres.

The following morning Pedro asked Luisa if she wanted to go outside and sit in front of the house, she agreed. After Luisa combed her hair, put a nice blouse and grabbed a quilt, Pedro and Hugo put her on a chair and carried her out.

Pedro, Hugo, Paco and Rosita sat on a cement bench and Luisa next to them on a chair, soon Pinto, Tuno, and Kiss joined them.

When Pedro saw a car coming, he told them “let’s see if Pinto chases that car.” They were very attentive to Pinto’s moves when the car was getting nearer; Pinto rose up and wagged his tail. But he just followed the car with his head and sat back again, and they all laughed. The ice cream truck came, and they bought ice cream bars. After a while, Luisa said she was feeling dizzy and asked them to bring her back in the house.

That night Pedro narrated passages of a book by an English veterinarian that lived in the countryside, far from the cities. He enjoyed doing house visits to assist and attempt to cure all farm animals and house pets. These stories were funny and full of joy and compassion. Luisa and Rosita enjoyed them very much, especially Rosita, she was ecstatic. When he finished, Rosita reached over Luisa’s body to give Pedro a kiss, very ceremoniously for a little girl like her. 

Every night, after the stories were over, another habit of theirs was Pedro touching Luisa's side and heart. Pedro was trying to transmit his compassion, trying to share the pain Luisa was feeling. This time he said, “When I touch your pain, sometimes I feel excited and my ‘pecker’ . . .” 

Then Luisa interrupted him, "it's called penis", and they giggled under the covers when she pronounced that word.

“. . .  begins to grow.” Pedro finished his sentence. 

“It's called, 'an erection'” she corrected him, and they giggled again.

“When I started having erections I felt embarrassed, I thought it was shameful. I used to pray for it to go away. Sometimes it worked if the prayer was long enough, but I can’t help it now, I can’t control it. Sometimes I have dreams and I awake with it . . . with . . . the penis wet.” Pedro said.

“Don’t feel bad or ashamed, I guess it’s natural. My mom told me that soon I’m going to have my first menstruation or period and that I’m going to discharge a little blood, from, down there.”

“It's called 'vagina'” Pedro interrupted her, and they both giggled again.

“That’s enough for one day, good night.” she kissed him and went to sleep with a smile on her face.

They both started to notice that the best part of the day was the nighttime. Luisa was anxiously waiting for him to tell her about his day, and Pedro was happy to return home to tell her all about his day. Pedro was paying, even more attention to what he was reading, learning and experiencing during the day, because he knew that at night, he was going to re-live it and enjoy it again. Luisa was now ignoring her pains and aches. Was the pain subsiding? 

One thing was certain; she was gaining interest in life again and she was waiting for the next day or night to come. She wanted to take better care of herself; she was trying to feed herself better to gain weight.

One morning, Luisa heard Pedro screaming outside. She called her mom and told her to hurry up and see what was happening to Pedro. A minute later, Luisa’s mom came back carrying him in her arms.

Pedro had blood on his left eye; she laid him down on the bed and cleaned him up. Then Pedro’s mom and dad came and took him to the hospital in a hurry. Luisa kept crying and wished she could help him in any way, but she only felt helpless and devastated. 

After they took Pedro to the hospital she prayed with more devotion and concern than ever, something she hardly did for herself. A few hours later, Pedro’s mom came to tell them that he was going to be okay. “He won’t lose his eye,” she said, “the dog bit him on the eyelid; he just needed a few stitches. He'll be wearing an eye patch for a few days, but he is fine.”

That night Pedro had to insist his mom let him spend the night at Hugo’s house. In the end, Pedro prevailed.

Luisa asked him right away to explain what happened that morning. Pedro said that he was playing with a little girl from the house where Kiss lives. He was carrying her in his arms; Kiss started to jump and play too, and the dog bit him accidentally.

“No big deal, I’ll be okay, don’t worry,” and then he said, “Tonight’s story is about a pirate with an eye-patch on his left eye.” 

Then he proceeded to tell the story of Tom Sawyer: This mischievous thirteen-year-old who lives with his aunt Polly. After playing hooky from school and getting in a fight, Tom had to paint the fence as a punishment. At first, Tom was disappointed. However, he soon persuaded other kids to do the job for him.

Tom falls in love with Becky Thatcher. Then Tom joins Huckleberry Finn to the graveyard, to try out a ‘cure’ for warts. At the graveyard, they witnessed a murder. Tom and Huck swore a blood promise never to tell anyone what they had seen. A harmless drunk is falsely accused of the crime, and in fear Tom and Huck run away to an island, to “become pirates”. While roaming around and enjoying their freedom, the boys become aware that the community is looking on the river for their bodies.

Tom had the idea of showing up at his own funeral. He persuades Huck to do the same, and their returns are met with great rejoicing. They become the envy and admiration of all their friends and in the end; he becomes a hero and gets a big kiss from Becky.

When he finished the story, Rosita asked him slyly, “Pedro, are you Tom Sawyer, the pirate with an eye patch and Luisa your Becky?”

“Go to sleep, you silly girl” Luisa, ordered her with a smile.

“Were you afraid of losing your eye, Pedro?” Luisa asked.

“Yes I was, but I thought if I lose an eye, an arm or a leg, I would still be alive. Then I thought about you. If you lose your life, you will lose it all. Your situation is worse than mine. I don't want you to die Luisa. Promise me you won't die, Luisa, please.”

“Yes, Pedro, I promise I won’t die. I’m going to tell my soul to save my heart, and then my heart will save the rest.” then she kissed him and went to sleep with a smile on her face.

On Sunday, they borrowed a wheelchair from an old lady down the block to take Luisa to church. The whole family looked very happy; Pedro and Hugo were taking turns to push her. Paco and Rosita were on each side of the wheelchair, and their mother was proudly greeting anybody that crossed their path.

That night Pedro recited a poem he knew by heart, a poem by Rudyard Kipling. He liked it so much and had read it so many times that he had memorized it. He felt great pleasure as he shared it with them. The final verses were:

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

 If all men count with you, but none too much;
 
If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds worth of distance run –

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!

Luisa liked it so much; she asked Pedro to repeat it again and then she asked him to write it for her because she knew that one day she was going to tell it to her sons. After performing their habitual ritual, they went to sleep.

In the morning, Hugo and Pedro decided to take Luisa for a walk around the block, but they said, “You have to walk on your own, just hold on to our shoulders.” Soon they were joined by Paco, Rosita, and other kids, but the other kids disbanded after a few steps because they were going "slower than a snail could run". It was boring going at that extreme pace. 

Most people they encountered knew about Luisa and her condition and they showed sympathy for her. Half way through, Hugo asked her if she was tired and if she wanted to go back. She answered “don’t be silly Hugo, it’s the same distance if we go back or if we continue.” and they started to laugh. It took them almost half an hour to return. Luisa was exhausted; her face was red and sweaty, but she was smiling. Paco brought her a soda and sat on the bench to rest and watch life go by.

That night Pedro told them a story about a selfish giant. The giant owned a beautiful garden, in which children loved to play. On the giant’s return from visiting an ogre, he gets mad at the children that were playing in his garden without his permission and builds a wall to keep them out, as a consequence of this the garden is condemned to perpetual winter. 

One day, the giant wakes up to the sound of birds and discover that spring has returned to the garden as the children have found a gap in the wall.

He sees the error in his way and decides to destroy the wall, however when he emerges from his castle, all the children run away, except for one boy, who is crying so much, he doesn’t notice the giant. The giant helps this boy into a tree that he wants to climb; the boy kisses him in return. The giant announces, “It is your garden now little children and knocks down the wall. The children once more play in the garden, and spring returns, but the boy that the giant helped does not, and the giant is heartbroken.

Many years later, the giant is old and feeble and awakes one winter morning to see the trees in one part of his garden in full blossom. He descends from the castle to discover the boy that he once helped, lying beneath a beautiful tree that the giant has never seen before. The giant sees that the boy bears the stigmata. 

He doesn’t realize at first that the boy is the Christ Child. The Giant is furious at the idea that somebody has wounded him.

“Who dared to harm you?” cried the Giant, “tell me, so I can take my sword and kill him.”

“No!” answered the child, “these are the wounds of Love”

“Who are you?” said the Giant, and when he understood who he was, he knelt before the little child.

The child smiled to the Giant, and said to him, “You let me play once in your garden, and today you shall come with me, to play in my garden, which is Paradise.” 

Shortly afterward the happy giant dies; that same afternoon his body is found lying under the tree, covered in blossoms.

Luisa was going outside every morning now; she wasn’t feeling dizzy anymore. The kids were getting ready to play soccer. Luisa was trying to be impartial for this match because the leaders of each team were Pedro on one side and Hugo on the other. Although each time Pedro got the ball, she cheered for him, and she did the same thing when Hugo had the ball. 

It was hard to take sides, so she decided to stop cheering altogether. At the end of the game, Luisa went back to her room on her own.

Luisa’s father had been a painter of cargo ships in Mazatlan for the last couple of years. He came to see them once a month and stayed for a few days. Mazatlan was in the Pacific Ocean a few hundred miles away. He arrived that morning.

Pedro was a bit concerned that Mr. Valdez might want to change the established situation because Pedro was accustomed to Luisa’s bed now. When Pedro entered Luisa’s room, he was a little reluctant and uncertain, because her dad was there.

“So, I heard somebody is sleeping with my two girls now, and I wondered who that person is. What’s your answer to that, Pedrito?” Mr. Valdez asked as he kept looking into Pedro’s eyes, not in an accusatory way, but in a playful manner.

Pedro was happy he called him “Pedrito” he knew he was safe, but still; he didn’t know how to answer. “Sir, mm, ah, let me explain . . . you see . . .”

“Ha, ha, it’s alright Pedro you have my permission to continue. Luisa is getting so much better and everybody loves your stories, my wife gives all the credit to you” and he continued, “I’m taking my family to Mazatlan, would you like to join us?”

“Really, can I go? Oh, wow! Let me ask my mom for her permission.” and he ran out of the room.

The only concern Pedro’s mom had, was his eye. He wasn’t wearing the eye patch anymore, and the scar had barely healed and it looked fine but still she said. “Okay, you can go, but you can’t get in the water.” 

“But, mom, how can I go to the ocean and not get in the water?”

That night he decided to tell the story of Ann Frank, he knew Luisa would love it.
The story was about a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl that went into hiding with her family for two years during World War II to avoid being captured by the Nazi Germans. They were in Amsterdam, where some non-Jewish friends gave them shelter in the attic, all were aware that if caught they could face the death penalty for sheltering Jews.

Ann kept writing every day for more than two years about their confinement, about other family members, about her feelings, beliefs, and ambitions. She knew that her future was uncertain and to be hopeful might be useless if they were captured. 

A short passage was, “I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to become a journalist because that’s what I want! I know I can write, but it remains to be seen whether I have talent. If I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. I can’t imagine living like a mother and all the women who dedicate themselves to their husbands and children, and then they are forgotten. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. When I write, my sorrow disappears. My spirits revive! But, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?” 

In the end, they are arrested and only her father survived, the rest died of illnesses or starvation in a concentration camp.

This time, after Rosita, kissed Pedro; she touched him on the face with her hand and looked deeply into his eyes. (At that moment, nobody could have guessed the impact these reading sessions would have in Rosita’s future. Years later, she would become an excellent and prolific writer with immense imagination and that she’d be admired by a legion of readers.)

Luisa was sobbing quietly, understanding that there was a connection between Ann Frank and herself because her future was uncertain too. What good was it, to have feelings, beliefs, and ambitions if she was going to die before she accomplished any goals?

They had to travel by train and bus; that was in itself a great adventure, Pedro felt like being part of the family. Luisa forgot about her predicaments while admiring the splendors of nature, the grandiosity of Mother Earth, the mountains and the fields. She captured the difference between city life and the freedom that exists in nature, the beauty of the sky and the clouds connecting to the mountains and the exotic vegetation.

The gigantic cargo ship was anchored in the harbor; it was in the process of being repaired and painted. They were allowed to stay in the crew’s quarters. When they went up to the deck Luisa took a deep breath. She thought that the view was what God saw after He finished with His creation. 

They spent hours playing in the sand and getting in the water. They all were turned upside down by the waves and tasted the salty waters many times. Afterward, they ate exaggerated amounts of seafood. Before dusk, Luisa asked her dad if they could go back to the ship because she wanted to see the sunset from the deck of the ship. The view was overwhelmingly amazing. The sun was huge, and yet, the ocean was swallowing it. Luisa' feelings were conflicting; she felt happiness and sadness simultaneously.

That night the children took a cabin for themselves, a bed for each one of them, but before Pedro started telling the story of Moby Dick, Luisa, Rosita and Pedro ended up in the same bed. 

Pedro began the story, “Call me Ishmael,” he said to his new bunk mate Queequeg, and they became best friends, they were part of the crew of harpooners, hired to kill Moby Dick. (They were in a cabin of a ship, similar to this one.) They had just signed to work hunting whales. Captain Ahab is missing one of his legs from the knee down, which was replaced by a whale’s jawbone. Ahab’s secret purpose for this voyage: hunting down and killing Moby Dick, an old, very large and ferocious whale with a snow-white hump that crippled Ahab on his last whaling voyage, Ahab is only seeking revenge.

Even though they sailed from the Atlantic Ocean, the events take place in the Pacific Ocean. The whale had already rammed and sunk several boats and killed a few men. When their boat meets Moby Dick, the whale wrecks widespread destruction, including the disappearance of their best harpooner the ‘Parsee’, later Moby Dick rises up to reveal the Parsee tied to him by harpoon ropes. 

After the initial battle on the third day, the giant whale disappears into the dark abyss of the ocean. Ahab ignores the advice of the crew members and continues the chase. Ahab harpoons the whale again, and the unfolding harpoon line catches him around the neck and drags him into the depths of the sea by the diving Moby Dick. The boat is caught up in the whirlpool of the sinking ship, which takes almost all the crew to their deaths. Only Ishmael survives clinging to Queequeg’s coffin for an entire day and night before he is rescued.”

After the tale was over, Rosita asked Pedro, “Are we in the Pacific Ocean?”

“Yes, we are,” Pedro answered.

Rosita’s laconic response was “Mm.”

Mr. Valdez had to stay, and the rest of the family went back home. It was time for Luisa’s check up at the hospital. The doctors were impressed by Luisa’s improvement. They noticed a remarkable change, even though her prognosis was supposed to be quite the contrary. As usual, they said, “We must be doing something right, a perfect combination of the right drugs and the right dosage.”  Mrs. Valdez and Luisa didn’t tell them she wasn’t taking any medicine at all. 

They confirmed something Luisa already knew. She was getting better, and she was probably going to survive the adversity.

Pedro had a program by now; he was reading early in the morning and preparing a summary of his nightly narrations. That night, he invited Miguel de Cervantes,  Don Quijote de la Mancha, with his skinny horse Rocinante, his lady love Dulcinea, his loyal side-kick Sancho Panza and all their imaginary and fascinating adventures. The following night, the honors belonged to Victor Hugo and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. About the deformed bell ringer named Quasimodo, a cruel and heartless priest Claude Frollo, and Phoebus the Captain of the King’s archers. All in love with Esmeralda a beautiful gypsy with a kind heart. He also included a night dedicated to poetry. Federico Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Ruben Dario, Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortazar, a poem by each one of them. 

A few nights later, and after some hesitancy, he began with a shortened version of the intricate magical realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. “A Hundred Years of Solitude” and the seven generations of the Buendia family. This tale took an entire week to narrate. It was a dark and intricate tale, but his audience was ready.

Except, a darker episode was about to happen in real life.

Luisa had decided that morning for the first time in a long while to take a shower on her own, she felt strong enough. But her feelings were based more on her mental strength and desire to conquer her demise than on her still weak body. When she came out of the shower, she slipped, and her head hit the sink. Her mom was in the kitchen, and her brothers were playing outside. Twenty minutes had passed before they learned what had happened.

The funeral ceremonies took place on a Sunday.

Pedro read Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, the poem Luisa wanted to read to her sons. Rosita was hugging Pedro’s waist as he read the first verse:

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise.



Edmundo Barraza 
Visalia, Ca. 12-28-2010  
http://edbar1952-accomplishedignorant.blogspot.com 




Friday, March 3, 2017

Dream Traveler



 




Miles was nine years old when his grandfather gave it to him. At that point, his grandfather was already senile and suffered from dementia. His grandfather had immigrated to the United States from Germany during World War II, escaping Nazi persecution.

The thing was weird looking. It was a gray helmet like the ones bicycle riders use. The frame was not solid, it had gaps or slots to avoid the head from sweating or your brain from getting too hot. At the base of the interior walls and ceiling, there were dozens of dull metal tips that looked like pencil erasers. It had copper wires and a few transistors.


The helmet was Miles' most precious treasure. He never used it for protection, but he put it on every night before going to bed since his grandpa gave it to him. 


I learned all this and more through Gretchen. Miles adored her big sister. Every day, when she returned from school, he received his sister with a big kiss. Miles was eleven when I met him. Gretchen and I were the same age, seventeen. I adored Gretchen too.

Miles was a little slow. It was hard to pinpoint his abnormalities. He appeared to be an average kid, maybe just a little mixed-up. It seemed like his mind was working faster than the way he could express his thoughts. He had a tic, his left eye blinked rapidly when he seemed impatient.

He had been home-schooled; they said there was too much trouble at the public school, and that he’d been bullied to death.

Miles liked me because I treated him like a normal person. He was just a little odd, a little abnormal, but aren’t we all?

Gretchen didn’t mind that I spent more time with him than with her. Miles and I became good friends, and his family was glad we did. They knew it was a sincere friendship. Gretchen said Miles' best friend had been his grandpa.

Miles dad gave him permission to keep everything his grandpa left when he died. He kept it all in perfect order. There were uniforms, boots, medals, diplomas, and notebooks. He had several first edition books by Sigmund Freud, a contemporary of his grandfather. All his notes were written in German, but nobody in the family understood the language. Oh, and apparently grandpa had been an inventor.

When I asked Gretchen about the helmet, she said her grandfather built it himself and gave it to Miles just days before he died. Miles wouldn’t go to sleep without it, despite his dad’s insistence to not wear it in bed. It looked uncomfortable to use for several hours at a time, especially in bed.

Conversations with Miles were sometimes a little bit incoherent, but not when he was talking about dreams. That was his favorite subject. He appeared to be an expert in the matter. I never showed him indifference, regardless of how absurd his comments seemed. Gretchen and her dad avoided conversations with Miles about his daily dreams. They thought the dreams were interminable and even boring.

I thought Miles' brain was balancing his deficiencies with his proficiencies. The way it happens to blind persons when other senses get acuter to compensate for the inability to see.

His facial features were out of the ordinary. At first, I couldn't decide whether he was handsome or not, but the more time I spent with him the more I realized he was a handsome kid. His face was mild and peaceful.

Gretchen and I went to the same school. I walked her home every day. I never asked her officially to be my girlfriend, but I knew everybody considered us boyfriend and girlfriend, even we did.

After a few weeks, I knew I had gained Miles complete trust when he mentioned he wanted to show me his dreams.

“I like my other me better than my own self,” he said while tapping his chest with his right open hand. “I’m happier with my inside me,” he said.

“What do you mean Miles? Is there another person inside of you?”

“Yes, he’s always there when I’m asleep. He is smart; his brains are good, he can think better.”

“Can you communicate with him? Does he talk to you?” I asked.

“Are you crazy? He is me! There’s no need to talk to me, we just think, that’s all. When I’m in there with him, we’re smart the same. I like him better than I like myself. Do you want to talk to him, Randy? You can borrow my helmet tonight if you want.”

“Is he inside your helmet?” I asked.

“No dummy, he’s in my dreams, ha, ha, inside my helmet, ha, ha. You’re a little retarded Randy. Sorry, I didn’t mean to insult you, Randy, you’re my best friend, sorry.”

“It’s alright, Miles I don’t feel insulted, you’re also my best friend. But tell me, Miles, how does your helmet work?”

“You just put it on your head before you fall asleep and you start dreaming.” he said.

“But I’ve never needed a helmet to dream, and I’ve dreamed all my life without one.”

“Yes, but with my helmet, you can talk to me in your dreams, you can have real dreams and you can also see my dreams.”

“Well, it sounds a little bit complicated, but I'll give it a try. Are you going to be okay without it for one night? Gretchen told me you haven’t slept without it since your grandpa gave it to you. What if you change your mind and I have it at home with me.”

“It’s alright Randy, I can still have normal boring dreams without it. Sometimes I remove it in the middle of the night, sometimes I’m boring myself.”

“Before I take it, just tell me how it works. Does it need a battery or a charger, do I need to connect it to an electrical receptacle?" I asked mockingly, which I immediately regretted.

“I don’t know how it works, my grandpa never gave me any instructions. He just made it and gave it to me and said, ‘dreams are its energy’”.

After Gretchen said it was okay to take Miles’ helmet with me, we went back to Miles to confirm. He said yes, and I took it home.

I didn’t even know why I accepted to bring it with me. Probably just to be polite to Miles, but my curiosity was minimal.

I have to admit; the device looked a little medieval. Like you would expect a torture device to look, like an apparatus someone would use to reanimate Frankenstein.

When I went home, I placed the “dream maker” on the nightstand, next to my books. That night, I read a little bit until I got sleepy. After a while, as I reached for the lamp switch; I saw the helmet and grabbed it.

I put the helmet on in the dark. The blunt metal tips inside the helmet rested on my thick hair. The tips felt like fingers, and when I moved my head it felt like I was giving myself a massage. The way it feels when you're shampooing your hair. It didn’t feel bad at all.

*****

I’ve always been fascinated by dreams. Some experts say they are your fears and desires, and I agree. But when they mention conscious, unconscious, subconscious, then, it gets all too complicated for me. I can't understand what happens the moment when you cease to be awake and fall asleep.

I don’t know if time is real inside my dreams. When I explain my dreams to somebody, it takes a couple of minutes to relate the entire dream. But, does that mean my dream lasted only two minutes?

I've always enjoyed my dreams, ordinary, surreal or bizarre. I dream about temptations, wishes, and fears too. My good and evil sides fight and struggle for dominance. Divine and demonic forces fight to control my mind. Sometimes I enjoy my nightmares too.

That night, I dreamed I was on the roof of a tall building and I was afraid to fall, I was paranoid. The roof was very small, a little bigger than my bed. I was lying on my back, grabbing the sides of the building with my extended arms. It was windy and I was exhausted of resisting my prolonged fears.

Within my dream, I knew I was dreaming. I wanted to end the dream and my suffering, but I couldn’t. When I accepted I wouldn't be able to stop it, I decided to jump from the building. I thought it was my only escape. But I had decided, that instead of jumping to my death, I was going to fly or glide and enjoy the ride.

I went straight down a hundred miles an hour, but after I relaxed and took control of the situation I began to soar and turned my nightmare into a sweet, beautiful dream. I could see the entire city. I could see the sky, the clouds, and the horizon. I could fly above the treetops, I could go back up to the roof of my tormenting building and go around it. I was happy because I had conquered my fears.

When I woke up I didn’t open my eyes and I didn’t move. I swear to God and all the angels that I truly believed I was able to fly without a doubt. I was lying in my bed, but I’m sure that if I had been at the top of any building, I would have jumped and I would have been able to fly. I was certain I could have done it.

After a couple of minutes, I thought it was ridiculous.


When I opened my eyes I had a hard time convincing myself that I'd been dreaming the entire time, including the time when I thought I was awake. Then, I removed the helmet from my head and I wondered if I could have had the same dream without the helmet.

I realized there were two of me inside my dream! There was me, acting my dream, and then the other me, watching me act. Or the physical me dreaming in my bed and my other me inside my dream, and I actually liked the other me, the one with the authority to control the dream. It seemed very clear.

“Did you wear it, did you dream?" Miles asked the next day.

“Yes Miles, I wore it, but honestly, I wasn’t thinking about using it. I just put it on and fell asleep and had a normal dream.”

“A normal dream, was it a normal dream really?”

“Well, yes, nothing different. It was vivid, it felt real and I enjoyed it because I could control it.”

“Did you like the other you better?”

“Yes Miles, yes, I liked my other me better.”

“You see what I mean now, now we’re equal. I like my other me better and you like the other you better.”

“What? Wait a minute Miles, there’s only one of me. The conscious one when I’m awake and the unconscious one when I’m asleep, but we’re the same, there’s no need to separate me in two, (I felt a little stupid because I was contradicting myself) when I say that I like the other one better, I mean that I want to act like him in real life. I want to be unafraid and in control, I like the fact that he is free, and he’s not afraid of the consequences of his acts.”

“You have to admit it, Randy, you are feeling envy of the other you, but it’s amazing, isn’t it? Your first dream and you are already struggling with you and yourself.”

“No Miles, it wasn’t my first dream, I don’t envy me and I’m not struggling with myself. But let me tell you one thing, you are a lot smarter than most of us. And don’t believe anybody that tells you otherwise.”

I was confused, I was convinced that the damn thing was useless, it can’t protect your head, much less your brains. I was glad for Miles, though; the helmet was his only toy, he loves it and I respect that. Me, I don’t have any toys, I’m not attached to any material things. If an earthquake strikes, I wouldn't run to try to save anything. I would just run with me and myself.

The following day, Miles came up with an amazing and unbelievable commentary.

“Hey Randy, I saw your dream. I’m glad you know how to fly now, from the treetops to the roof of a tall building in just a few seconds.”

“What? That’s impossible, who told you about it? Nobody knows, I never told anybody that’s not possible Miles, how could that be?”

“Randy, you shouldn’t be so surprised, it’s in my helmet. You knew that. Didn’t I tell you that I wanted to show you my dreams?”

It just blew my mind! How could that be possible? To know about that dream he had to be inside my head unless the dream was somehow recorded in the helmet, but that’s so out of this world, so science fiction. There has to be a better explanation. I need more evidence.

It was beyond normal comprehension. If the helmet works like that, the world needs to know about it. Wait a minute, does it?

One thing’s for certain; his grandpa was a genius.

I was going too far ahead on my conclusions; I needed to experiment with it a little more before I open my big mouth or do something irrational.

Miles probably saw all the provocative questions in my head because he gave me the thing back and said, “Here Randy, try again.”

*****

Gretchen is not demanding, but she’s not submissive. She needs her own time and space. She’s happy with herself. She’d be happy with me or without me. She’s also a little overweight. What some people might consider being on the verge of obesity I consider voluptuous. I don’t know if we’re going to be together for the rest of our lives, but that would be okay with me. I know she’s a virgin just like me, I think. I mean I am, and I think she is too. But if she’s not, it's not a big deal. I'm fine with that too.

I’ve decided to do a little experiment with her in my dreams. I had noticed that when I do something repetitiously for hours during the day, sometimes at night I dream about it. If I swim for hours, or if I watch a movie that impressed me in any way, I would dream about that.

I thought Gretchen and I would lose our virginity simultaneously in my dream. There's no need for condoms or promises, no need to take any precautions. Oh, and I wanted lots of foreplay.

I wrote an erotic story in which I included all my fantasies. I’ll make love to her for hours. I’ll take advantage of my experiment; after all, it'll be just a dream.

I read the story in bed several times until I fell asleep. I concentrated in Gretchen and me having sex. I hope that’s what I dream. I’d better not forget about my helmet, I mean our helmet, I mean, Miles’ helmet.

The day after I gave the helmet back to Miles, he said . . . “Randy I saw what you did with Gretchen, you dirty man! I can’t believe it. I had to turn it off.”

I couldn’t find a proper rational reaction. I just said, “It was just a dream, Miles, don’t pay attention to it.”

The impact I felt was huge. And I found myself in the middle of a dilemma. Should I tell the whole world? Should I get a patent and sell it for a hundred million dollars? No, of course not! The thing belonged only to Miles and I had nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, I knew the future of the helmet was in my hands. I could decide to be quiet or expose it to the world.

The potential was infinitesimal. But I wasn't concerned about its enormous monetary value. The main thing was to remain quiet. I shouldn’t tell anyone, not even Gretchen. I'd keep experimenting with it. I needed to find its real potential. I needed to investigate if there were any risks involved.

“How do you turn it off?” I asked Miles, after a long pause.

“You just tell yourself to wake up, as simple as that,” he answered.

“Please, Miles, don’t say anything to Gretchen about it, okay?”

“Why would I tell her? It was just a dream, right?

“Yes, and completely unpremeditated,” I replied with a little lie.

The dream I had with Gretchen was vivid and real. It was so real, when I woke up I still had an erection. My penis was still sore in the morning. I’m sure it hadn't been a wet dream because my underwear and the bed sheets were clean and dry.

After that day, I asked Miles many questions regarding the helmet, without trying to be too fastidious. I didn’t want to lose his trust or his friendship. I asked him about his grandfather. I asked him if I could read his grandfather’s notes and books. He accepted, but it was useless because everything was written in German, and I couldn’t trust anyone to translate it. Miles had been using the ‘dream maker’ every day for over two years. He was the only expert on the matter.

“One day I’ll be with my grandpa Dieter forever. He was my best friend. In the end, my grandpa was crazy like me. I know two crazy people can understand each other. After he died, he was in my dreams and I felt safe there with him, only there. The helmet was our connection; he gave it to me to visit him in my dreams.”

Miles said the helmet transported him to another world, to another real world. Better than the one he lived in, and that he wanted to spend more time in his ‘dream world’. He said sometimes he didn’t know in which world he was in. He believed that one day one world was going to cancel the other.

He said he could now erase or suppress bad memories or add good experiences to his past, or to his future. It was hard to understand him. Could it be that his defective short-circuited brain was, in reality, a superior brain?

I couldn’t hide the excitement I felt; I tried to simulate my enthusiasm with false indifference. I said to him that I wanted to experiment a little more with it and asked him if we could alternate using the helmet. I was glad he agreed. The reason I didn’t want to look over excited was that I didn’t know how he’d react. I didn’t want to ruin our ‘partnership’. I didn’t want to be cut off out of the project. Above all, my attitude would never be malicious towards Miles.

That night, I thought I would take a tour in hell. It sure was a drastic change from having sex with Gretchen. I figured that since I could control or manipulate my dreams if I didn't like hell, I would turn it into heaven. I was a little hesitant about that choice, but I have always been stubborn. After I gathered some paintings from the masters depicting hell, I focused on them until I fell asleep. But not before I put on the dream maker, or the dream generator, or the dream creator, or the dream catcher or . . .

In the morning, I woke up a little disappointed. No hell whatsoever. Probably hell doesn’t exist, and if it doesn’t exist, I couldn’t invent it in my dreams. Maybe I didn’t concentrate enough. All I dreamed about was Miles having lots of fun with a kite, and an old man cheering him up until Miles fell on his knees. I was there, next to the old man. I saw Miles in my dreams for the first time, but I felt a little frustrated nonetheless. I thought the dream was a failure, it proved nothing.

When I went back to Gretchen’s house I got another surprise when I saw Miles. He had some scrapes on his knees. I asked him right away what had happened to him, and he said he didn’t know. He said he woke up like that and that he probably fell from his bed, but I knew that was very unlikely. Could it be possible that he was in my dream and somehow . . . ? no, no way, either way, I didn’t tell him about my dream.

The following day he told me about his dream.

“Randy, you were in my dreams! My grandpa was there too. I was running and having fun with a kite, until . . .” then I interrupted him and finished his sentence,  “. . . until you fell and scraped your knees!”

I bet we both had the same expression of incredulity and satisfaction.

After a few weeks of practice and experimentation, I learned a lot about my dreams and ‘my device’. I noticed how important it was to be relaxed before falling asleep. I even created a system that took only a couple of minutes.

While lying face up and with the eyes closed, I would focus on my interior body, on imaginary electrical currents pushing tension and stress away from nerves and muscles from head to toes. It feels like the soul is giving a massage to the body. At the same time, I would plant an image in the interior walls of my eyelids of the dream I wished to have. Then, I would concentrate on that image until I fall asleep.

It worked for me.

Sometimes, I dreamed in the third person, when I see myself in my dream. Other times, I would dream in the first person, where I'm not a participant. I don't see myself. I like to dream when I’m just a witness, that way I don’t suffer and I can only enjoy, it's just like watching a movie.

Other times, I dreamed that I couldn’t move. I have some kind of sleep paralysis, and someone's trying to attack me and I can’t defend myself. I can’t even scream and that’s terrifying. I would also dream that someone is chasing me with intentions to hurt me, but I can only run in slow motion, and that’s very scary.

*****

One day Gretchen told me she missed her period. Then she said that she probably just missed it, period. She said that she was curious and asked me to join her to the pharmacy to get a pregnancy test. Later, I heard her screaming in the bathroom.

“Positive? Positive! Positive?! It can’t be. Something’s wrong; somebody is playing a joke on me. No way. I’m a virgin! I have never even seen an erected penis in my life! Randy! You have to believe me. You know what; I don’t care if you don’t believe me. I need to get another pregnancy test, this was probably defective, Randy, let’s go get another one.”

On the way to the pharmacy, she kept going at it. I didn't know whether she was mad at me for not believing or for believing. I never said a word. Gretchen, the always composed and undisturbed Gretchen was mad at me, at God, at the entire world. The second test was positive again. Then she took a different approach.

“The Divine Providence, Randy, that’s it, a divine mandate! God chose me!" she said with a sarcastic smile. “What are we going to do, Randy?  Well, not you, obviously it’s not your fault. What am I going to do? I can’t tell my dad, it can’t be possible, help me, Randy!”

“Well, if you are pregnant, and that is beyond far-fetched, would you have the baby? Would you keep it? Would you have an abortion?” I asked her, considering I was the only accusable prospect. After all, I did do it in my dream.

Then I thought about Miles’ scraped knees, did that happen in my dream or his dream? Was it possible for things to materialize from a dream to real life, with the helmet?

“It makes no sense, why would I need an abortion if nobody has impregnated me? It's impossible. But if I claim I'm innocent, I'll be ridiculed. I need you to believe in me Randy, if I ever get pregnant it would be only by you.”

“Yes Gretchen, I believe you. But if you want, we can make it real.”

“Oh, Randy, don’t joke about it, not now.”

“Sorry, sorry. I tell you what Gretchen, let’s wait a week, and then take the test again. Then, you’ll decide what to do, and of course, if it’s negative we’ll do nothing, or we'll celebrate and . . .  oh, never mind.”

That night, I elaborated an alternate plan.

Let’s suppose I impregnated her in my dreams, (I can’t believe I’m saying this) if I did it in my dreams, perhaps I can undo it in my dreams too. It sounds so absurd, but I won’t lose anything by trying.

After I gathered all the stuff I needed to provoke the required dream, a picture of a hospital with a doctor included, an operating room, and of course, Gretchen's photo. Then, I focused on my intentions and put the helmet on. And after performing my relaxing ritual, I fell asleep. In my dreams, abortions are legal.

*****

A week later we got another test. When Gretchen came out of the bathroom she said with a sigh of relief, “false alarm”. Of course, I was ready to show a false expression of surprise.

The instructions claimed ninety-nine percent accuracy on those home tests. But it could be misleading. It could be less accurate if it’s done within the first days of a missed period. Anyway, I was glad for both of us. But I’ll never know if I got her pregnant in my dreams, or if the abortion in my dream was a success. Or if it was all just a fluke, and nothing ever happened at all.


Next time I'll use a condom, even if it's just a dream. 

A few weeks later, Miles said he was going to miss me. I didn't understand what he meant. I was having the happiest time of my life, I thought he was too. But then, a sad event happened.

Miles disappeared into thin air and nobody ever saw him again. His dad filed a police report and they looked everywhere. The city offered a large reward.

A day after his disappearance, I saw him in my dreams. He finally decided not to come back. He said he was happier there, with his grandpa.

I told Gretchen exactly what had happened to Miles, but it was too hard to convince her. She would not believe me until I gave her instructions on how to use the helmet. I didn't care if she saw all my dreams. All I cared was for Gretchen to see how happy Miles was with his grandpa.

The following day, she grabbed a hammer and broke the helmet into a million fragments.


Edmundo Barraza
Visalia, Ca. Aug-22-2011
http://edbar1952-accomplishedignorant.blogspot.com/