Words Have Power, They Are magic Pt 6
I found myself alone, with a baby. With myself. I think I spent the first 6 months of his life crying. Every time I looked at my son, I saw my wife. I saw her eyes, her nose, and her smile. At times, I did not think I could stand it. I did not think that I could ever look at him again. I had thought of giving him up, to another family to raise him. Perhaps a family that would love him. I was afraid of that. I knew what it was like to live with people who did not love you, who were not family. I knew, knew that even if they were kind, it was never the same, you would never measure up to blood.
So I did my best. My co-worker, Hernando, introduced me to his sister, Lupe. Lupe became Richard Jr’s Nanny. I credit her with Richard becoming a great kid. She was the one who could show him the love a child needs. She was the one who washed his tears and scolded him as necessary. She was the one who kept the bridge between my son and I opened. It was so hard not to see Renee in him. It was so hard to tamp down that longing for her when I saw the same flash in his eyes. I tried but it was hard.
I could no longer afford the fancy apartment uptown, so I moved into the same building Hernando lived in. Again, a family member of his owned the building, so I got a decent apartment at a decent rate. With my pension and becoming full time at the school, my low rent enabled me to put aside most of my wages.
With those savings as soon as he was old enough I put Richard into a private boarding school. I was easier than seeing him every day, not to mention although I lived in a decent building all around us was the dangers of the city. The influence of gang bangers, the druggies, the prostitutes and the many things that can distract a young man, I removed from his life. He only saw it when he was home from school visits. He excelled in school. He was a very bright young man and was always at the top of his class. The school sent me updates which I proudly showed everyone who stopped long enough. Each one was placed in a scrapbook I kept of Richards accomplishments. I was and still am very proud of my son. I just could not tell him face-to-face, eye-to-eye. Not because I was damaged. No, it was because I could not look at him. I could not talk to him. I was afraid I would burst into tears. I missed Renee. I saw her in him I saw her in everywhere but in his face she lived. Seemed the only time I did not miss her was when I drank myself to sleep. A bottle of whiskey became my friend, my memory eraser, my sleep aid.
Soon whiskey was my only friend. My son had quit writing me letters, I never wrote back, and soon he quit wanting to come home on holidays. Many reasons. First, it was friends, girls and trips skiing, then turned to academic trips won. Whatever, the reason I tracked my sons progress through updates from school and the occasional phone call. Soon the phones were infrequent, and after he graduated from college with honors, there were regulated to father’s day, my birthday and Christmas.
When I did receive a phone call in between, it was always big news. A job. A marriage. Grandchildren. A super job as chief editor with a major publishing house. Funny how, words became his livelihood. He did not inherent the power, the magic of words. He could read them, change them, make them different, but he could not give them power, he did not see the magic.
On my 60th birthday, I was let go at the school. It seems that the new thing was janitors had to be certified. We were supposed to go to a school and learn how to clean up hazards spills, and how to clean with dangerous chemicals. The same chemicals and cleaners I had used for 35 years had become dangerous and the things I mopped up for those same 35 years became hazardous. Since I was close to retirement age, they decided to send me packing and send the younger guy to the school. Both Hernando and I were let go. Hernando had one more year until he got full pension. I was a crime. He had worked hard all his life. He was depending on that money for his retirement, he needed it. He still had minor children living with him and the school had just condemned his family to going on public dole.
I was angry. That was not right. For Me It did not matter. All I spent my money on was the rent, the electric, some food and whiskey. For my friend, the man who had shown me much kindness all these years, he was in a bad way. I resolved to fix it. I had not written anything, other than my initials, in over 25 years. The night we were fired, I sat at my little table and, knowing, even with knowing, I wrote
“Hernando deserves full pension and more for all the years of his service. He deserves for his family to live without worry about money and Hernando deserves to be without fear or discomfort.”
Yes, I knew. I knew. But I had to. Hernando had told me about his little one who had the whooping cough and now had weak lungs. He told me about his hip. I did not know but he was in constant pain. As a youth, he was a hand at the rodeos, the guy who opened the gate for the bronco riders. You have seen them, the guy hanging over the fence unlatching the gate. Hernando did that. One day he slipped and the horse intent on removing the cowboy ran over Hernando, breaking his hip. He never got it treated and as he aged, it got worse. Bad enough the doctor said he needed a new hip. Hernando did not have the money for that so he just lived with the pain.
Nothing happen for a couple of weeks. I thought that maybe I had lost it. Maybe it had an expiration date and I had lived past it. The magic got stale or just dissipated. The power became weak. Maybe. Of course, it was not so. It was the day before our last day. I had been envisioning Hernando pain free and his family in a fancy house and eating fancy food and his youngest getting first-rate healthcare. I had watched a TV program and the guy said that if you wanted positive things to happen then you had to envision them. You had to see things as you wanted them to be, then it would happen. So I had been constantly thinking and “seeing” Hernando walking without a limp and his family happily rich. I had even told Hernando to do the same thing. I did not tell him about the words, the magic. I just told him about the envisioning. He laughed at me.
Today was the day we buffed the hallways. We waited until the majority of children were back into the dorms or off campus to do buff the floors. It was empty and the whine of the buffer echoed in the hall. I had gone to the closet to get some more pads for Hernando when the humming stopped. That damn machine. It seemed like it broke at least once a month. The school who wanted to spend all that money on training was too cheap to buy us a new buffer even though once a year we asked for one. Hernando had become an expert on keeping the piece of junk running. I grabbed the pads and the toolbox and went back to where we were buffing.
Hernando had the machine on its side and was looking at the bottom of it, shaking his head. I reached him and putting the toolbox down, looked where he was looking. The little motor had broken. Again. As Hernando reached for a wrench to remove the cover I cautioned him to wait as I reached to unplug the machine. He did not listen and touch the wrench to the nut. He never stood a chance. He could not have seen the faulty wire. With Hernando kneeling, one hand on the wet floor, bracing himself; He was dead before I got the plug out. Electrocuted. Gone.
It turned out that the machine should have been replace years ago and was unsafe. It also turned out that Hernando had a weak heart. Despite that, the investigation put the school squarely at fault. In fear of being sued, and having their good name besmirched, the school settled with Hernando’s widow for 1.5 million dollars. They had offered Anna 750 grand but she was shrewder than they thought. It was a little nasty with them accusing her of being illegal (she was born in Ohio) and of Hernando being illegal and lying about his status (he was born in California), but when Anna threatened to go to the papers they settled quickly.
I was devastated. Yes, I had written the words. However, I had also envisioned a happy pain free Hernando. I had envisioned a happy rich family. I had written that his family deserved to live without worry and be happy. How were they going to be happy without Hernando? I could not imagine. I was not happy without my Renee.
After the funeral and the settlement, I went to see Anna and found her singing. Singing. How could she sing? I asked her that very thing. How could she sing when her husband was dead? She laughed at me. Then told me that her marriage was an arranged marriage. She hated her role as a wife and a mother, a brood mare was the term she used. She said that Hernando was very old fashioned. She resented always being pregnant, of always having to clean the house and cook the meals. She used to be young and pretty. Best thing ever happened was Hernando being stupid and dying at work. Now she was rich and she could get surgeries and be again. She could put all her kids in private school, like I had and have real life.
I was shocked. How could she? Hernando was a good man. I guess I had considered him a brother. And Anna, she always seemed quiet and sweet. I berated her for her cavalier attitude. I reminded her what a good man Hernando was and how lucky she was. There was no amount of money that could replace him. She laughed at me.
“Borracho! You drunk” she said “It is all your fault anyway, if you would have pulled the plug faster, he would still be alive. Swata! Idiot! Get out of here!”
She was right. It was my fault. Not because of the plug. No, people survive a shock. It was my fault because of what I had written. It was my fault I had killed my brother my friend. I should have known the TV shrinks and motivational people did I not know. I should have known that envisioning couldn’t change the words. I killed my friend and it was my fault I was indeed a swata, an idiot. I was my fault. Words have power, they are magic.