Para dormir... The blessing of sleep, to be oblivious. To be trapped in a world where que será será y nadie, nada, y ningun lugar are everything. A freedom, a release, a blackness and peace unmatched and broken solamente por las pesadillas y los despertadores. Nunca puede encontrar un paz como this in the waking world of people and stress. El regalo of flight, hasta...
Awake. And what an awful way to reach the state too, sitting straight up out of peaceful oblivion and rest. And with a blinding headache, enough to push you back down into the uncomfortable folds of the thin blankets covering you. You have to shut your eyes too, since the light stings eyes that feel like they've been shut for ages. You feel so heavy.
Lying flat again, you're able to begin picking out pieces of your environment from a roiling soup of sensory input. Muffled street noises drift in from your left. It's hot too, uncomfortably so, and the humid air weighs heavily on your still weak form. You can't explain it. It's like some huge, invisible hand is pressing you deeper and deeper into the hard bed. Sleep is creeping slowly back toward you. Maybe you will go back to sleep, just for a moment.
"No," you tell yourself, but the message is slurred by numb lips. You force your eyes into a squint, deciding against all their protests that they're going to get used to the light again. Slowly, ever so slowly, strength and vision return, and you're met with a most disturbing realization.
You have no idea where you are.
You sit up, carefully this time, and examine your surroundings. Two single beds, a television, a large mirror. Reminds you of the motel room from Psycho, except this is a bit classier. Or rather, this tries to be a bit classier. Everything looks bargain classy. It still looks like a motel room.
Your head hurts, throbbing as to split in two. It's like some awful hangover from near-fatal drinking. You don't remember drinking anything though. Of course, you don't remember coming to this motel either, and with as much as you ache, you probably wouldn't remember much anyway. Slightly nervous, you enter the bathroom and are relieved that you at least recognize the form in the large mirror. One bronze-skinned, black-haired, second generation latino stands there boxer-clad, looking well-muscled and disoriented.
At least you're still who you were yesterday, one Jeffrey Gonzales, college English professor. That's something. You head back into the main room and find clothes--a casual business outfit--in the closet. You don't remember owning this, but it's in your room, so it must be yours. Clothed now, but still lost, you head outside.
The room opens to a hallway decorated in the same almost-ritzy motif of your bedroom. A short distance away is an attendant who, upon seeing you, calls out, "¡Buenos dias, señor! ¿Se durmió bién?"
What? It takes you a moment to realize he's speaking Spanish. He looks hispanic, and so do you, so you suppose he assumes you know the language. Foolish assumption. You respond with a vague "Sí, gracias" before heading the other way down the hall. Your family didn't want you to be hampered by Spanish, so they taught you only English. Your scant experience with Spanish comes from high school and college courses. Basically, you know barely enough to get by in a Spanish-speaking country. Which you never intend to visit.
You take the stairs down to the lobby and once there, you make another frightening realization. You're surrounded by people who look a lot like you: dark skin, black hair, short build. Where could you possibly be that there would be quite so many latinos? Not wishing to engage in any more conversation, you hurry to leave the motel.
Not one of your more inspired actions. The streets are full of latinos as well. Men, women, children, and--¡por Dios!--police. You're glad police don't have guns like that where you live.
Wait. You don't think police can carry guns like that in the US. Which means...
No. It's not possible. You fall in with a stream of walkers, headed towards some unknown, undesired destination. The street is lined by tall buildings, selling anything imaginable. Small stalls line the curb, merchants hawking comidas, ropas, periodicos (some of which you're sure they couldn't sell on street corners in the US), and general touristy things.
The crowd reaches its destination and it's just undesired as you had thought it would be. The road flows into a huge square packed with people, more people in one place than you've ever seen in your life. And flying above it all is a gigantic flag. But a Mexican flag.
El Zocalo. You're in México. Not just México. México, México. La ciudad itself.
You lean against a wall, the invisible hand crushing you harder than before. This isn't possible. No puedes estar aquí. You're from a small, conservativetown in Iowa, USA. How can you possibly magically appear in the heart of a foreign country? You shake your head against the wall in disbelief and despair, seeing your picture on a poster next to you.
Your what? ¿Una foto? You stare at it. Tu cara underneath the words, "¿HA VIDA UD. ESTE HOMBRE?" The date on the poster is different than the one on los periodicos. Actually, it's a week earlier. Wha...! A week? You wake up a week later in a foreign country with your face on a missing person poster? What is going on here?
A hand touches your shoulder. "¡Ay!" you yelp, spinning around. A policeman stands there holding... what must be an assault rifle. Don't startle the policeman, Jeff. Cálmate.
He speaks. "Está bién, señ..." He notices the poster next to you. He looks back and forth a moment, then smiles at you. "¡Señor Gonzales! Nosotros hemos estado buscánodole. ¿Dónde estuvo?"
You manage to force out a tiny "What?" He's not speaking a language you understand. The giant hand is paralyzing you.
His brow knits and he speaks again. "¿Está Ud. bién, Sr. Gonzales? Está sin herida, ¿verdad?"
"Huh?" He's talking to fast, you can't follow.
"¿Se le cayó su cabeza?"
You can't breathe. The hand is squeezing your lungs. "Direct object pronoun?" Wait. "Did I say that out loud?"
He treats you to a distasteful look of disdain, the way you might look at some psychopath who might somehow infect you with his insanity. "Venga conmigo, señor. Vamos a ir a su casa y su familia. Ellos quisieran verle." With a gesture of his gun, he walks toward a squad car (you guess that's what it is.)
"¿Mi familia?" you call as you hurry after him. Your family is looking for you. Maybe you came to visit your grandparents and jetlag caused mild amnesia. Or your parents are searching every possible venue for you. Either way, answers aren't far off. This thought consumes your mind every second of the drive.
After an eternity of seconds, it ends. But looking outside, you see it has ended too soon. You are at a small house, almost a hovel, really, in a run-down section of slum. You turn to the officer. "¿Ésta?"
"Sí. Y necesito volver al Zolcalo. Dase prisa." You stare at him for a moment too long and he all but shoves you out of the car and drives off. You're left along outside a home you've never seen before. What can you do? This is your only avenue for answers. You walk to the door and knock, hoping for the best but dreading the foul emotion that has done naught for you recently.
A short, homely woman opens the door after a nerve-wracking wait. As you feared, you don't know her. She stares at you in awe, mouth forming words that never receive voice. Then, "¿José?"
José? Your name is Jeff. Why is she calling you José? "¡Eres tú! ¡Mi esposo! ¡Has volvido!" Esposo! You're not married. Now what's happening? "¡Hijas! ¡Vengan! ¡Su padre está aquí!" Hijas? Not only are you married, but you have children? There must be some mistake. They think you're someone else.
Two little girls rush to the front door, one about six, the other four. Two pretty little things. But they're not yours. "¡Papá!" they cry as they drag you into the house. "¡Papá veulve! ¡Papá vuelve!" they sing, tugging on your hands.
Their mother pushes through them, embracing you. "O, mi fuerte. Me has volvido a mí." She stares into your eyes, tears streaming down her face. "¿Donde estuviste?"
You can't think clearly. The hand... You can feel it hovering in the wings, waiting to strike. It takes all your willpower to force out, "¿Quiénes son?"
Wrong question. The chicas freeze, stopping their dance to stare at you. The woman backs away, her face puzzled. She stutters, "Soy tu esposa. Éstas son tus hijas."
¿Tus hijas? But doesn't she realize? "Yo no tengo hijas."
Even worse. The older girl's jaw drops, and the younger starts bawling. Both flee the room. The mother is angry now. "No tiene... Me sopongo que no tienes una esposa tampoco, ¿verdad?"
You shake your head, not understanding. You can't follow when she talks that fast. That, however, is apparantly the wrong thing to do as well, because she slaps you for it. She slaps you! The one who's trying to correct this misunderstanding. You try to explain. "Me llamo Jeffrey Gonzales. No soy su esposo."
That acts like a slap to her. "No eres..." she gasps, but quickly returns to her enraged state. "¿Dices tú que yo no conozco me esposo?"
You resist the urge to shake your head. "Más despacio, pro favor. No hablo much español."
You're confusing her. "Naciste en México."
This time you do shake your head. You can't keep up. The hand is sneaking back.
Now she's shaking her head too. "No. Soy su esposa y ellas son sus hijas." She sounds panicky. "Por favor. Sea normal. Sea sano. Por favor." She's crying again. "Dios, ayúdame. Por favor..."
That ends it. The hand's descending, she's crying, you're lost... That's it. El fin. You run. She cries out after you but you don't stop. Corres. Al fin.
No sabes cuando los police pick you up. You're not running anymore, and the hand's got you. They pull you into the car and you drive, but not back to the house. No, van a un big, old building with a sign reading "HOSPITAL MENTAL."
You're shown to un cuarto pequeño. Hay preguntas, pero tú can't think, can't talk. You can hardly move the hand is pushing so hard. They te dan medicinas y leave you alone. Alone in that room.
You know what they think. They creen que you're loco. You're not loco. El mundo has gone loco. Toda persona. But not para siempre. They encontrarán su mistake and you'll be back in tu hogar real en no time. You just necesitas esperarlo.
Más medicinas. Siempre es medicinas. They never come para decirte que vas a ir home. Momentito... ¿Siempre? ¿Cuántos veces has tomado medicinas? No sabes. How long has estado aquí? No sabes ese tampoco. Tú saltas a la puerta.
--Me llamo Jeffrey Gonzales --llamas-- Quiero volver a los Estados Unidos. ¡Ahorita! ¿Me escuchan?
La enfermera viene con más medicinas. No quieres tomarlas, pero tú las comes. Tratas hablar con ella sobre los Est... *yawn* ¡O! Estas medicinas son fuertes. Muchos más fuertes que las otras.