Monday, December 07, 2009

The Face Beneath

And when I'm celebrating a week in which I have not let events remote in their distance in space, time or attachment to me monopolize my emotions - Proud that I've focused on here and now the things I can touch and fix the things my tools are made for - I'm confronted by a Tragedy that isn't Breaking News on CNN and won't require acts of Congress or the ministrations of the Powerful.

Suddenly that Tragedy is a woman whose name I know, whose Husband I know, whose two beautiful boys I've met - all of their names in my head. This Tragedy who helped to clean the place I call home before I moved down from Minnesota, who probably painted with her tiny hands the walls I hung my pictures on - this Tragedy sits not six feet from me and in two broken languages we discuss her double mastectomy and the five metasticized tumors in her face and neck. The five tumors that they've found for now.

This Tragedy has no family in Texas aside from the American she married and the two little American boys both in school - one Kindergarten the other First Grade not enough space for the Big Brother to be much bigger. As she smiles and says it's going well except for the three or four days after each chemotherapy and indicates with her tiny hands the locations of the tumors in her neck and faced, memorized and counted out like knowing the moons of Mars. I begin to see a face behind the tiny smile that faces me and suffers my Spanish as I try to anticipate her English as if I could draw it magically from her soul.

This face beneath is not smiling at the nice man who asked about her health and her children in school. It is looking into a sunny sky on this grey day and someone is holding this Tragedy and calling her by her given name - Maria Theresa. They are holding her and whispering to her to shed the silly wig it's too hot outside. Besso, she is kissed and held. The sun is warm on this face and I see in it a longing I seem to understand.

This Tragedy, Maria Theresa, concludes her business with us and walks away, folding the check she'd been written with her tiny hands and taking the warm sun on her face into the grey and rainy day.