Part II - Samskaras

Chapter 9

Ricardo’s Redemption

Under the overpass, the sound of the creek drowns in the rush hour. Carbon monoxide obscures the parade of morning fragrances from the woods. Ricardo “The Rock” De Los Rios is tired of the clouds that obscure his thoughts, and his Veronica. Penance, take pause, he thinks. It feels good to remember her again, letting the tears go, setting aside the shadow of guilt for taking her to Cerro de la Popa that cloudless day.

 

“The Rock” has a purpose in the world, now that he is a hero. I have a life to live. La Virgen has made it so. She delivered the watermelon lady unto me to redeem my sins. Lost in his stream of thoughts Ricardo reaches the clearing by the embankment and looks up the grassy slope to the highway, arms wide.

 

“You must seek to be open,” he says. “We are in the clearing. The age of awakening.”

 

Just then the sun breaches the trees, and he stops. It looks different, he thinks. So far away. Ricardo De Los Rios feels the distance from his life, his life interrupted by endless thinking and compulsions. It becomes clear to him at that moment that he’s been talking to himself for a long time.

 

“Am I one of those?” he asks.

 

Ricardo shakes his head to scatter the clouds that occlude his short-term memory. Things come back more often now, and he can see, see beyond the cliff, but swears La Virgen still speaks to him. He feels for the tube of Watermelon Lip Balm in his pocket.

 

***

 

It is at precisely 9:30, heading out of the woods, by the clearing, Ricardo hears the crash above in the morning traffic. Rubber on the pavement, and the explosive sound of crushing metal. Looking up, the massive hunk of steel is tumbling down, fast, directly at him.

 

“It is our time Veronica. I am ready,” he says to the oncoming tonnage. Just seconds away from his salvation, the spinning vehicle strikes a concrete slab, skips over Ricardo, inches above his head, and tumbles into the creek.

 

Luggage falls out from a swinging trunk into the shallow moving water and floats in the current. A large woman falls out the driver’s side door. Her dress, red with blood, mixed with a pattern of red watermelon slices. Her chest expands and contracts and expands again.

 

Veronica, falling from the cliffs; it must have been like this, he thinks, watching the watermelon patterned luggage float downstream. Maybe she is downstream.

 

Ricardo “The Rock” De Los Rios decides it is no longer time to repent. His life spared for his redemption. He breathes deep, the smell of rubber, and electric fumes, running down to the creek. The watermelon lady, amazingly pulling herself out of the vehicle, her breathing louder than the traffic above.

 

“Estás herido?” he asks, his accent thick. “Are you hurt ma’am?”

 

“I’m Jay,” she says, barely pulling herself onto the wet leafy ground by the creek.

 

Ricardo grabs her under her wide shoulders and pulls her to drier ground. My duffle bag, he thinks, cans of soup and comic books, it is my training, my muscles adapting for this very moment.

 

“Puddin’head Wilson,” she mumbles, her head bleeding from an open wound on her forehead in the shape of a crescent.

 

“I am The Rock,” he proclaims, “I will go up to the highway to get help,” assuring Jay, giving her hand a squeeze. Rock bolts up the embankment, glancing quickly at the concrete slab that says “not just yet Ricardo” as he passes. Reaching the highway, he waves his muscular arms in the air at the cars and semis, but no one pays him attention. Not the attention he is hoping for.

 

“Ayuda! Emergencia! Help!” he yells, wishing his lungs were big as the watermelon lady's.

 

Drivers turn their heads, quickly side to front.

 

“Get a job,” someone yells out from a passing car.

 

Another throws quarters that land near his feet.

 

Ricardo knows that he is one of “those people,” those that talk to themselves. People fear me, he thinks. Ignoring the quarters, “The Rock,” feeling worthy of this world, runs back down the embankment. Jay is still bleeding, and the puddle is expanding in the morning leaves. I can do this. It is time.

 

Drawing from the power of La Virgen, breathing the air from the other side, Rock slides under Jay, wraps her arms tight around his neck, and slowly lifts her three hundred pounds. He finds she is much heavier than his duffle bag, but there is magic when one seeks to be open.

 

“El otro lado” he declares.

 

He makes his way up the incline, slowly, foot step, by foot step.

 

“When ill luck begins, it does not come in sprinkles, but in showers,” Miss Jay quotes, her delirious voice shaking with every step.

 

“No mierda,” he mumbles under labor.

 

Reaching the highway Ricardo takes an involuntary breath of the exhaust-laden air. Traffic slows down to a crawl at the sight of him carrying a large bleeding woman.

 

“Stop him!” someone yells.

 

“Llama al 911,” Ricardo cries, but he knows what they think. He is a murderer. Once again.

 

“The Rock” lowers Jay to the ground. He gently rests her head in the grass, relaxing his muscular frame. Kissing her forehead, he whispers, “You will be okay, Miss. El otro lado.” She lies silent, her chest moving in big expansive breaths, the blood camouflaging the remaining watermelon prints on her blouse. Her cheeks are pale, as white as an angel, he thinks.

 

Ricardo slips down the embankment knowing she will be taken care. I have saved an angel.  Perhaps La Virgen forgives me.

 

“Hey, you! Cheech!” he hears from above.

 

Ricardo laughs out loud. “Dee whole latino worl eees from Meh-hee-co,” he says, sarcasm dripping like the sweat from his chin.

 

Ricardo swings his duffle bag over his shoulders once he hears the sirens approach. It is light compared to Miss Jay. He steps a couple of meters into the woods to a tree hollow hidden behind a palmetto bush.  He removes a large black garbage bag and slides his duffle bag in to keep it dry. He sets it deep inside knowing La Virgen will keep it safe. He kneels for a moment.

 

“Vivar Miss Jay,” he prays. A Blue Jay close by jeers back.

 

Ricardo walks back to the bank. By now Miss Jay’s luggage is far downstream, out to the river. At his feet, he sees a small tube and picks it up. Watermelon Lip Balm. He opens the cap and smells it.

 

“Sweet,” he says out loud, and spreads it heavy on his lips, rejoicing in his good works.

 

***

 

In his moment of clarity, Ricardo understands. La Virgen has brought Miss Jay to me to repent and redeem.

 

“It is a message from the other side,” he whispers.

 

Follow the signs, he thinks. The signs say go to the river. The signs being a watermelon suitcase and oversized watermelon purse.

 

 

© 2015, 2016, 2017 by LEAP Collaborative & Jim Alabiso