All the Angels Come - Chapter 4
Ricardo "The Rock" De Los Rios
Tucked under the bridge Ricardo “The Rock” De Los Rios can hear the cars on the interstate; all night. The frequency, slowing in the middle hours, provides respite from pains of the past and hard days ahead. There is a creek below, that leads to a river. Given his name he knows that there is work to be done there, by the river, but he is waiting for instructions. The trickle adds to the comforting collage of sound.
His oversize duffle bag is very heavy. Too heavy for most people. Ricardo travels heavy. That’s why people call him “The Rock”. “Here comes the rock,” they’d say. Ricardo thinks he is “The Rock” for other reasons. The overstuffed bag contains mostly cans of food, one tube of watermelon lip balm and his voluminous comic collection. In the middle of his circa 1960 Archie comic, sealed in a ziplock, he keeps his papers. Maybe someday he can become a citizen. At thirty-two years he has a long life ahead.
Ricardo is just enough distance from the homeless center and the mission for solitude, yet close enough for a meal. Then there is his church, which encompasses most of downtown. It’s hard work.
On this particular hot summer evening in July, under the bridge, when the moon is full, he sleeps differently. Somehow his body is cold. He has no coat. His head stays warm under a blue cap meant for a logo, but there is no logo on it. Tonight, under his cap, old connections are reconnecting. Memories resurface in dreams that, this time, he will remember.
Cerro de la Popa, Cartagena, the church up on the cliffs. Colombia, his birthplace, but some missing disjointed memory just won’t jig. Ricardo doesn’t know how he got here. Mom, she is somewhere, alive, he knows, but he recalls that her brain misfires worse than his during her extreme bipolar swings. His eyelids half-mast, the synapses from a previous life, link to this one, like lightning in his head. He was married once.
“Veronica, it’s 9:30,” he’d say.
“I’ll be ready in a few minutes,” she replies, as she touches up her lipstick in the mirror.
From the cliffs of Cerro de la Popa, you can see the water from both sides. Young, in love and thrilled in the sea wind, they were laughing across to each other. Ricardo, binoculars focusing on the Caribbean Sea, Veronica, Cartagena Bay. He remembers turning around, and Veronica was gone. He searches for days.
“I’ll be ready in a few minutes,” he says in his sleep. ‘I’ll be ready”.
He remembers standing in front of the image of La Virgen de la Candelaria.
“El otro lado”, she says in a clear voice. Clear as the voices his mom would hear.
Did the Virgin mean the other side of the cliff, or “the other side”? He eliminates the cliff since no body was found below.
The Policía Nacional de Colombia had questions and went looking for him. Ricardo didn’t have enough money to pay them off. That was his first night ever under a bridge. As far as Ricardo was concerned, he fell asleep there weeping and woke up here. Getting from Cartagena to the states, a complete blank; but he is sure La Virgin had something to do with it.
In the morning, he wakes with the moon setting opposite the sunrise. He stirs and wonders why he feels colder when it is warm outside and warmer when it is cooler in the early morning. Things have been feeling opposite. He walks to the creek and sees his reflection and commences his daily rehearsal. He notices his face isn't reversed.
“Things are unfolding into the world today,” he begins, “El otro lado. From the other side.”
"There-fore, I ad-dress you”, as he attempts to soften his accent.
He’s gotten better at it. He prefers being called, “The Rock”, rather than pool-digger. Downtown can be a cruel place, and he doesn’t understand the dark in people, given that this is the time of the awakening.
“You must seek to be open”, he declares, his face distorted in the ripples.
“In this life, what you fear is what you must face,” he proclaims.
In the residue of his dream, he cries for the first time since his arrival. The tears of Ricardo De Los Rios mix with the creek and find their way out to the sea by way of the river. In a few hours, they touch the body of one surfer girl that went missing at the beach just a day ago.
He looks at the sun. Time to head downtown.
“Veronica, it’s 9:30,” he says.
Ricardo “The Rock” De Los Rios lifts his heavy duffle bag and walks out of the woods. El otro lado.
Special thanks to Michael Glinski. "Now I see what you mean".