by Vanessa Alva
(February 7th, 2015)
Feeling the rush of time I grabbed my suitcase and threw on my backpack at the baggage claim. I looked for the departure signs amongst crowded herds of travelers like myself. I ran outside to hear the screeching of tires and yelled, “Taxi!” over the sounds of shuttles, buses, and random cars of fellow friends that were waiting frantically to get out of the hectic hell of LAX airport.
I touched my pants to reassure myself of two items that I could not leave home without. My camera was in my right pocket and my iPhone in the other. From my perspective it set a mood of nostalgia to capture a lost moment in time on a camera instead of my iPhone. The hatred of taking photos on my phone came from a night of partying and drinking one too many patron shots, which led me to the restroom stall where I was leaning to take a piss. Once my pants dropped, so did my phone. Bloop! Into the toilet it went. It annoyed me, that I had lost all my photos from my best friend’s birthday. There was a group shot of friends who were so caught up with life that it took a birthday party to bring us together. Those photos disappeared in the toilet’s water with nothing I could do. The thought of the photo, left my mind as a traveler bumped my toe with their suitcase.
“Oh, excuse me. I am so sorry,” the business woman said as she quickly walked around me and jumped into a black suv.
Seeing the woman flee the airport, reminded me that I better hurry and catch the next cab that came available, so when I saw the opportunity I jumped into the next taxi that drove up along the curb and said, “Go towards downtown, I’ll get the address in a sec.”
As my head relaxed on the seat I started to think of how thrilled my sister had been all week for my arrival. It had been five months since I’d been home. She had been ranting and raving, creating a buzz about a pizza bistro that her and her boyfriend couldn’t wait to dine in. Ideally I could make a pit stop at the hotel and unpack and unwind but my sister held time on a pedestal and the time was half past six in LA rush hour. My sister had made reservations for 8pm and with the unexpected flight delays I had encountered earlier in the day. I didn’t want to be late for the first engagement with my sister and her boyfriend whom I’d be meeting for the first time.
With urgency, the cab driver in a Haitian accent said, “Sorry gotta stop for gas, it won’t take long.”
Half irritated, I looked at the time, “Damn, 7:15 and only half way to downtown,” I mumbled to myself.
“Fine I’ve got to piss anyhow,” I said to the cab driver.
As we approached the gas station, I glanced at a rally gearing up to protest across the street.
“Not too bad of a turn out for the God squad,” I sneered sarcastically to myself. Stepping out of the cab, I was still in a fog from the jet lag which made me a bit clumsy from the lack of sleep. It didn’t take long for my clumsiness to kick in and just then I heard the sound of my camera falling to the ground.
“Shit! My camera,” I said.
It had slid underneath the car. I quickly went to snatch it up but absentmindedly I lifted my head without looking at my surroundings. Without notice, the yellow car door went closing in towards my direction and hit me smack in the face and by the time I reacted it was too late. I was left with no choice but to confront the pain that the metal was going to inflict once it connected with my face. It was as painful as falling face first into the concrete floor. Next thing I knew I saw my world go pitch black and fell abruptly to the solid surface.
I heard a long silence. Silent as a cold night where children are tucked in tight. So silent that you could hear a pin drop to the floor. Flying open, the doors invited the lurking wind to creep over my back and sent chills crawling up my spine. I knew where I was. I was in church. My mom had brought me to Saint Mary’s church every Sunday. I felt the safety of the church walls and I could feel the spirits swallow me whole as I knelt to the ground.
Positioning my hands together, I began to say a prayer. “Lord, may you watch over me and watch over my family. Bring us love, peace and health. Amen.” Then with such familiarity I touched my forehead, then directed the palms of my fingers to my bosom and then to the left shoulder and then the right shoulder. Softly, I whispered, “ The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
I remember now. Every Sunday for Mass I would show up an hour early to avoid the distractions of the crowd. I believed in the Venetian walls that the cathedral held, with sacred and stunning interior views of the golden mosaics. The gold symbolized the Almighty God and impressed those who came to say prayer.
I believed that I could reach a higher connection with the Lord while in prayer when I was alone and surrounded only with the statues of saints watching and looking down upon me. As if my prayers would be answered if I had taken the time to recite them alone with candles burning beside me. After Mass I would get into the car with my mom and would notice that her eyes would have a shimmer, or glow to them. Her eyes were speaking to me, projecting how proud she was of my faith in God.
“Noooooo!! Wait… wait… not yet, don’t let this memory slip away,” as I screamed within my unconscious state of mind. My mom’s face became a blur of colored lights and that memory left me without warning. Instead of waking up, my mind drifted to the next childlike memory.
I see myself sitting in the backyard, mesmerized on my childhood dog, O’l Charlie. I could see myself lean down to run my hand through his golden yellow thick coat. He was as cuddly as a bear but built like a horse. I had come to know O’l Charlie to become my most loyal allies. Sitting on the green grass of the backyard I see from afar an urban style home and from the open window the shouting voices traveled to my ears. The anguish arguments made my ears burn. I noticed a book on the ground to the side of me. I read aloud the poems from the journal to make the noise fade away and as a duty of a best friend, O’l Charlie leaned his head on my leg and listened as if he could understand my journel entry that I only shared with him.
Suddenly, the flashing lights took over my mind again and I was on to the next memory. I could see an old 1984 brown Buick sitting in the driveway crookedly parked.
“Oh no. Boozing before noon again,” I thought to myself.
Something about this scene was familiar but unfriendly. I looked down at my leash and was startled from the lightness of the weight of the leash.
“Where had O’l Charlie gone?” I said.
I ran out of breath to the backyard. I was horrified at what I saw. I ran over to O’l Charlie’s side. His torso was covered in blood. “What has happened? Not you, my only trusted friend! Please don’t leave me today,” I said while looking up to the sky. Praying that God would hear me. My head turned and leaning over me was the old man’s face. Boozed and drunk, he stumbled to me and O’l Charlie.
Drunkenly the old man said, “Oh man what on God’s earth happened? I thought I’d bumped O’l Charlie and he was takin a nap.”
I yelled, “Shut up you old drunk! Does it look like O’l Charlie’s taking a nap? He’s hurt badly.”
I got on my hands and knees and started praying again and said, “Lord please don’t take my only friend. Please don’t. Listen to my prayers just this once,” but that day God wasn’t listening and from that day on I now remember why I hate Buicks.
“Oh man you okay?” the man said.
I looked up which led me to a whiff of stank that I had never wished upon anyone to smell. It was a bum helping me up from the ground.
“How long was I unconscious for?” I said.
“Umm I don’t know,” the bum said. “I just want some bus money. You got a spare of change?”
As I stood up and gained my balance. I handed the tired and anxious eyed bum some change from my pocket.
“God bless you,” he kindly replied and took off to catch the bus that was approaching on the corner.
Once getting back into the cab I noticed that my cell phone had cracked but it was still functioning, so I called my sister to cancel dinner.
In a relieved voice she said, “Don’t worry about dinner. I am just grateful that you weren’t hurt worse. Please just get rest at the hotel and we will postpone till tomorrow if you feel better.”
What seemed like decades since leaving the airport, I had finally arrived at my hotel. I was happy to pay the cab fee and jetted to check into my room. Once inside the room, I couldn’t wait to change into my clean clothes. As I unzipped the suitcase, I released a slight smile while visioning slipping into my favorite under garments.
“Fuck! No way can this be my reality right now. Is this a joke?” I said.
From the suitcase, rearing its ugly head were business suits and black dress shoes. A shaving kit and traveling kit for men. Definitely nothing I would ever pack for a trip visiting home.
“Where are all my shorts and sandals that I packed for the warm Cali weather? Where is my favorite pair of vans shoes? Where is my Burberry perfume? What about my favorite Interview magazine issue with “Gossip” on the cover? That was gone too.Who’s damn suitcase is this?” I yelled out loud.
Then I lost it when I realized that my entrepreneur journal might never find it’s way back into my hands again. A year of visions I had jotted down night after night. The headlines of newspapers or magazine pictures I had cut out and collections of post cards that inspired me, were now gone. The business cards and flyers I had gathered while riding on trains or stopping for coffee at the local cafés while traveling. Those were gone too. All memories that would never be replaced and would have to be rebuilt from scratch.
I slouched on the bed. “What a day,” I said as I huffed.
For a second I had a optimistic thought. “Well maybe this guy packed slippers?
“At least I can kick off these overheated boots that were scorching my feet,” I said as I became to calm again.
Between being half serious and being curious I made a second attempt at the strangers luggage. I began to scrummage through the suits. To my surprise I felt something solid and brick size. What revealed next was ironic and very unusual considering the type of day I was experiencing. The unconscious part of me earlier that day and the memories of my childhood while I was knocked out, made perfect sense now. As this one particular item unraveled itself from the suits in this man’s suitcase, I began to realize what I had been missing. As I looked at it and held it. I knew the answer at that very moment. I took a deep breath and I knelt down and prayed for better days to come.