Present Day, Winter 2019
Days after Cooper and Hannah’s engagement party, Luna finds herself looking up the steps of yet another daunting building.
Her eyes linger over the lettering… Saint Christopher’s Haven… haven.
noun: haven; a place of safety or refuge.
Sure, she could see that. This place had given her safety after being left behind, abandoned for a lack of a better word. Though she never felt she’d sought refuge there. More like refuge was thrust upon her there. There were no choices of her own accord, just decisions made on her behalf.
But she had to do this, push through, persevere. She took to the stairs, walking with purpose.
Opening the front door and stepping into the foyer. She’d forgot how Catholics loved their statues. Her eyes darted over the holy water stoup at the entrance. Reluctantly she turned, dipped her fingers in the water and motioned the sign of the cross.
En el nombre... Forehead – del Padre, Chest – y del Hijo, Shoulder and shoulder – y del Espíritu Santo… Amén
She walks over to the reception desk. The novitiate sitting at the desk couldn’t have been much older than Luna. She was completely absorbed by her bible passage she had open. Luna felt almost guilty disturbing.
“Hola…” Luna smiles
“Hola querida… cómo estás?”
“Bien y tu?”
“Me Illamo Luna Jiménez… I was here before.”
“…I… my mother… she left me here 35 years ago…”
Luna swallows hard, running her palm across her face.
“Sí…” she motions to get up “I will get Sor Theresa…”
“Uhm…” Luna reaches out to gently grab her wrist, “Is Sister Laura here by chance?”
The novitiate smiles, then nods. She sits back down, picks up the receiver and presses 4 buttons.
“Sor Laura…perdón por favor. Luna Jiménez está aquí para verte… Sí”
She places the receiver back in its hold and smiles up at Luna again.
“She is on her way… perhaps take a seat… Sor Laura is not as spright as she once was” she giggles.
Luna smiles and nods.
She takes a seat in the visitors’ section. The furniture was antique, but very well maintained.
Luna rubs her palms up and down the shiny, wooden armrests. Catching the novitiate’s eye. She smiles abashed, like she had been busted. Luna quickly plops her hands into her lap.
She nervously starts twiddling her thumbs. She looks up at the paintings on the wall, the framed prayers in between. There were beautiful acrylic paintings of The Last Supper; Sacred Heart; Mary at the Grotto.
Luna’s mind flashed back to when she was 10 years old.
Luna had snuck out to go to a classmate’s party; and had missed curfew.
Sister Laura was furious; gave her 10 lashings across the palm of her hand and dragged her to the chapel.
They knelt together at the altar. Luna opened one eye to look at Sister Laura, who had her stern face on. Then Luna caught a glimpse of Jesus on the cross at the center of the altar.
The statue was life-like and intimidated her up close. He looked sad and tired. Luna could almost feel the disappointment emanating from the statue, then she looked across at Sister Laura. Her face still solemn, but her cheeks were wet. She really cared and wanted better for Luna.
Sister Laura opened her eyes, “Orar!”
Luna squeezed her eyes shut and started reciting the prayer alongside Sister Laura.
Con todo mi corazón me arrepiento
De todo el mal que he hecho
Y de todo lo Bueno
Que he dejado he hacer
Al pecar, te he ofendido a Ti,
Que eres el supremo bien
Y digno de ser amado
Sobre toda las cosas.
Propongo firmemente, con la ayuda
De tu gracia, hacer penitencia,
No Volver a pecar
Y huir de las ocasiones de pecado
Señor, por los méritos de la Pasión
De nuestro Salvador Jesucristo,
Apiádate de mí. Amén
Sister Laura whispered, “Santa María ruega por nosotros pecadores”
“Lunacita…” an old, creaky voice brought her back to the room.
“Sister Laura…” Luna stood and immediately felt a rush of emotion. She carefully embraced the elderly woman standing in front of her. Then stood back and gave her the once over.
She once was so sturdy and strong, even though her eyes belied her strict nature. Now she seemed frail, almost hunched over.
“Qué pasa … don’t look at me like that child… I aged; people do that.”
She turns to lead the way, “Venga…”
Luna follows her down the passage, not before she gives a courteous wave to the friendly and helpful novitiate.
The passage seemed to go on forever but felt all too familiar. How many countless hours had she spent looking at all the art on the walls?
“Aquí… they gave me a shoebox of an office”
Sister Laura slowly makes her way around her desk, lowering gingerly into her chair. She motions for Luna to sit. Then plonks a manila folder down in front of her.
“Ahí tienes… that’s why you came all this way no?”
Luna gulps, slowly opening the folder. There was a picture of a beautiful young girl. It seemed like her passport photograph. It was black and white, but Luna could see that her eyes were light.
“Esta es mi madre?”
Sister Laura nods, letting out a grunting noise.
Luna read the words on the first page, slowly processing.
Name: Marisol Isabel Jiménez
Place of birth: Baracoa, Cuba (Village: Barigua)
Father of child: unknown
Child’s name: Luna
Luna looks up at Sister Laura, “She named me? Not you?”
Sister Laura frowns, “You did not know? Ah, I forget… niña terca… you wanted to know nothing, not where you come from… how you got here… lienzo en blanco”
Luna scoffs at the comment. But she could hardly object. She was stubborn and wanted a clean slate.
“I thought my father was Polish… that you just refused to keep to yourself… and that my mother was Cuban”
“Hmmm… Marisol did not want to disclose any details of your father, in case you ever came asking. But I felt even a blank canvas should have a brush once it’s ready to be painted.”
Luna turns the page, there were medical charts ranging from ages 2 months to 13 years old.
There were pictures for each year she spent at the home.
“Who were they?” Luna looks up, closing the folder.
Sister Laura leans forward, elbows on the table, hands clasped at the center.
“Marisol was a scared Cuban immigrant, who thought she did right by her daughter… giving her a better future.”
“And the facts? Because that’s a Lifetime movie Sister Laura.”
“Marisol was 20 years old. An illegal immigrant, a 2-month old baby she couldn’t care for because her family disowned her for getting pregnant out of wedlock. And especially by a European man they did not approve of. So, like I said, she did right by her daughter…”
“Where is she now?”
“You are 2 years too late Lunacita. She passed away in December of 2017, a brain aneurysm. She died in her sleep. She’s buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery.”
Luna is astonished. She sits back trying to collect her thoughts.
“I was pregnant…”
Luna interjects, “… My daughter was stillborn… in December 2017…”
“Lo siento mi amor”
Sister Laura struggles out of her chair, waddles over to Luna. She gingerly lowers down on the chair next to her. She takes Luna’s hands in hers.
“El plan de Dios sobre el mío.” Sister Laura says in a softer tone.
“I lost a mother and a daughter at the same time… and I didn’t even know…” tears glisten in her eyes, “… I didn’t want to know…”
“Lunacita… good things and bad things come from God alike… and we are not to question, but to trust the greater plan. Had Marisol not come here, I would never have met you niña. Had you not gone through that unbearable suffering of losing your little one, niña… I don’t think you’d have come in search for these answers… these answers, you have always needed to know but refused to acknowledge. Faith is a difficult thing Lunacita, it makes you question everything and everyone. But without faith it is impossible to please God, without faith… there is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither love nor hope without faith.”
“What is there left to hope for, when everything is gone?”
A tear drips onto their clustered hands.
Sister Laura trails her fingers down across Luna’s eyes, to have her close them.
She starts praying,
Heavenly father, I am your humble servant,
I come before you today in need of hope.
I need hope for a calm and joyful future.
I need hope for love and kindness.
I pray for peace and safety.
Some say that the sky is at its
darkest just before the light.
I pray that this is true, for today seems stormy and dim.
I need your light, Lord, in every way.
I pray to be filled with your light.
Help me to walk in your light, and live
my life in faith and service.
In your name I pray, Amen.
Sister Laura whispers, “Santa María ruega por nosotros pecadores”
Luna opens her eyes, though her eyes sad she smiles. Sister Laura would always end a prayer with ‘Holy Mary pray for us sinners’
After visiting with Sister Laura, Luna decides to head to St. Joseph’s Cemetery. With the help of the caretaker, she tracks down Marisol’s grave.
To Luna’s surprise it was well tended to. Luna kneels in front of the headstone. She wipes away tiny piles of snow from the top of the headstone. Shaking off excess snow and water droplets from her leather gloves.
She runs her fingers across the engraving.
Marisol Isabel Jiménez
03 December 1964 – 10 December 2017
Fideli certa merces
Luna frowns at the Latin phrase. Another piece to the puzzle to solve. Did her mother speak Latin as well as Spanish?
Then she became sad, noting the date of birth versus the date of death. Her mother had just turned 53 when she passed.
Her ears perk up as she hears crackling noises behind her. She jumps up and spins around.
A man stood solemnly with a bouquet of Calla Lilies in his right hand. He slowly lifts his gaze to meet Luna’s.
His blonde hair was blotched with gray, the colors unevenly meshed but still looking well kept.
He wore a cobalt blue dress shirt and stone chinos; a heavy black coat that went down to his knees. The collar of the coat flicked up, shielding his neck from the Boston winter chill. He’d buttoned the coat up a few, but not far enough to cover his entire chest. He was virile for a man on up in his age.
“Who are you?” she asks
“Okay… I’m Luna… are you…” she runs her fingers through her hair, “Are you here for Marisol?”
He nods, then steps forward. Luna sidesteps him in a haste. Still unsure of the quiet stranger that crept up behind her. He resembled a stranger that would follow you down a cobblestone alley in the dead of night.
He lowers down to place the flowers on her grave, “Dey wer’ her favor’reete…”
He smiles, remembering a fond moment. His smile brightened his entire face, he seemed less intimidating. The lines on his face turned from hard and deep to light brushstrokes.
“How did you know her?”
“She was lov’ of my life…”
He was trying to adopt a generic Boston accent, but it was still very eastern or western European in pronunciation and grammar. Luna couldn’t place it though.
“I only weesh I had mor’r time wid her… and not only a few fleetink mon’ds in de Fall. I weell never for’rget dose mon’ds dough… before I fled back to Malbork like coward.”
“Tak… in Polska… Pol’and”
“Was this in 1983?”
He turns to face her.
“Skąd wiedziałeś…” he translates himself when he sees confusion marred on her face, “How do you know?”
“Kamil, I think I might be… your daughter…”
He straightens, inching closer. “How I not see it befor’re…you have her eyes… piękne oczy”
“I wouldn’t know…”
“How dis possible? How did you? When did she?”
He looks back at the headstone, trying to piece everything together.
“You didn’t know she was pregnant?”
He shakes his head. He runs his palm across his day-old stubble.
“She had me in December of 1984… and gave me up.” Luna clears her throat, as she struggles through, “… she left me with nuns at Saint Christopher’s Haven… in Braintree…”
“But when I came back for her 10 years later… I could not find her at home in Braintree… dey say she had go back to Cuba.”
Luna shrugs, “I never met her… so I couldn’t tell you…”
“Wstyd…” his eyes are wet, “I… how could I not know… how she could not tell me?”
“Apparently your romance wasn’t well-liked by her family”
“Tak… or mine… My parents ordered me to come home when dey found out I had brown girlfriend… different time.”
“It wasn’t really segregation era… but I guess…”
“Moja rodzina… dey are very… traditional.”
Luna nods, “I get it… so my bio-parents were a real-life Romeo and Juliet…”
He staggers backward, stumbling into the back of another headstone. He grips tightly at the rounded edge, shaking his head trying to regain composure. Luna moves closer until she stood right next to him, leaning back against the same headstone.
“I mees everyt’ink… your birt’, first steps… you married?”
“No…” Luna gives him a pat on the back, “Don’t beat yourself up. Marisol missed just as much… like I said, I never knew her. She gave me away when I was around 2 months old.”
“Dat must’ve been so hard… for both of you. If you’d known Mari… you’d know, she probably struggled wit’ dat decision. She wanted not’ink mor’re dan to be a modher.”
He smiles, “We actually planned what our family would be… where we’d live… all dreams I suppose… for a different time, in a different world…”
“Did you never marry?”
He shakes his head, “I could never forget her. I weesh I could’ve gone in search for her sooner… but I waited too lonk, until I came back here, and she was first gone to Cuba… den came back to find a headstone and a grave.”
“So, you’ve been pining away over one woman… even now?”
“I am old man… but, truly, I have on’ly ever really lov’d one woman…and dat was enough.”
“I can relate to that… I’ve only ever really loved one man… and now he’s getting married to someone else.”
His pure blue eyes lock onto hers.
“Der’ is so much I don’t know, so much I have to learn. I would like to ask you Luna… would you ever conseeder us gettink to know each o’der as we are now?”
She smiles, “I definitely did not inherit your polite nature”
There was a smile on his lips.
“I think it would be really cool to get to you know you… and… to hear stories of you and Marisol.”
“Herr seester, Pilar, still leeves in de old neighborhood… she is not my beeggest fan, but I t’ink she’d like to meet her niece after all dis time.”
“She knows about me?”
“Dey were very close, best of friends… Pilar was devastated dat Marisol went back to Cuba. And she mostly placed all de blame on me.”
“How did a Polish guy meet a Cuban girl in Boston, Massachusetts?”
“Well… Marisol’s family immigrated to de US in 1980. I was visitink a co’sin from New York. We decided to come see a football game in Boston. After de game we went to nearby pub, and dat’s where I meet her… de most beautiful girl I ever see. She had dark, curly hair down to her waist. Big, green eyes framed by dark lashes and eyebrows. Herr olive skin, soft enough to touch… She was my one true lov’, you know”
“What, love at first sight?”
“I know it sounds seelly and impossible even… but she had my heart de moment she turned and smiled at me.”
“What broke the camel’s back and made you leave?”
“She asked me to…”
He nods, slowly. His face pained at the thought even now.
“My parents had demanded I com’ back home, after I asked for de engagement ring promised to de first-born son… and dey realized dat I was marryink a non-white girl. I risked beink disowned and would not stop seeink Mari. But when I proposed to her… wid a less than average ring I bought at pawn shop… she told me to go…”
“Just like that?”
“Her parents had been very vocal on deir disapproval as well… and I guess… she didn’t want to lose her family.”
“But you were willing to be disowned…”
“I am white man; I know my privilege. Mari didn’t have such privilege. Her family was all she had in de US. And here I wasn’t even ceetizen yet at dat time. All I could offer her was my lov’ and my heart.”
“But I guess love’s just not enough”
They stood in silence, still leaning back on the headstone; staring out at the rows of headstones set out in front of them. It was eerie. The snowfall from earlier had started to dissolve some and partially crystalized onto the blades of grass. It was a sea of icy-covered green grass, with blocks of marble popping up in between.
All the loved ones buried here, all their stories told or untold. Would someone be remembering them, visit them even. Miss them. Or come in search of them for the first time, like Luna has. Or come back again and again, in search of something else… like Kamil has.
“Why do you come back here Kamil?”
“To talk to her… to reconnect.”
“Don’t you feel you’re holding on to something that is no longer there?”
“Perhaps… but it’s de only way I get to feel clos’ to her again. And, ulteemately, dat’s all I want… to be wit’ her again.”
“It seems a sad and lonely existence though”
“On de contrary my dear, I can still feel all de lov’… it envelops me”
Luna crosses her arms across her chest, tucking her hands under her arms. She dips her chin to the top of her sternum.
“Do you think she ever moved on? Married and had kids?”
He shakes his head, “Pilar told me dat Marisol ended up marryink Carlos from deir veellage Barigua. It pleased her family, as he was of a prominent family in veellage… well as prominent as you could get in Barigua.”
Kamil sounded bitter and resentful, but who could blame him. The Jiménez family preferred the drunkard son of a fisherman family, over a Polish guy they knew very little of.
“She say he was a lousy husband… kurwa, drank too much and ended up dyink of organ failure. Dey never have cheeldren… As Pilar tells it, Mari t’ought her eenability to have cheeldren was punishment for givink you away.”
“How long were they married?”
“Mari moved back to Boston in 2000, so I guess… over 10 years. I know she kicked against marryink him as soon as she moved back to Cuba in ’85… but dey eventually wore her down.”
“She moved back to Braintree?”
He nods, “I believe so…”
“Wow”, Luna lets out a sigh, “We lived in the same city for 17 years and I never knew…”
Luna runs her palms up and down her arms, rocking back and forth.
“I wonder if she ever thought she spotted me… or actually did spot me, and she couldn’t be sure… I mean, would she even have remembered anything about me?”
“I couldn’t say for certain Luna… but I would like to t’ink she may have t’ought keepink her distance was for de best. She couldn’t ask dat of you, if she was de one who chose to leave you behind. As for recognizink you, how could she not? You are de spittink image of her”
Luna squints her eyes, as light snowfall descends. A flake catches on her eyelash. He reaches to gently brush it away.
She smiles up at him. The reddish veins on the white of his eyes made the icy blue of his irises stand out, solid dark pupils at its center. There were no visible outlines, all the colors just seamlessly blended, without meshing, perfectly together.
Just as his hair colors seemed to perfectly collide without obstruction.
Even his blonde-ginger facial hair didn’t obscure his snow-white skin.
He didn’t seem real, there were no visible flaws where there should be. Things don’t mesh without blending, obscuring or obstructing. There is always a mess when you join two opposite things. She frowns. This is what she thought she was. A blended mess of a European and Central American.
If he were this perfect human, was Marisol then an utter mess… to throw this recipe of Luna so completely out of whack?
“Tell me something imperfect about you?” she finally asks.
He lowers his gaze, kicking at the tiny piles of snow forming near his feet.
“… I do not stand for anyt’ink… not like Mari… she would stand up for de leetle guy… even she not know heem…”
“Tell me something perfect about her?”
“Ah… everyt’ink…” the corners of his mouth turn up, “…piękna dziewczyna… uprzejmy… mądry… moje serce…”
“Piękna… you said that word before…”
“Piękna dziewczyna… beautiful girl” he nods, “… uprzejmy…kind… mądry… smart…”
He looks at Luna, his eyes smiling “My heart…”