Maria, the savior


After the failure of my first marriage, I went to stay on my cousin’s farm in California’s central valley. I felt like the traditional values of the place would help me right the course of my tailspinning life. I’d help work the land and reconnect with my rural roots. It seemed to be working, right up until I got my kid cousin killed in a small plane crash.

Electrical failure, they said. Would have noticed the frayed wires if I’d done all the necessary safety checks, but my patience eluded me that day. I just wanted to show the boy the sky. He was 14 years old, about to start high school. Died on impact. They say it’s a miracle I survived. Some miracle; I cracked six ribs, broke my left leg, my back and collar bone. To boot, I spent 3 months in a coma and my cousin has never forgiven me.

Maria was the nurse who cared for me while I lay bed stricken. Every day, after performing the perfunctory medical tasks, she’d sit with me and stroke my brow, whispering into my ear, things like, “The world needs you, Knox. You need to get healthy.” She’d also tell me secrets about her failing marriage, how her husband, who she’d met at 16, beat her when he drank, how she fantasized about leaving him, but she had nowhere to go.

Even though I was technically asleep, I could hear her tell me these things, and in my mind, I was talking back to her, telling her how I could take her away from this. That I wanted to save her and maybe she could save me. For months though, my condition forced me to remain silent.

When I finally awoke, she was in my room, changing the bedpan. I reached out and weakly touched her arm “Maria,” I said. “Am I awake? I want to be with you.”

She looked at me quizzically and said, “Maria? My name is Pilar. Do you know that your cousin is dead because of you?” Sometimes I think the only reason I got healthy again was so that I could carry on drinking myself to death.

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