Dolores, the old soul
My father went through an identity crisis when I was a teenager, and he thought Jesus was the answer. Far be it from me to say otherwise, but if Jesus was the answer, Dad started with the wrong question. As part of his sabbatical, we went to El Salvador to partake in some humanitarian work at an orphanage.
It didn’t take long for dad to fall off the wagon. He met a young woman named Esperanza, a basehead in the wrong barrio. I imagine he felt he could save her by loving her, but all he did was feed her habit. She had a darling child named Dolores, which, in an all-too-Catholic way, literally meant, “pain.” She was only 8 years old and I found myself being her baby sitter as my dad did his best to impart the glory of God upon an insufferable sinner.
Dolores was a very special girl. Before the age of nine she had read The Wind and the Willows in her second language. Though formally uneducated, she spoke eloquently with odd, unsuspecting metaphors. She was what one might call an old soul, though she never had the chance to grow up in any sort of normal or healthy fashion.
It didn’t take long for my dad to give up on Dolores’ mom. His failings led him back to the bottle and I found myself without him most of the time. I just sat around in the barrio with Dolores, watching telenovelas and teaching her English. I had this idea that maybe, just maybe, if I could help Dolores, my father’s mission wouldn’t have been in vain.
I went back home to live with my aunt for a couple of years. At 18, I returned to El Salvador to find my father and Dolores. It wasn’t easy. My dad was indebted to some hard-hitting locals and Dolores had met a pimp who promised her Beverly Hills and a new life for her mother via intravenous cocaine use. I found her on the corner turning tricks, barely 11 years old. She didn’t even recognize me.
The first time I’d visited El Salvador, I was struck by the incredible beauty, so starkly contrasted by squalor and ugliness. Most of all, I remembered the incredible sunsets. And I often get to thinking that none of the good is worth it in the end. A beautiful sunset does nothing to offset an 11-year-old selling her body in the streets of San Salvador. Beauty and love aren’t the answer—they’re merely inflated currency to pay off the horror of what we all do to each other.
Filed under: stories of heartbreak | 3 Comments