By Nina Valdés
On a recent return flight from Dublin to Madrid, my husband and I weren´t able to sit together, which in itself is not a catastrophe since I was allotted a center seat two rows behind him. It´s customary to get adjoining seats when with a traveling companion. However, this time it wasn´t possible. When I approached my aisle, I observed an older gentleman already positioned at the window, and as I attempted to raise my over-size case into the overhead bin, he arose, smiled pleasantly, and with minimal effort got the job done. I was grateful for the help.
The man seemed vaguely familiar, but I couldn´t place whether I´d met him before or if he merely resembled an acquaintance. A fringe of black hair surrounded his all but bald head, and he sported a salt and pepper mustache above a short beard containing more salt than pepper. His cheeks were rosy; thus, I made the stereotypical assumption that he was probably a heavy drinker. Because of the lightly faded tattoos evidenced on either forearm, I also concluded that he´d been a sailor or a criminal early on. When he so easily hoisted my bag with a single thrust, I noted that contrary to his well-developed arms, he had thin legs, practically no posterior, and there appeared to be a slight conical bulge in his abdominal area which I attributed to an untreated hernia. Also, his head drooped forward a bit.
As I took my seat and buckled up, a teenage boy sporting a man bun and double nose piercing settled into the preferred aisle seat. He became involved with his music-thumping headphones before we barely cleared the runway.
When the plane leveled off, and we were riding smoothly, the man turned to me, extended his hand and said in a slight Irish brogue, “Hello, my name is Colin Schinn.”
“I´m Nina Valdés,” I replied. “Pleased to meet you.”
“I know who you are. My fiancé is Maria Valdez. You might recall that we were attendees at your book signing on the estate in Clondalkin the other night.” As soon as he made that statement, it jogged my memory.
Fortunately for me, my friend Shelagh had invited a group of about sixty to the signing of my new book The Truth Emerges. Although everyone was a stranger to me, it was a surprisingly diverse group of multi- cultured women and a smattering of Irish men in attendance.
Maria did stand out from the crowd. When she approached for me to sign her book, she commented that we could be distant cousins, since we not only resembled one another physically but also carried the same surname, the difference being that she was from a Mexican heritage and I was a New York Puerto Rican. Her name ended in “z” and mine in “s.” I did recall that she´d purchased two books and during our brief conversation stated that there were other similarities in our backgrounds. I promised to meet with her later and continue our discussion but was unable to do so because the signing lines were quite long.
Colin stated that Maria had managed to drag him to the signing despite his strong convictions that sporadic cries from outraged women who were devotees of the “Me Too Movement” would assault his senses. He predicted these ladies would most likely spend their free moments regurgitating news media hyperbole, commiserating, or collectively male bashing any human endowed with a penis and whose body had accidentally brushed past one of them within the tight quarters of an office copy room.
Instead, as I recited paragraphs from the book detailing various memories of childhood sexual abuse, he stated that my honest emotions moved him, and was wholly unprepared for the number of women who nodded in agreement when I focused on specific issues. It appeared to him that I was making a presentation to “colleagues” in some private society, and an overwhelming sense of sadness ultimately changed his opinion about attending the function. He also disclosed that Maria had a love story she wanted to share with me.
“A few years back, I went to another signing,” he continued, “but it was presented by ten well-heeled alpha males who had ventured out on an unsponsored arctic expedition. Each detailed the pitfalls of a journey relatively comfortable by modern standards, which held few emotional highlights and no unexpected disasters – unlike the extreme hardships endured by Shackleton´s crew in the early 1900s on the ill-fated voyage of the ship Endurance.
When the book event ended, we joined the authors for a royal piss up in the local pub, which unsurprisingly progressed into loud exaggerations of the depths of our sexual prowess in conquering the opposite sex and factual recounting of our incredible male staying power. I´m returning to our home in Madrid while Maria remains in Dublin for a few more days. She´s worked for a charity-driven organization in the city for many years and deserves a little holiday.”
“I´ve noticed that you have a slight Irish accent. Is Ireland your home?”
“No, not really. It´s my birthplace, and I´ve lived in Boston, on Long Island, and upstate New York for most of my life, and I have a knack for imitating accents. Years ago, I worked for a company in Brooklyn called Boar´s Head which has been in business forever. They specialize in fine deli meats, cheeses, and other food products, and their beautiful glistening red and black trucks with the gold lettering were spotted everywhere.
“New York City is a melting pot of diverse cultures, whose territory I entered through my daily deliveries to a variety of ethnic businesses. When I returned the rig at the end of a shift, my co-workers immediately recognized which district I worked. I unconsciously mimicked the accent of the day´s encounter as I regularly kibitzed with Jewish, Italian, Black and Hispanic owners. It was unrehearsed street theater at its best.”
“Therefore, when in Ireland…”
“So. You mentioned that your fiancé has a story that she wants to share.”
“Yes. It´s a tale of love that offers undeniable verification of true destiny; that transcends time, logic, distance, and credibility. But Maria has to be the commentator.”
“I´m assuming this is a personal narrative – about your lives together. All love stories have a basic commonality. What transpired to make yours so different?”
“Well, I´m seventy-five years old, yet sometimes feel a hundred. For thirty years I raised a family, ran a business and worked long hours every day of my adult life. Initially, the situation wreaked such havoc on me that I drank myself into oblivion to dispel the loneliness and emptiness that I continually felt. I abused drugs on a regular basis to help compensate for the ever-deepening abyss into which I was descending.
“Eventually, I lost a kidney; replaced a liver; suffered two heart attacks; and survived on anti-depressants for more than eighteen years. The depth of my despair knew no bounds, and the surgical scars on my body resemble a roadmap in a battle zone. I retired, yet worked as a school bus driver for an additional nine years to help alleviate my high medical costs. I mowed lawns and repaired small engines. And then, I packed it in again. And, in a last-ditch effort to heal my mind and body in this newly autonomous state of not working, I´ve managed to recapture the fragments of my life. For twenty-five of the last forty years, I have been deprived of the woman who had captivated my heart and consumed my mind.
Had it not been for the global power of Facebook and return of the black pearls, I would never have found redemption in my life; nor would I have re-discovered that love which has forever sealed my fate.
Chapter 2 coming up.
Related post: “The ‘Truth’ is Launched”
Featured image/Charo Garcia, CC