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SEARCHING CHAPTER 7: A New Start

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

We can’t say that Angel didn’t know where to start this leg of his journey. He’d been starting his whole life. Fits and starts. False starts. Start and stop, start and stop. Angel’s problem was finishing. He’d managed to graduate from Roosevelt—barely—and he vaguely remembered the platitudes the locally famous person of color had shared at the graduation ceremony: Believe in your dreams. Reach for the stars. Stay in touch. Good words, he thought, but he’d spent the six months since then pretty much wandering through life, without a plan, That morning, in Mother Light’s house, as he tenderly pulled on his jacket and bent over to tie his shoes, he spotted the webbed ornament in the window.
“That’s a dream catcher, right?” he said to Ana, who was waiting at the door.

She smiled, nodded yes, then pointed to her eyes, to her heart, to her lips and then to Angel. He shook his head and wondered what manner of answer that was: was this beautiful young woman deaf? Or merely insane? “I wonder if it caught any of my dreams”, he muttered to himself.

Ana handed him his backpack, which felt heavier to his bruised shoulders. She led him out the door and down the block to the little park. There was fresh snow on the ground, tender to their feet. It began to snow again, soft, huge flakes, the kind dogs and children love to catch on their tongues. She led him under a red pine, whose branches were heavily laden with snow. Angel thought that he saw her bow slightly. She smiled and then repeated the same motions with her hands as she had in the house: pointing to her eyes, to her heart, to her lips and then to him. Then she pointed to the tree trunk, where hundreds of woodpecker holes were bored into the rust red bark. By the time he thought of something to say, she had gone.

Where now? He did not feel fear, even though his enemies were at large. He wanted to find Luz, but something Mother had told him led him to think he had to find himself—or at least a part of himself—first. The ground was white, the sky was a brilliant white, it seemed like the whole world was new and strange. So he started walking. He walked past the old convent at Holy Rosary—the church where his grandmother had been among the first to push for a mass in Spanish years ago. He tromped through vacant lots promising new townhomes. He stopped at Welna’s for the free popcorn and to use the bathroom.

At 26th street, he saw someone he knew from high school, a young man named Ezekiel, whom many called “The Wheel”, because it seemed his head was always spinning with crazy ideas. He was dressed in a warm coat, with new stocking cap and gloves, waiting for the bus. He was smoking, and offered Angel one. Angel took the cigarette, and tucked it behind his ear.

“What are you up to these days?” Angel asked.

“I’m going to MCTC right now. I’m on my way to class”

“Oh yeah—what are you studying?”

“Just general stuff now, but I eventually want to do graphic design. You should check it out.”

“Maybe I will”

He continued walking. The snow was falling harder, his shoes were starting to get damp, but he didn’t care. He walked west and ended up at Stewart Park. No school children were at recess in the snow, no dogs patrolled, nobody at all. He sat on the little bench tucked under the jungle gym complex. He took the cigarette from behind his ear, looked at it, rubbed it under his nose, held it up to the white world, and then tossed it high into the snow.

Just then a man walked up. Or Angel thought it was a man. He was clothed in a long dark coat, with a hoodie of the same color. Dark shades shielded him from the growing whiteness. Big puffs of breath poured from his mouth, but Angel couldn’t understand him.
“What did you say?” Angel asked.

The man spoke again, and for the rest of his life, Angel would not know exactly what his words were. Sometimes he thought he simply said, “Look in the bag”, or “Lots in the bag”. But his deeper brain, the one he had begun to trust more and more, heard it as “Lotten the bag”. Lotten: that strange word again. Spoken as from a cloud.

Angel rose quickly to try and follow the man, and banged his head hard on the metal pipes overhead. He did not say a mysterious word, but one we all say in those situations, one we’ve heard enough. He sat back down, rubbing his head. He took the bag off his shoulders, zipped open the main pocket, and began looking.

HELP NEEDED!
Your suggestions will help to write the next chapters of this very special novel in The Alley. You can e-mail your suggestions to
Patrick Cabello Hansel.

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