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Searching – A Serial Novelle Chapter 31: Towards the Unkown

By Patrick Cabello Hansel

We use the phrase “love birds” to describe a couple in love who seem to have grown wings of joy.  They can be 18 or 19, 80 or 90. It is the quality of their embrace that lifts them off the ordinary ground.  When Luz and Angel kissed in the deep snow at the cemetery, they were the love birds we love.  When they got up and walked, hand in hand, toward their evil and their freedom, they were birds of a deeper, stranger love.

There are no paths in a cemetery after a heavy snow.  There are only the stones and the white wilderness.  They followed the flight of the hawk they had seen, and walked through knee deep snow towards the center of the holy ground.  Without a word, they both stopped at the place they felt they had to.

“I don’t see the hawk—el halcón,” Angel said.

“Nor do I.”

Then both of them looked up and to the east, and there on a bare branch rested the whitest bird they had ever seen.

“Angel, what is that—is that the owl you heard?”

“I don’t know—I never saw it.  But that’s an arctic owl. I read that they are coming much further south than normal because of the hard winter up north,” he answered.

“It looks like it’s looking straight into our eyes,” Luz said, her arm tightening on Angel’s.

Angel looked intently at the solemn white flesh.

“No, I think it’s looking at our feet!” he cried.

They both began to dig through the deep snow, shoveling it out with their gloves that became wetter and wetter.  Their breath was like a spring, bubbling up from the sleeping earth.

When they got to the ground, they found an old stone, worn and gray, but seeming to glow with a hidden fire.  Angel took his glove off, and carefully removed the last of the snow, but they still could not make out the faint lettering.  Luz leaned down and blew away the tiny flakes of dust and snow hiding in the cracks in the words.  They both peered into the stone.

“I can’t tell, but it seems to read “desa” something,” Angel said.

“Desapare..” Luz read, and then they both shouted, “¡Desaparecido!”

Desaparecido—disappeared.  The title given to so many names in so many lands.  The native Ojibwa and Lakota, disappeared from their lands. The thousands, the tens of thousands, the hundreds of thousands disappeared by the military governments in Latin America. The hundreds of thousands, the millions of slaves disappeared out of Africa.  The language and memory of Swedes and Norwegians and Irish and Germans disappearing each year, each generation in the new land.

“Disappeared?  Luz asked.  “Who?”

Angel leaned closer and brushed at three barely visible marks below.  M was the first, then K and H.  The love birds looked at each other fiercely.

“M-K-H: Mateo Kelly Hidalgo,” Angel said slowly.

“Disappeared,” Luz whispered. “No birth date, no death date. No ‘Beloved Son’ or “Rest in Peace’. Just disappeared.”

“Do you think they would put a grave stone for someone who wasn’t there?” Angel asked.

“It would mean they buried a man without his body,” Luz said.  “Strange.”

“Strange, but not unknown,” Angel said.  “My cousin’s uncle crossed from Magdalena in the Sonora and didn’t make it.  They never found his body, but we still had a funeral, and a gravestone.”

“Yeah. I know more than one family that’s true for,” Luz said.  “But…but if you don’t have a body to bury, where does the spirit go? Where does it prosper or lament?”

Angel thought for a minute.  “You know, I think that’s the question I’ve been asking all this time.  Where is the spirit, my spirit, our spirit?  Where does it go as we search?”

A week ago, that kind of thinking would have amused Luz, or troubled her.  It seemed both naïve and overcomplicated.  But not anymore. Not since she had walked with Angel.

“I think the spirit goes ahead, and the flesh straggles along,” she finally said.  “Maybe my spirit has been leading me out of what happened to me back then, but my body wants to hold on.  Does that make sense?”

Angel thought a moment.  “Yes,” he said. “But I feel my spirit leading me back…to my father, to my grandmother, all the way back.”

“Do you think Mateo Kelly’s spirit is still wandering around here, around us?” Luz asked.

“Yes. And we’ve been letting it lead us.  Now it’s time for us to lead.”  Angel couldn’t believe the words coming out of his mouth, but they seemed real—more real than anything he’d ever said.

“But right now, I think it’s time for use to sleep.” Luz said.

“Here?” Angel answered, surprised.

“Not here, silly.  There will be plenty of time for that!”

And they began to walk, from the cemetery to the west, the first steps Angel had taken; towards the west, towards the unknown.

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