In the city, while walking towards the parking lot where his car
resided, Michael Marquez noticed the book The Old Man and the Sea
on display at a bookstore window. He stopped and scanned the cover;
it hadn't changed since he last saw it. He saw the author's name,
Ernest Hemingway and, before he realized, a teardrop dribbled down
his cheek. By the time the teardrop hit the ground, he was taken
to a whole new country and twenty years into the past. Michael was
sitting at his favorite place in the house, on the cement floor
with his back resting against the gray unpainted brick walls of
the living room. In his hands he held that same book and the sunshine,
from the only window in the living room, rested directly on the
page he was reading.
He wasn't that great of a reader, but he loved to read. Sometimes
he would have to read the same page over and over again, and he
didn't go to the next page until he completely understood what the
current page told. Sometimes he would take time to consult a word
from the dictionary that Priest Thomas had given him. He usually
tried reading 10 pages a day, but always had to cut it short so
he could go to work. Today he was determined to read all the way
through to page 65 before going to work at the farm.
His bare feet lay comfortably on the cool concrete while his attention
was gripped by the words of Ernest Hemingway. He loved this book.
Something about the solitude and the strength of the old man made
young Michael think about his own state of being. He saw himself
in that book, and didn't know exactly how. But all that emotion
he had, he couldn't express. At school, they didn't spend nearly
enough time discussing the book. Many of the questions he would
ask, his teacher didn't know the answers to, as if the teacher was
programmed to only know the answers to the questions he was asking
and nothing else about the book. His little sister Anna, who was
named after her late mother, was far too young to understand what
Michael wanted to talk about. Although Michael would sometimes try,
little Anna would always drift off to her own little world. Finally,
there was his father, but Michael would never bother ask him. His
father did not know how to read and did not agree with all the nonsense
homework that Michael's school made him do. He thought that schoolwork
took too much time away from Michael's real duty: to provide for
his family by working at the farm with his father.
Half an hour passed and his father began calling him to get ready
for work. Michael nodded and kept reading. He was far too into the
plot to let go of the book. He was overpowerd by some force that
kept his eyes moving and held his hands tight to the book. His eyes
flowed through every sentence and every paragraph while somehow
retaining all the information that went past him. He felt a phenomenal
sensation. He didn't remember the last time he went through so many
pages without backtracking or consulting the dictionary.
His father called him again. He looked down for a microsecond and
realized he was already on page 65, but he couldn't stop, at least
not now! He spared a second and asked his father to let him finish
the page he was reading, and kept on reading. His father was beginning
to get irritated because his son wasn't getting ready for work.
He began to get Michael's machete and shoes while cursing under
Michael kept reading; the feeling was now intense. His heart was
pumping incredibly fast to provide enough energy to his eyes and
mind to process all the information so fluently. He wasn't reading
anymore. He was in the book; he was a ghost that stood by the seashore
and watched the events happen as the author thought them. He felt
exactly what was going on in the book. He heard the calming sounds
of the beach, smelled the fresh salty aroma of the ocean, and even
felt the tingling sensation of the sunrays burning his skin.
Then he began to hear some background noise. He didn't know what
it was, so he ignored it and it went away. He kept watching the
story line as it developed. That disturbing noise would come and
go every once in a while but he never gave it much thought. But
something happened. His whole world was shaken. He became disoriented;
he didn't know where he was.
Then, when the tremor stabilized and after he regained his sense
of balance, Michael opened up his eyes. He was back at home, sitting
on the cool paved floor with his back resting against the gray,
unpainted wall and the sunlight from the window hit directly on
his father's brown work boots that were standing in front of him.
Michael looked up and away from his father's rigid feet and saw
his torn and dirty work pants, his stained beige button-up shirt
and his hands that held the book he was about to finish. Then he
looked at his father's eyes and, at that moment, Michael knew he
was in trouble. He took another glance at his father's hands and
felt a slight burst of anger because they had taken his fantasy
world away from him. That feeling quickly vanished when Michael
looked into his father's deep brown eyes and realized he had disappointed
him; he realized he had disappointed his family.
That was the last time he ever saw that book. That same day, his
father asked him to work full time and help him provide for the
family. But now, 20 years later, Michael saw that same book that
he never finished. He noticed his reflection on the glass window
of the bookstore. He saw his brand new black suit he had just bought
for his new job and the black leather suitcase his mother-in-law
gave him. Michael held his breath for a second and kept walking
towards the parking lot.
by Juan Ulloa