Who Am I?
(translated from its original Spanish language submission)
Rivera Dario Alonso Gomez
Second place, Fiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, July 2022
While I was driving home in the middle of peak hour traffic I thought about how absurd my life is. Who am I? Only one more among millions trapped in the routine of daily life from work to home. The problems, the children, the bills to pay, all is monotony, a life without meaning. My wife is no longer the beautiful youth whom I married, she has gained weight and her hair is turning white and to be honest I’m not the same either, my hair has fallen out and left me bald, a huge belly has grown and don’t even mention these eyeglasses without which I don’t see well.
I felt pretty depressed but finally arrived at my home and now I was so tired I just wanted to sleep for many days without anyone bothering me, so I went directly to my bed and I laid down. Suddenly I felt pain in my chest that woke me up, it was very dark and I was sweating.
“Marta, Marta,” I call my wife, but she does not answer. I try to get up but the pain in my chest is sharper, stronger. I call my wife again but again she doesn’t respond. I reach out for her next to me but she isn’t there, I am alone, and now there is no pain but my feet are cold and slowly the cold climbs up my body.
With difficulty I am able to sit, I look in the darkness for the lamp on my night table to turn on the light but it isn’t there. I don’t understand what is happening, I remained sitting, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Finally I rose and began to walk with my hands in front of me, looking for the door, but I walked and walked and couldn’t find the door, nor the wall, I don’t understand what is happening, I must be dreaming, my eyes begin to adjust to the darkness and in the distance I saw what looked like the shadow of person who walked with downcast eyes. I approached him and stopped him.
“My friend, excuse me, could you tell me where we are, what is this place?”
“Friend? I don’t remember knowing you, I have no friends.”
“That’s ok, please forgive me, but tell me please, where are we?”
“But where is here?”
“Where we are, that’s clear!”
“Do you not know where we are?”
“I know very well where I am, the one who is lost appears to be you.”
And he simply went on his way.
This left me more confused. In the distance I could see many more shadows and I walked toward them. They were all the same, people or better said the shadows of people, walking from one side to the other with downcast eyes and no real direction and no expression at all. I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t dare stop anyone, just kept walking in a straight line expecting to run into something but I walked a long way and nothing happened. I could only see darkness and shadows, but what place is this and where am I?
Tired and desperate I fell to my knees. I thought of my wife and my children, where could they be at this moment. Suddenly I saw a light, very pale but it was there. Perhaps there is an exit there. I rose and ran toward the light.
When I was near it was a person like the shadows but this one shone in the darkness and very emotionally I asked him, “My friend, could you tell me where I am, this is such a strange place?”
“Can it be that you still don’t know, Andres?”
“How do you know my name, by chance do we know each other?”
“Of course we know each other.”
“But I don’t remember you, please tell me, where am I?”
“This is your heart, Andres.”
“My heart! You’re joking!”
“No Andres, this is not a joke.”
“And if this is my heart why is it so cold and dark? Could I be dead?”
“No, not yet, you’re not dead.”
“Then I don’t understand.”
“Well, Andres, your heart is cold and dark because that is how you have filled it… over the years.”
“And all these shadows — who are they?”
“Your preoccupations, your mistakes, your deceptions and your bitterness.”
“And who are you?”
“I am Love and there is still some light in me because there is still some love in your life, but every day I dim a little and one day I will be another shadow. Before, we had hope, faith, charity, but all those have been diminishing one by one, only I am left, but not for long.”
“Please don’t disappear, do something”
“Only you can do something, remember it is your heart.”
“But what do I do, tell me”
Love, Andres, Love.
And the light went out, and I was back in darkness and desperation.
What do I do? He told me that I should love. I have love in my life and I love my wife, I began to remember the day that I met her. I thought about how I felt when I went down on my knees to ask her to marry me, how emotional and nervous I was. Soon Love began to shine again, though dimly.
I remembered the day my son was born, and I held him in my arms for the first time, and the joy I felt.
Love shone a little more.
“This is working,” I said.
“Yes, Andres, it is working.”
Then I thought about my little daughter and her precious smile. And Love began to shine so brightly that everything was illuminated but at the same time it began to distance itself from me.
“Please don’t leave.”
Suddenly I felt a blow on my chest and an electric current that coursed through my body and a flash that blinded me. I tried to open my eyes but some hands detained me.
“Love, is that you?”
“No, Mr. Andres, I am Doctor Rivera, don’t worry, everything is ok.”
“You had a heart attack.”
“That explains the pain in my chest.”
“Yes, Mr. Andres. And when you arrived you had a second heart attack. You were clinically dead for five minutes and we have just resuscitated you so please be calm, I am going to make sure you are out of danger and will let you rest.”
Five minutes dead, I thought. For me it was an eternity.
“Doctor… and my family?”
“ They are outside, Mr. Andres, when you get out of Intensive Care we will give you a room and you will be able to see them.”
Finally after many checkups and nurses coming and going they gave me a room and let my family come in. Everyone advanced toward me, crying. I hugged them with all my might and I felt filled with Love.
At that moment I felt God in my life.
Thank you Father for giving me another opportunity. Now I know who I am.
I am Love.