Life is about responsibility

by Max Saucedo

Folks still talk about Esperanza around these parts and I know I’m one of them.  She meant a lot to me and to this town.  Most don’t know why she left, or where she went.  Some call her an adulterer, trash, or even whore, for the uneducated.  I don’t pay those people any mind because the memories of the Esperanza I know can never be corrupted, slandered or forced away.  I loved her and I’m sure at some point, she loved me too.

I remember her last day here.  I remember what she was wearing, a long yellow sundress.  It was summer.  I was sitting on the porch of my house when she came walking up.  I had been waiting for her for a long time, just thinking about how things were going to change, about how I was going to stay here and not go to the University of Oklahoma.  To stay here and be with her.

What we had together didn’t last very long.  My dad, as much as he loved me, couldn’t understand my reasoning.  So many fights, so many arguments.  So many tears.  So he sent me away to Kansas to cool off and to think about what I was really going to do.  I didn’t get a chance to call her and let her know, so I started writing letters and sending them to the address she gave me.  She responded to a few at first, but eventually the letters were returned. I found out later she had given me a P.O. box number, which was no longer in use.  I tried calling her number but it was disconnected.  Dad wouldn’t find her for me.  I was on my own.

So I remained in Kansas for a year in and finished my senior year at the top of my class before coming back to Tulsa, Okla. When I did, she was always out of town, away on business or working somewhere.  I knew she had been hurt because I left so suddenly, but I was here now.  I left a message for her at the store where she last worked to meet me at my house, where I would be waiting.  As I walked into my room, I looked at all the college posters, model cars and games lying around.

“Won’t have any time for those anymore,” I thought.

I heard my younger brother and sister playing outside.  I looked out the window to see them chasing each other around, laughing and shouting.

“No more fun and games,”
I thought.

I received a call from her, hearing her voice on the phone for the first time in months.

“Holden?  It’s Esperanza.”

I told her I wanted to meet up with her as soon as possible.

She hesitated and then said, “OK, but it can’t be for too long.”

I hung up the phone, feeling more alive than I had in a long time.

Dad came into the kitchen.  “Have you made up your mind, son?”

I nodded.  Dad shook his head concurring.  He spoke:

“No one can possibly prepare for bringing a life into this world.  Unless you’ve already experienced it before, it can’t just be assumed.  Life is responsibility, not just for yourself, but for those you bring into this world.  As hard as you can work all your life, don’t think that just because you work hard that your son or daughter owes you.  Because the truth is they don’t owe you anything.  They never did and they never will.  From the moment they draw that first breath to the last one before they move onto the hereafter, you owe them everything—be it your own breath and life, the sweat of your brow, the tears of your eyes or the blood of your body if need be.  I just hope you realize that.  I’m proud of you, Holden.  Always have been.”

I sat on the porch, thinking about what he said.  All the thoughts coursed through my head as I clutched a small bear I’d had since I was a baby.  I figured it could be a good gift for the baby.

She pulled up in an old Camry.  She was wearing a plain yellow sundress.  I got up from my chair and held her in my arms, sobbing and crying like I hadn’t ever before.  She held in her arms a little girl.   I pulled away to get a look at her.  She was beautiful.

I asked to hold her, and Esperanza handed her to me.  Her name was Milagro, which means miracle in Spanish.  I was so busy holding my child that I didn’t notice Esperanza crying.

“Don’t worry, Anza. I’m
here now.”

She shook her head, crying and taking Milagro back.

“Holden, you have such a bright future ahead of you.  You always talked about it so much.  You have such great ideas for the future.  And you deserve to go on to that future and fulfill what you want in life.  But Milagro and me, we aren’t a part of that future.  We don’t fit into it.”

I was shaking now too, as I began to realize what she was saying.

“I’m leaving Holden, and Milagro should come with me.  I think it’s for the best.  You can’t provide for a child and go to school at the same time.  Making this decision was hard for you, and you spent so much time thinking about it.  But I’m not letting you take that risk, and the decision is out of your hands.  Please understand, and if you don’t love me anymore, know that love is a choice.  You can choose to hate me but, please Holden, know that I loved you.  That’s why I did this.  And please, if anything else, love Milagro.”

With that, she departed in her car, taking the bear with her as a way to remember me.

I never saw her again.  Sometimes I wonder how things would have been different.  How hard our decisions really are.  How hard is it to leave college to raise a family?  How hard is it to be scorned by a community for ruining one of its brightest lights?  To leave your home in banishment and exile?  Esperanza knew what she was doing, and I trusted her.  I didn’t say no because I was afraid to; I said no because I was afraid not to say it.