The Past

To begin – I must look at where I’ve been!

Jose Miguel was born and raised in Barcelona Spain to a family whose surname looms large throughout the country. Their genealogy can be traced back centuries due to the illustrious contributions of the family’s men in local government.

Lion and cubAs the first born and only son in this family of five, he was endowed with a distinct moniker that came with rules already in place. Educated in the best schools, groomed by his father and grandfather; like an heir to the family throne, he was expected to fall in line – make them proud.

Jose Miguel has a strong resemblance to his father; bright blue eyes, thick head of dark brown hair, well-defined bone structure, oh and that signature dimpled smile of his, will melt your heart. He’s not a tough-guy, far from it, but not complicated either; there is a presence beyond his good looks that is felt when he enters a room.

He embodies the kind and sensitive traits of his mother, Helena. Quick to reach an arm around a distraught friend or sibling, moping for days when ‘Pepe’ his pet bird was found dead on the floor of his cage, and playing what his father called ‘girlie’ games with a much younger sister just because she asked him to. His father saw these traits as flaws and would scold his son, “Detente, no eres una chica – eres un niño.” (Stop, you are not a girl – you are a boy.) Hate and father, a word association he could do nothing about. He doesn’t remember why or when the relationship fractured and he doesn’t care; coping through avoidance worked best for him, and besides he had his mother.

Mother and son, was a bond like no other, he knew without reservation of her love and devotion. Vivacious and stunning were words spoken around the room when his mother would appear. It made him proud when a friend spoke of her beauty, but she was his mother; the one who stroked his forehead to cool his fever, laughed at his jokes even the stupid ones, listened with meticulous care when he talked of his challenges at school, and prepared a favorite meal when he needed comforting. She was his ally and the only one who knew his secret – he dreamt of being a writer one day. When the time came to confront his father, she promised to be by his side. “We will join together and stand strong against the forceful wind that is sure to blow,” she assured him.

It was not meant to be. His mother’s devastating diagnosis changed everything. It was a heroic act of self-defense she waged against the cancer, but even he could see her bright light dim a little more each day. He wasn’t ready, he was just a boy, only fifteen after all, when he heard the news; the knife entered his chest and cut his heart into pieces – nothing would be the same again. Months go by and he was treading water, stuck in grief, the mourning never subsided, it was a stark reminder of his loss. What had happened to his mother’s beautiful boy – was he in there somewhere?

In 2010, Jose Miguel turned eighteen and left compulsory school for a higher education in the direction of his chosen career. His father was very proud of his son’s accomplishments and planned to enroll him in a University where he could begin his education in Law.

It took a lot of courage to be face-to-face with his father but the time had come and he spoke up. He wanted nothing to do with Law or Politics – he intended to be a Writer! Months and countless arguments later his father stood firm, as the patriarch, he knew what was right for his son and kept repeating, “One day you will thank me.”

Spurred on by a chance meeting a few weeks earlier, a slightly older Parisian beauty crossed his path. She was also a writer, but unlike Jose Miguel, she was pursuing her passion and he wanted that. She knew they were soul mates and encouraged him to come to Paris. He had his out and took it.

As he made his final walk to the front door, his father took his last shot, “You will regret this foolish decision!” Turning to face his father, he spoke slowly, devoid of emotion, “No. You will not have the final word!” Backpack slung over his shoulder and enough money in his pocket to get him to his destination, he let the slamming door punctuate his intentions. And that was that. No more would be said between father and son for some time.

DandelionStanding alone on the sidewalk; a feeling of satisfaction washed over him. No turning back and no regrets – no, no, no, he was free to pursue his passion. A new level of confidence rose up from the soles of his feet; straightened his back, calmed his racing heart, and urged him forward. As he walked away, he remembers reciting the words of Henry David Thoreau, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

He was with his so-called soul mate just one month, turned out they weren’t compatible after all, and she sent him on his way. His original nest egg was gone, fired from his part-time job; he felt defeated. Lonely and broke, he walked the streets of Paris. One night as he crossed the street he was playfully accosted by an aggressive tomboyish looking girl, whose antics were getting laughs from the small group of homeless youth standing nearby. Instead of moving on; which was his inclination, he stopped to hang out. They became family to this lost soul and he said yes to the drugs offered as a way to fit in. Jose Miguel is considered ‘hot’ by the girls because of his Latin ‘James Dean’ good-looks and charming demeanor, handy attributes when you are destitute and hungry. They shortened his name to ‘Joey’ and took good care of him.

Two years have passed and not much has changed. The month is July and his twentieth birthday is near – no one cares. Writing has slipped from first place in his mind and current reality to third or fourth; behind drugs, food, and shelter. These godless streets have devoured his innocence, leaving behind a street-wise boy with hope no longer in his heart. The scars and tattoos on his withered body expose the lost dreams of this Spanish son. His father’s menacing words have succeeded in doing harm to this fragile psyche; the words linger even now. The drugs help to dull the effect some, but not entirely, he’s tempted to try something stronger – they tell him he’ll feel better.

Morning and the noisy streets are messing with his head. Soon the shopkeeper will be shooing him away from the entrance; like yesterday and the day before, it’s become routine. Joey’s so-so day is about to turn traumatic. Not quite dark, the huddle he’s closing in on tightens. Fabron, the self-assigned leader for this group of ousted teens, steps out and moves in his direction. Stopping inches from his face, he grabs the front of Joey’s shirt, forcibly moving him across the street. The violent last thrust against the wall left no doubt – he meant business. Fabron whispers his warning into Joey’s ear, “Donner ou être tué,” (Leave or be killed) then loosens his grip and retreats. Joey’s knees buckle and he falls to the ground gasping for air. No one comes to his aid; he’s alone to wonder why. Is it jealousy? Are the guys resentful of my unique relationship with the girls? “Oui, c’est leur jalousie,” (Yes, it is their jealousy) he says under his breath.

Keeping a safe distance from Fabron, Joey crouches against the building. Alienated from his pals and the uncertainty of tomorrow, unspeakable fear and foreboding washes over him. He’s scared; no money and no prospects is his sad reality. Dropping to his knees; a shiver runs through his body as he wrestles with the uncertainty of his fate. Opening wide his eyes, he stares into the hazy night sky overhead and without thinking raises his clenched left fist to the heavens. He wants to scream out-loud – but he doesn’t. Muffling his voice, he begs silently for help.

(Excerpt from the book: The Ultimate Experience)