in Gay Romance, Mario

Mario – Part 1

Her name was Maria.

At least, that’s what he called her, and ever since he’d been separated from her, deported from the United States back to his hometown in Mexico, he hadn’t put her out of his mind. Ten years—had it really been that long? Sometimes, it felt like no time had passed at all, as if it had been just yesterday that he was completely content. Happy. Other times, it felt like a lifetime had passed. A lifetime in which the universe was so big around him, he felt like he would drown in the emptiness. A lifetime in which he felt so cramped and stuck in the life that lay ahead of him that he couldn’t breathe. Heartbreak was claustrophobia. Heartbreak was being lost. Heartbreak was hell.

Mario slopped his mop in the pail of soapy water and splashed it on the hard faux-marble floor of the elementary school. The sharp smell of detergent pinched his nose. He stank of years of soap scum, disappointment and broken dreams. He wiped his brow with the back of his hand, the sweat under the fringe that flopped back over his eyes made him feel grimy. His shaggy, overgrown hair covered his eyes. Things were easier when eye contact couldn’t happen by accident. Not that many people were looking at him anyway: the kids usually ran down the hall around him, the teachers barely said “excuse me” when they accidentally bumped into him. To them, he was invisible, and, although it hurt sometimes, it was better that way. No conversation meant no connection, and no connection meant he could protect himself from feeling something. If he was lucky, he would never feel again.

It had been the 70s, a time when the disco beat became a national anthem, even in Mexico. A time when the world was still reeling from the Civil Rights Movement and drowning itself in recreational drugs, booze and music to numb the shock of change. And yet, there was no substance in the world that could keep him from thinking about her. He could smell her scent, fresh as a morning after a summer storm. He could taste her lips, that sweet taste that had mixed with the salt of his own lips to create a new flavor all their own. He could see her hair, glowing in the golden sunlight of those warm summer months in the vineyard where he’d first met her. She had been his sunrise and his sunset. His beginning and his end. Her smile had promised that everything would be all right and anything was possible, as long as they had each other.

Now, he was alone.

All he had for company were the dried skeletons of memories long past, the echoes of her voice in the void she had left behind. Her last words to him had stabbed him in the heart over and over again since the day she said them. He had never felt pain like that, and he was sure if he felt it again, he’d die. So now, he tried to be numb. He forced himself to forget that he had ever known what it was to feel, to really be alive. He didn’t smile at people like he used to; he didn’t cry at movies anymore. Rare was a day that he let his temper flare even a bit. Numbness was his protective shield; he was sure that, if he opened himself up to feeling again, all the pain he had felt that day would come rushing back. He couldn’t survive that again. He’d barely survived the first time.

This was not where Mario had meant to be at this age. He was almost 34 years old – the prime of his life. By this time, he hoped to be married, to have kids somehow, to have traveled the world with the one he loved— Maria. They used to spend nights dreaming of a future together: their house, the family they would do whatever they could to build. He imagined that he would come home to their simple but beautiful house after a long day’s work– real work, not cleaning up after careless, sloppy people who barely noticed his existence – and walk through the door to smell a delicious dinner on the stove. Maria would welcome him with a warm embrace, telling him how much she had missed him all day, and he would taste wine on her lips when he kissed her. They wouldn’t have needed to be rich. They would have had something better: love.

But that was a fantasy. He felt foolish even letting it slip into mind again. He forced it out as he dipped the mop in the pail and yanked the lever to strain it from the funk. If Maria saw him now, alone in a hallway mopping a filthy floor, she’d probably break down and cry. This was so far from the future they’d dreamed of. Then again, maybe she wouldn’t care. She’d made it pretty clear that she wanted nothing to do with him, that she was tired of waiting. Now, he was the one waiting for someone that would never come, and he had the rest of his life to do it.

The thought was exhausting. He leaned his mop against a locker and sank down onto the staircase. His legs and shoulders ached from working all evening, and it was long after hours, so he was sure no one would catch him resting. He still had a second job to go to before dawn. Earning minimum wage, he had to work two jobs to support himself and his dying mother. Thank God, his cousin was watching her now, so he could go to work and get a well-needed break from taking care of her.

He pulled out a Ho-Ho cupcake from his left pocket. He’d bought it earlier from the vending machine, and it was smashed flat and warm from being in his pocket so long. He dipped his finger into the icing and stuck it in his mouth. The tart sweetness threatened to pull him back to another memory with Maria. Instead, stuffed the whole warm, sweet mess into his mouth at once. A small taste of heaven when everything else in his life seemed like hell.

“Happy birthday,” he said to himself.

He was alone on his birthday yet again, and just to add insult to injury, he dug his hand into his pants pocket and drew out an old, folded piece of paper. It was the letter he’d carried with him for the last ten years: Maria’s last letter to him. He traced the loop handwriting with his finger. His name was written the way she pronounced it, rolling and beautiful, like a work of art. Why did he do this to himself? Why relive that painful day again and again, day after day, year after year?

He couldn’t help himself. This letter was all he had left of her, painful as it was. He took a deep breath and opened it, his hands trembling as much as they had the day he’d first received it. But that day, the trembling had been from excitement, because he’d been so happy to hear from her. He hadn’t known the pain the letter would hold for him.

Dear Mario,

I can’t say I’m surprised, but I won’t lie. I am disappointed. You told me we’d be together by now, that somehow we’d make it happen. You said we’d run away together. That’s what you said, you promised.

I’m sorry to hear about your mom. I really am. But you cannot live her life for her. This isn’t about her. This is about us. You and me.

You promised.

And now you lied to me. I cannot tell you how much this hurts me to do this, but I’ve waited five years, and I just can’t wait anymore.

It’s clear that you don’t love me as much as I love you. I thought you did, but clearly I was mistaken.

Good luck, Mario. Thank you for the joy you brought in my life. I hope you find what you’re looking for.

Goodbye,

Maria

As Mario read, a tear rolled down his cheek. His throat was so tight it was hard to breathe. It hurt him just as much as they day he’d first read it. He knew he had hurt Maria, but what choice had he had? His mother needed him. He couldn’t have left her to suffer alone while he ran away with his love. Mario was his mother’s son, all she had. He knew that five years was a long time to wait, but he had imagined that Maria loved him enough to wait forever.

He had been wrong.

Wiping the tears from his cheek with the sleeve of his worn janitor’s uniform, Mario shook his head as if to clear the memories away.

You’re not supposed to feel anything, remember?

He stuffed the folded paper in his jacket pocket again. Misery would have to wait another day. He stood up. The last rays of sunlight slanting across the lockers had faded, and the hallway was dark. All the color had been sucked out of the world. Mario took up his mop again to finish cleaning so he could head home. He had to check on his mother again before starting the night shift at his next job or he’d never hear the end of it. And right now, that was the last thing he needed.

CHAPTER 2

“Why didn’t you call me?” Mario demanded to know. His cousin Paula was clearly stressed out as it was and he instantly regretted questioning her.

His mother was lying in bed, ashen-faced and only half-conscious, wheezing painfully with each breath she struggled to inhale. From time to time, she turned restlessly, mumbling incomprehensible, troubled words. She was in a far worse state than she’d been when he’d left her that morning. He had thought that leaving her with his cousin would mean she was safe for a while, but clearly he’d been wrong.

“I did, but no one answered at the school,” his cousin said, a concerned look on her face. “She kept yelling and screaming for you before.”

Mario closed his eyes and slumped against the dresser. It never ended. He left a miserable job to come to a miserable home before he left for another miserable job.

“What was she screaming about this time?” Mario asked.

“She said you needed to clean out the shed.”

That sounded like his mother: sick as a dog, but never too frail to try to run his life for him. Mario sighed and walked over to his mother’s bedside.

“What’d the doctor say?” he asked his cousin.

“There’s nothing much more we can do,” his cousin answered. “She refused to see him long enough to make a proper diagnosis.”

Mario’s stomach sank. He had known that this day would come eventually, and as difficult as it was to see his mother in pain, as exhausting as it was caring for her, and as much as he hated her sometimes for being the chain that kept him from moving on, from being with the one he loved, she was still his mother.

“Happy birthday,” his cousin whispered in his ear as she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek.

He leaned over to take a better look at his mother. Her sweaty forehead was burning up, but her little hand was freezing cold. He clasped it in his, wishing he could do something to ease her pain. This small Mexican town didn’t have the best doctors, and the nearest hospital was a good four hours away—too long a trip for an old woman in her condition. The only thing they could do was pray she’d come out of it or wait for her to die. Brushing her soft hair away from her face, Mario kissed his mother’s forehead. Her skin was smooth and soft, a strong contrast to how hard she was on the inside.

It was so strange to see his mother like this: weak and trembling, a mere shell of who she had been before she got sick. She had always been petite, but a petite powerhouse, well-known in their town for her strength and conviction. People knew not to cross her, and though she rarely raised her voice, she managed to keep her family and neighbors in line. When she gave you that evil eye of hers, you stopped whatever you were doing immediately, knowing that she meant business. God forbid, she caught you talking or fooling around in church.

People had always told Mario he must be just as strong as his mother, if he could live under her rule and still manage to be himself. But now, after ten years of looking after her, jumping every time she snapped her fingers, Mario wasn’t sure he even knew who he was anymore. He was no pushover—far from it, he stood his ground—but, as strong and macho as he was, his mother held some kind of power over him.

The old woman coughed and her eyes fluttered closed. Now she was drifting in and out of sleep. His cousin tiptoed across the room to pick up her purse and slip out quietly. It was late and she had to go home and headed out as quickly as she could. Not that he blamed her, five minutes with his mother was enough to drive anyone bananas.

Mario would have to go to the nearest pay phone and call the factory to tell them he couldn’t work that night. His boss had made it clear that if he missed work one more time, he’d be fired. But what choice did Mario have?

That night, he slept in a chair next to his mother’s bed until her coughing woke him up. Only a thin sliver of light was visible in the gap between the dark curtains, but it was morning. His mother had made it through the night. She managed to sit up and say, “Well, are you just going to sit there or are you going to get me a glass of water?”

Mario rubbed his eyes. “And good morning to you too, Mami,” he answered, glad to see that at least her illness hadn’t changed her personality. She was sick, but she wasn’t lost yet.

“Don’t be a smart ass,” she grumbled scrunching her lips.

“You feeling alright?” he asked her.

“I’ve got pneumonia, what do you think?” Her voice was shaky, but there was still that same fire in her eyes. “Water, son. Water.”

“Yes sir,” Mario said, getting up stiffly from his chair.

“Don’t think I’m too sick to throw a vase at you,” she wheezed.

They often had a playful battle of words between them. It was closest thing he ever experienced as love from her.Even from her sickbed, his mother could still order him around with the best of them. There was still hope.

Her voice gained strength, and she said in her old salty tone, “And for God’s sake will you clean out that shed out back? It’s a pigsty!”

In the kitchen, he grabbed her favorite glass, ran it under the faucet and watched the water-line climb. Why was she asking him to clean the shed out now, of all times? Couldn’t that wait? She either had no clue that she was dying, or hoped to pretend that she wasn’t. Either way, she was still running his life. He shut the faucet off and walked back to the bedroom where she glared at him.

“You trying to kill me? What took you so long? I’m dying here.”

“Put a little rat poisoning in there to add some flavor,” he teased.

She glared at him. “Wouldn’t surprise me,” she scoffed.

Clearing her throat, she snatched the glass from him and took a sip. Water splashed onto the blanket because her hand was shaking so bad, but she didn’t notice—if she had, she would have blamed it on him. She swallowed with difficulty. The doctor had said her throat was raw from all the coughing.

Sinking back into her pillows, his mother said, “Gloria came by earlier with her husband. It’s nice when people make you a priority in their life.”

So, she’s starting off the morning with a nice heaping helping of guilt, Mario thought.

By the way his mother had emphasized the word husband, Mario knew exactly what she was getting at. She had always wanted him to give up what she described as a pipe dream about marrying Maria and marry Gloria instead. He had considered it, too, after Maria’s last letter, but he hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. The idea of someone else’s fingertips tracing trails of fire over his chest, someone else’s lips where Maria’s should have been, just felt wrong.

“I heard she’s going to have a baby,” his mother was saying. “Would have been nice to have lived long enough to seen my own grandchildren,” she added. “Guess that’s not going to happen anytime soon.”

Mario sank back into his chair by her bedside and slowly rolled his neck to stretch the muscles. Sleeping sitting up had made him sore all over. The small, dark bedroom seemed to close in around him as he listened to his mother go on and on about how other women her age had grandchildren to play with and she never would. He managed to suppress his rising anger and keep quiet. Normally, her rants would have put him on edge, but listening to her labored, phlegm-filled lungs push hard to get the words out, hearing the rasping wheeze of her breathing, he didn’t have the heart or the strength to argue with her. He didn’t want the last conversation they had to be a fight.

Instead, he tried to stay cheerful—a mood that was very foreign to him these days. “Grandchildren, well … you never know what the future holds,” he said, doing his best to smile.

His mother rolled her eyes. “Well, I’ll be gone soon, so you’ll be able to do whatever the hell you want.”

Those words—whatever the hell you want—were loaded. There was something on his mother’s mind, something she was holding back from saying. And that, Mario knew, was a big deal. She usually had no problem saying exactly what she was thinking, no matter who it hurt. So what was going on here?

But instead of explaining any further, she continued her rant. “I’m surprised you made it home instead of letting me die alone. You seem to be doing whatever you can nowadays not to be around. Was I that bad of a mother to you? Was I?”

She was laying on more guilt just to push his buttons, and it was getting harder to hold his tongue. Resentment burned in his chest like a flame, and its intensity took him by surprise. When he tried to swallow it down, it tasted bitter in his throat. It took every bit of will he had not to participate in her sparring match. She hadn’t even remembered his birthday. But she was weak. He could see it, even though she tried her best to hide it, so all he said was, “Not at all, mami. You’re a wonderful mother. I just have to work so we can have-”

“I thought I taught you to lie better than that,” she grumbled. “Well, go make yourself useful if you want so much time alone, and clean out that damn shed. Paula told me it’s a rat’s nest in there.”

The damn shed again! Why was she so fixated on it?

“Yes, your majesty,” he smirked.

“I swear I’m going to throw that vase at you,” she warned.

“Sure thing, Mami. I’ll do it a bit later.”

She glared at him. “Are you really going to make me repeat myself in my dying hours?”

Her small frame curled up on the bed reminded him of a cobra ready to strike. Even now, when she had no energy left, her venom was potent.

He’d learned a long time ago that arguing with her was just a waste of time; she’d always win and, macho as he was, he would have his feelings hurt by her words. So, he forced a smile.

“Anything else?” he asked on the way out the bedroom door.

“Don’t be a smart ass,” she said, a cough racking her frail body as she struggled to clear her throat. When she could speak again, she said, “And I want that shed spic n’ span.”

CHAPTER 3

No matter how obnoxious his mother was, no matter how overbearing she’d been most of his life, Mario would be sad to say “goodbye” to her. After all, she had brought him into the world.

She had always been there for him, holding his hand through the best and worst moments of his life in her own way – even if that was partly because she didn’t think he could stand on his own two feet or because she wanted to keep her tentacles of control over him or maybe because she didn’t want him running off to live his own life.

He knew he should be spending what little time he had left with her—her “dying hours,” as she called them—by her side, but he also knew those hours would just be miserable if he didn’t do what she told him. So, he went to clean out the shed. Even though the morning was still young, it was already searing hot. The sun beat down on his head and neck as he trudged across the dry brown grass of the backyard to the shed, which was a small wooden structure with the chipped red paint peeling off the walls. Grabbing the key that hung from a nearby tree branch, he unlocked the old rusted lock and yanked the molded door open.

The smell of musty air and cedar wood hit and overwhelmed him with memories. He understood it now. The shed was full of ghosts. This was where he and his cousin Paco, Paula’s brother had played hide and seek, crouching in the dark corner behind the lawn mower even though his mom made it clear she didn’t want them playing in there around all the sharp tools. This was where his mother stored everything that had once belonged to, or reminded her of, his “good for nothing” father—things that were now dusty, moldy, moth-eaten or rusted. She would have done better to just burn them or throw them out. But, then again, he knew how love could get you knotted up in a twisted mess. Even though his mother said terrible things about his father, Mario knew that she still held a torch for him. Even though it had been twenty years since she’d seen him, she had kept the things in this shed because she hoped secretly, in her heart of hearts, that he would come back one day. It was a pretty farfetched dream, but wasn’t he doing the same thing when it came to Maria?

No, he resolved. I’ll never be like her. If I have children, I’ll be kind to them and let them live their own lives. They don’t deserve to suffer because I’m bitter from a broken heart.

His mother hadn’t always been bitter, though. There were times when she had been much happier, usually after one of his father’s rare visits. He’d visit them a handful of times a year. His mother never welcomed him with open arms at first—she would demand where he had been, scream at him for abandoning her to take care of their son all by herself, and throw plates and vases at him until Mario ran and hid under his bed to avoid the shattering glass, plugging his fingers in his ears so he couldn’t hear them shouting. But then, suddenly, the shouting would change to moans of pleasure, and his mother would cry out his father’s name, and the battle would be followed by one of those passionate sessions of loud, all-night love making that neighbors for miles around could hear.

In the morning, the sun would be streaming into the kitchen, and when Mario walked in for breakfast, he would find his father at the table, reading the newspaper and humming a cheerful Mexican folk song, and his mother at the stove, frying up his father’s favorite breakfast. His father would greet Mario with a big hug and pull him onto his lap, and then reach over to spank his wife’s behind, making her shriek and swat at him playfully with her spatula.

Of course, the fighting always began again soon—his father would announce that he had to leave again, and his mother would send the breakfast in the pan flying across the room to splatter at the wall, and the shouting would escalate even louder than the night before. But Mario chose to remember those brief, happy memories, of when his parents were together.

For many years, Mario’s father came and went. But then one day, his father left and never came back. Not even for Christmas, not even for Mario’s birthday. He didn’t call or send a single letter.

Secretly, Mario blamed his mother. She had pushed his father away, just like she had pushed away almost everyone else in her life. Part of Mario, though he hated to say it, felt like she deserved what she got. If she died bitter and alone, it was all her fault.

She had even come close to driving Mario away, in her worst moments. When she was angry, she told him that he was a mistake—not a symbol of her and his father’s brief but fleeting love, but an unwanted accident. When Mario was born, he had destroyed her chance of making something of herself, of becoming a great actress like she had dreamed. She had settled for being a grammar school teacher instead, but she never forgave him or his father for that.

“I could have been somebody,” she used to tell Mario over and over again. “I was better than anyone else in my university.”

For so long, Mario and his mother each blamed the other for driving his father away. But as Mario grew into a man himself, he realized that the blame wasn’t his mother’s alone. His father had made the choice long ago to marry her. He’d chosen the life he’d had with her. Who was he to run away?

Coward, Mario thought. Yellow-livered coward.

Sometimes Mario would imagine that his father had died in some horrible accident or in a bar fight. That’s what he deserved, he would think bitterly, and then ask forgiveness for thinking it. It wasn’t just bitterness that made him think that way. If his father had died, then there was a reason that he hadn’t come back to visit, hadn’t called them or even written. There was a reason Mario had been left to care for his mother alone, his own love on hold.

But every few years, he’d hear a friend or relative say they had seen his father, usually passed out at a bar or in a back alley. Others claimed, he was much happier, sober—a church-going man with a new family.

A family that was better? Mario always wondered. A family that he could love?

Now he shook his head, trying to squash the flood of emotions rising in his chest, and squinted through the dust floating in the air of the dark shed at the stacks of boxes and piles of junk. Where to begin?

He figured he’d begin with the box right in front of him. But as he lifted that box, one that seemed out of place, as if it had been moved only recently, something caught his eye.

An envelope.

Not a typed envelope that your gas bill came in, but an envelope that would hold a personal letter. He picked it up and, though it was hard to see clearly because he hadn’t reached to pull the rusty chain that switched on the bare light bulb overhead, he recognized the handwriting immediately.

Those loopy letters made his heart skip a beat. Maria, the envelope said. A surge of excitement coursed through him, and it had been so long since he’d let himself feel anything that the emotion made him dizzy.

Was it some letter he’d read and lost? No. He flipped it over and saw that the envelope was still sealed. It had never been opened. He tried to swallow, but his mouth had dried up. In the humid, musty heat of the shed, he felt light-headed. His tongue felt thick and his fingers were numb. He fumbled with the envelope as he held it up so he could see it better in the shafts of light coming in the cracks of the shed walls. The date on the front said October— a good month after the last letter he’d received from her.

If he opened the letter, he would be opening up his heart to a new world of pain. Maybe it was better just to burn it and let the letter he had kept with him all these years be his last memory of her, as he finally moved on with his life.

It’s time to let go, he told himself for the hundredth time. Just destroy it. Never think about it again.

He gripped the envelope, prepared to tear it into a dozen pieces … but something stopped him. The letter may have been ten-years-old, but even if it broke his heart all over again, even if it could do nothing to change his hopeless future, he just had to know what was in it.

CHAPTER 4

Before opening the letter, Mario stepped out of the shed. Even under the bright sun, he was trembling all over. The ground beneath him felt like it was shaking. He had to lean against the side of the shed to stay standing. Memories washed over him. He couldn’t stop thinking about the last letter he’d written her, in response to the scathing letter from her that he kept in his pocket. Even though he had mailed it over ten-years-ago, he still remembered every word he had written to her, and he still regretted every word of it. If only he had the chance to do everything over again. But he didn’t, and as if to torture himself, he went through his own letter in his head for the thousandth time:

Dear Maria,

I love you and I cannot believe you’d question this. You talk about promises and you promised to stick with me no matter how long it took. I’m sorry I cannot see you when I want to, I am, but I have to say I’m disappointed in you for giving me more pressure than I already have.

My mother is sick, there is nothing I can do about that. Do you expect me to abandon her? I’m the only one she has. I thought about asking you to wait a little while longer. I thought you’d love me enough to do that, but it’s clear that is not the case.

And so, if your heart is telling you that you cannot wait anymore, do what you need to do.

I wish you the best. I will miss you.

Until we meet again,

Mario

He took a deep breath thinking about those words—until we meet again. One of his tears had even dropped onto the page, smudging the ink, but the words had still been legible. Oh, how he regretted writing them now. If he had it to do all over again, he would. But he had been so mad that day he wrote it; he could still remember the anger that had coursed through him as he’d bent over the kitchen table, scratching out the letters with his pen, furious with Maria for not understanding his circumstances and responsibilities, for doubting that he loved her and wanted to be with her, frustrated with himself for having allowed himself to be backed into a corner and separated from her in the first place. If only he had been honest with her, instead of shutting the door on their love. He and Maria had always been real with each other; that was one of the many reasons he had been so in love with her. But he’d said “goodbye” to her, explaining to his mother, if you let a bird go and it comes back to you, it’s meant to be.

His mother had snorted. “That’s horseshit,” she’d said. “I told you she wasn’t any good for you.”

Even though her words had felt like vinegar in a wound, he had tried to see his mother’s point of view, especially as the years passed and Maria never wrote back to him. But deep inside there was a glimmer of hope, a flame that hadn’t been extinguished, a whisper that said, Wait. Maria will be back.

He was his mother’s son, wasn’t he? She would always fight to the bitter end—as she was proving it right now in her bed in that dark little room as her frail body gave it her all, refusing to die.

That glimmer of hope, that whisper, had been right. Maria had written back. And even though the letter had been buried under boxes all this time, his heart raced with possibilities.

He hooked his index finger under the flap of the envelope and tore it open.

As his finger slid across the paper, he could feel the imprint of the pen Maria had used. The all-too-familiar curls and loops of her handwriting threatened to sweep him away again. It took all he had to ground himself so he could read her words.

Dear Mario,

You know it isn’t easy for me to say I’m sorry. It’s not easy to admit that what I said was hurtful and that I never should have said it at all. For the last few weeks, I’ve been doing everything I can to stay angry at you, to forget you, but the truth is, I cannot. The truth is, I can’t get you out of my mind.

I know what I said was hurtful. I know you can’t help it, that you’ve been doing the honorable thing taking care of your mother and that you couldn’t abandon her to run away together with me thousands of miles away. I know this now, but I was selfish. You see, I don’t just love you. I’m in love with you. And the truth is, I cannot imagine life without you. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, to forget everything I ever said to you and just give us one more chance, just say the word and I promise I’ll wait for you until the moon is no more. I will not be writing you back after this anymore. If I don’t hear back from you in the next month, I can only assume then, you’ve moved on.

Love,

Maria

Mario’s heart leapt as he looked at the date: ten years ago. The letter was musty and yellowed with age. Ten years. She had given him one month to win her back, to assure her of his love, to take the first step toward that future they had imagined together, and she hadn’t heard from him in ten years.

“But I never saw the fucking letter!” he cried aloud in frustration. Mario had thought that he could never know pain as deep as the wound of ten years ago, but now as he imagined Maria watching for the mailman, running to take the letters and look for one with his handwriting, and weeping in disappointment when day after day it did not arrive, agony pierced him like a hot, searing spear. Guilt and regret ripped the old wounds open, and they were more agonizingly painful than ever.

Why hadn’t he seen this letter? How could fate be so cruel? He could have written to her, he could have gone to her, taken her in his arms and proclaimed his love to her. They could be standing, now, with their arms around each other, watching from the back porch as their children splashed and shrieked happily in a sprinkler on the lawn, Maria laughing as she watched them, her head on his shoulder.

Did she ever think of him now? He wondered if his name ever came up. If his image flashed across her mind every now and then. He wondered if she smiled with pleasant memories of what could have been—or if, when people asked about him, she stared blankly said, “Mario who?” It had been over a decade. She had probably long forgotten about him. Surely, she had met someone else. Surely, some other man had swept her off her feet. She was too good of a catch. Maria had moved on, Mario was sure, and he was stuck in this hell hole he’d created for himself.

He refolded the letter and tucked it back in the envelope. There was no sense fantasizing now. Those chances, those times, had come and gone. He snapped back to reality. He had better get back to cleaning out the shed before his mother had another fit.  CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST ——> http://jeffrivera.com/mario-part-2/