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Let our love be your guide

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[LETTER]

Love is the opposite of war.

War is tragedy, is suffering, selfishness. War breaks, destroys, and corrupts. It is the worst side of humankind, there isn’t space for humanity.  I see despair, emptiness, death. There is no color, nor light.

Love is what recreates, multiplies and reconnects. Love make bonds, fixes and educates. It is what keeps me on my feet, gives me strength. Then I see hope, faith, and God. There is no space for pain, hate, nor violence.

Peace is not the opposite of war. We only have peace when love is present. Love is like the sunlight for a flower; without it, the seed can’t survive the storms, or get its energy to grow. Peace is when the blooming happens, it’s the prettiest part of all process that love has done.

For each three bad feelings, I close my eyes and I say three simple words (I LOVE YOU).

Love is the opposite of war.

Yo te amo [and always will]you keep me human and there is nothing I can do (or say) to thank you enough for that.

Forever yours,

Juls.

June 1st, year three - AFRICA

 

June 13th

I get home after a stressful day at work. I open the mailbox and grab a bunch of paper from it. Bills, bills, some advertisements, more bills, and a letter. My heart almost stops. I let the papers escape my hands and the wind blows some away through the sidewalk. I run to catch it all and I head inside the house.

Turn lights on, keys on the table, the letter in my hand. I pass my finger on it to feel its texture, as if I could feel the soft skin I so desperately want to touch. Wanted to. I can’t force myself to not read it, my curiosity defeats me this time. I see her cute handwriting, so unique – SO hers. I cry. I cry hard until my body falls to the floor. Why does she do that to me? Isn’t the distance enough suffering? Well, I am on a war as well! An internal war and I am not winning. 

In a quick move, I go to my room. I open the closet, find a box hidden behind some winter coats, take out the lid, and throw the letter inside of it. It sits on top of the some other letters, a few unopened but in a safe place where I cannot fall in temptation to read all of them. I place the box in the background of the closet where it was before.

Finding myself on the couch looking at the TV screen playing something I am not sure of what exactly it is, I notice it is beyond late. Glancing quickly at my cellphone, I realize it is almost midnight. I haven’t eaten or done anything else besides thinking about the goddamn letter and its author. And I shouldn’t.

I hear the front door opening slowly. I turn my body and I see a drunk person entering. “Where have you been?” I ask. “With some friends” he answers. I am tired of his childish attitudes, but at least he comes back to me. I know this isn’t probably what love should be, but it is the one I have. “Have you been drinking again?” I know the answer to that. He is terribly exhaling alcohol from his pores.  “Fuck off. Give me some rest!” he is always sweet when drunk.

I sleep on the couch. I am not in a mood to fight him tonight, or ever again. I am tired of him. Why do I still keep trying this? I am not good at relationships; maybe I just should be alone. Forever lonely. FUCK! I hate receiving those letters, I hate this day, and I hate everything! Love sucks. I cry myself out another night

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Why doesn’t she ever answer my letters? Should I stop trying? But it was our pinky promise, I cannot break it. I’ll keep writing to her, and always loving her. I never stopped loving her, and I am sure I never will.

“Doctorora Milagros, we need you here!” Someone calls. They keep calling me Milagros (Miracles) as if I am anyhow a kind of saint or God. I am none of that, I'm just a doctor. I’m just a person who is willing to diminish suffer and pain for these people that already have enough of it, or more than should have. Suffering is not a normal thing, and we must not make it natural. Although particularly it became normal for me.

I ran towards the bodies, or the pieces of it. Another man lost his legs. I do what I possibly can to save his life, but the pain is inevitable. I apply an injection of morphine and the body stops twitching. Unfortunately, I cannot use the same medication on me. My pain is not physical. I wish I could have some cure for it, but I will only have it when I’ll be able to hold her in my arms again. And I don’t know when this will happen, or, if it ever will.

The dawn settles the combats and it is when I can hear the crying louder, the agony in our improvised ward. These sounds are not pleasant, at all. It keeps repeating inside my head and even after three years serving in this endless war, I can’t sleep properly.

I medicate all soldiers, then I get myself clean. I take a freaking cold shower at two in the morning; it is damn cold outside. Another lovely freezing dawn in the desert. I put some comfortable warm clothes on and I sit on a bench outside my tent. I look up at the sky and I pray. I whisper some words to God, in hope that He can protect her in the way I am not able to do.

She is all I have, or had. I don’t exactly know. I spend a few more minutes admiring the moon and the stars. Its brightness give me some comfort. ‘Oh wait a shooting star!’ – Please, take me back to her – I make a wish.

Suddenly it becomes brighter. Wait, what is this? Is the star falling in here? First the light, later the sound. And then impact.

I feel my body aching. I am on the floor. I see fire and smoke all around. I hear some screams but there is also a deafening buzzing in my ears. There is some heated liquid running in my left arm; I lift it to see what it is. Shit! It’s blood. My blood? I don’t know what is going on, my sight gets darker, but I can still hear a voice. Her voice. Val? Baby, is that you? My eyes are closed but I can see her perfectly in front of me with her arms wide open. I walk to her and kiss her soft lips. Mi amor, I am tired. I think I’ll fall asleep . . .

 

August 27th

Things are going fine. My professional life is getting better; I just got a full-time job as a photographer in the most important newspaper in town. Everything I ever wanted. I also haven’t received any letter in two months, which helped me to focus on what really matters. My real life, right here and right now.

I broke up with Lucho three weeks ago. It is great now, I must admit. I needed some time for myself and I am definitely not in love with him. Love. I don’t even know what it is anymore.

I go to my favorite bakery in town. Sweet smell of sugar and the freshly baked cakes just coming out the oven. It reminds me of my childhood. And it also reminds me of her.

Shit! I tried to escape from my thoughts of her, but it is almost impossible. I find the table that I like most in the place, it faces the street. There, I can observe people without being noticed by them.  It’s interesting, the art of watching. By watching you can comprehend that every single person on this planet is after something or someone, and you’re not struggling alone. Everyone has plans, worries, many things to do, battles to win . . . battles. Shit shit shit! She comes into my mind again.

I hope she is winning her battles, or being safe at least. She was the one that taught me to watch people, to truly see people. She’s always been so attentive. So human. But she isn’t here anymore.

I eat my piece of strawberry cake and drink my coffee. Before I leave, I notice people running towards the TV near the cashier. Taking some steps, I approach to a place where the many heads in front of me don’t hinder my vision. The news are from the civil war in Africa. The reporters were reading a list of missed soldiers. The media had just found out that the UN base had suffered a missile strike two months ago in the middle of the desert.

I try to move closer, not wishing to hear her name. But there it is. Doctor Juliana Valdés, her name comes out of the reporter's mouth. My body trembles. I feel dizzy and weak. I run towards the street and before the cake can even settle on my stomach, I throw it up. Some old lady try to help me, but I just kept running. To where, I don’t know.  I even forgot that my car was parked in front of the bakery. I run as fas as I can. There is no finish line, there is no prize at the end of this race. There is no winner in this history. 

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There are some voices around me. They are not speaking Spanish, neither English. Is that French? No. Portuguese? Nope! I can't identify what language is that. My head is heavy and my sight is dim.

I try to open my eyes, and FUCK, it all hurts so badly! I'm thirsty. I try to swallow some saliva but my throat is sore. Where am I? I finally can recognize some objects around me. I see a bright lamp over my head and a green plastic curtain around. Wait what is this? Oh, it's a bed.  I am lying on a hospital stretcher. As I lift my eyes, I see a few people in white coats smiling at me. They say something to me, something I can’t understand. I try to speak back but I have no strength in my body to do that. It is a horrible sensation. 

One of the women gets closer to me and starts caressing my left cheek. I smile at the touch. It's soft and truthfully comforting. My body aches, head to toe. I fall asleep.

I wake up and my head is less sore now than the last time. I succeed in moving my stiff neck to the side and then I see a smiley face. I recon him from the battlefields, he’s nurse José. It feels good seeing him, but at the same time, it doesn't. I notice that he is badly injured. He has lost both his legs and the left arm, his face is completely red and blue, but he still manages to smile at me. He is usually a funny guy, he always tries to ease the tensions with his terrible jokes. Some are good though, I must admit. He realizes that I am staring at him with a shy smile. His face lits up.

“Buenos días doctora Milagros! I am so ugly that I didn’t even need to make a joke to see your smiley face! I am the joke myself, isn’t that right?” I laugh, almost crying, at his comment. My throat stills a little sore, but at least I am able to generate some noise this time. “I am so glad to see you alive and sound! You truly are a miracle, Doctor! Someone up there is really fond of you and gave you another chance. You deserve that chance, you deserve it!” José has tears in his eyes.

Even though I can't remember what happened, I know that I am badly hurt as well. Now, also physically. I cannot tell exactly how bad it is, but something happened last (?) night. For how long have I been sleeping? Wait! Who am I???

I try to speak, and again, nothing comes out. Only a few noises but nothing as a word would sound like.

José locks his eyes on mine, a tear rolls down my cheek. “You are going home Doctor! Don’t worry, everything is going to be fine. Do you think it’s warmer in Mexico City? I know for sure that in Rio it is. I wish I could go to the beach!” he winks at me.

Mexico City? Rio? Where are you from? Where am I from? FUCK! What is happening, I can’t remember anything. I try to speak again but the sore in my throat doesn’t allow me to. I close my eyes once more.

There she is, with those wonderful blue eyes. Her smile, God! She is so beautiful, kind, sweet, smart. Te amo hermosa! I tell her and she gives me that perfect smile in return, it melts me completely. Suddenly the pain is not in evidence anymore, the love I feel for that woman fills every single cell of my body. I don’t know exactly who she is, but I keep dreaming about her and it makes me feel good.

 

 

August 28th

Hi baby! I was worried about you. I am sorry for everything, perdóname por favor. Te quiero tanto! Juls, don’t leave me again, please! Don’t leave.

I wake up screaming and crying. I just had a nightmare . Another one. It’s a torture I have been through since she... 

“Val, is everything ok? We’ve heard you screaming"  That is my brother Guille. Yesterday I ran to his house after I saw the news. He’s been helping me since she… left.

In his arms is where I can find some comfort. Sitting next to me in bed, I wrap my arms around his body tightly and I cry. He tells me everything will be all right. But it won’t. She is missing and she is not ever coming back to me.  

I’ve hated her for a while. She left me, how could she leave? And now, she might have left forever and thinking about that hurts deeply. I never could stop loving her, even though I fought myself to it. I even tried to date Lucho... I mean, that was despair in the maximum level. No one can replace her, no one ever will.

Renata, my sister in law, takes me to the bathroom. She helps me to get in the shower. I don’t have strength for anything. The warm water hits my body softly, but it all seems cold. The world somehow became black and white just by the fact she might be gone. "She promised me she would come back, and now she is gone!" I say it aloud without intending so.

“Lo sé Val. She is not actually dead, she is just missing. You have to keep your faith up. She is fine and she will eventually fulfill her promise and return". Renata tells me so I can stop crying, but it has the opposite effect and I almost cry my eyes out.

After showering, I lay down on the couch. Guille and his wife are talking in the kitchen, probably discussing what to do with me. I hear some whispers like "We should tell your father" and "I’ll call Mateo to see if he knows anything else that could help us". But I don’t care what they’re actually planning, I just want this pain to go away. I can’t sleep or I’ll end up dreaming about her. I can’t be awake either, or I’ll create in my mind the scene of the missile hitting her… "DIOS! Why is that fucking happening?"

I wrap myself around her black jacket, the only piece of cloth I kept from her. It’s been three years since she last wore it, but I swear I can still feel her scent on it. I breathe deeply to make her perfume penetrate my lungs with more intensity. I close my eyes and for a split second I can feel her in my arms.

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I wake up and this time I am able to sit down in bed. I look around and I don’t see José, his bed is empty. In less than a minute there comes what I think must be a nurse.

She speaks in a not identifiable language, pointing her index finger at my back and towards the mattress. I can tell she's not happy to see me in a sitting position, and I understand that she is telling me to lay down. I do what she demands. Every part of my body still a little sore, but at least the nurse gave me some water and I was able to swallow it. Minutes later, I see some people approaching my bed. I’ve never seen them in my life.

“We’re glad you woke up! Do you understand me? Can I speak English with you?” I nod at the kind man in front of me. Dr. Abu, it’s the name embroidered at his very white coat. He notices that I'm reading it and he introduces himself. “I’m Doctor Abu, and you are?”  That is a very good question, who the fuck am I? I struggle with my mind and memory, I try to remember but I can’t. I feel my blood pressure rising up. My heart speeds up in an uncontrolled manner. I burst into cry.

“Calm down, it’s ok! It’s fine if you don’t remember now. You suffered a very strong impact on your head. It might take you some time to heal. It’s ok, we’re here with you!” he says while his left hand caresses my hair.

“They call me… Doctora… Milagros, I don’t know if that is my name… Yo no sé!” My voice vanishes at some point.

“That is great. You can remember how they called you in the battlefields! Awesome. Really good news Doctor! José told me that too and you just confirmed. It proves that you didn’t lose all your memory. Now, I can see you’re a Spanish speaker. Can you remember which part of the world you come from?”  I close my eyes trying to focus. Nothing comes to memory, only that girl I’ve been dreaming with recently. Her sky blue eyes and her soft smile. I don’t even know her name. I called her 'Val’ or ‘amor’ in my last dreams, which indicates we probably were a couple. I don’t know for sure.

“I don’t know. José said something about Rio or Mexico City last time I saw him. Where is he by the way, he must know it!” My voice is slowly getting stronger. I try to connect the dots, but there aren’t many dots to connect. I detect a sad look in the doctor’s eyes. By that, I can imagine what just happened. Even though I don’t recall everything properly, I still remember that I used to be a doctor as well, and that expression is the one I would also do when I'd just lost any of my patients.

“I am sorry Dr. Milagros, José passed away last night. He was badly injured, we tried our best” I feel so bad for hearing that. First, because he was a good person and I’ll miss him. Second, because he was the only one I could even remember. What am I going to do now? Tears come down my face.

“Dr. Milagros, I’ll be honest with you. Unfortunately, your entire base is gone. Every single person that were there with you at that camp died. Until yesterday we had two survivors, now only you. We actually are very happy to see you alive. You didn’t have many injuries in your bones or muscles, however, you went through a quite bad situation”.  He takes some breath before continuing. I attentively listen to him. “Your base was attacked by a missile strike, not letting any chance to scape. You were found by some locals that brought you to our tribe. They felt your vital signs pulsing and took care of you until you arrived at the hospital. We don’t exactly know how you survived, it truly is a miracle. Your name makes you justice".

“For how long have I been here?” I desperately want to know everything I possibly can.

“You’d been in a coma for about two months now. You woke up a few days ago, but you just have regained your consciousness yesterday. I’ve been trying to comunicate with you but you spoke very few words and all of them in Spanish. As all material and your personal belongings were burned at the attack, we weren’t able to identify your name, or your age precisely.  We collected your fingerprints and sent it to the UN headquarter in New York, but because the confidential law, which protects your identity, we must wait until the International Court of Justice sanctions in our favor to know your ID. It can take a few months to the approval”.

“So no one knows who I am, including myself?!” I ask and then I speak in my mind ‘that is awesome, isn’t it?’    

“Unfortunately that is exactly it. Your body was thrown at least twelve meters from where the locals think you initially were before the missile hit the camp. You probably collided your head, you were found next to a tank. The result to that was a hemorrhage, but fortunately, we had time to do a blood transfusion. Now, we must see what you can remember. Could you please tell us a little about yourself? Anything”

“I don’t know!” I shout angrily. I didn’t intend to be that angry, but I am. “Sorry, I’m confused and stressed out”.

“It’s ok. We understand”. He is very kind. “Since you hit the back of your head, my hypothesis was that your long term memories could be affected, since the little box in our brain that stores it was knocked with the impact. By not remembering where you from, or what your name is for sure, it gives me some confidence that, unhappily, I was correct in my assumptions. Do you recall when have you first came to Africa?”

“I don’t know for sure. One year or two years ago, maybe”. Why in hell is that happening to me? I can’t remember a damn thing about my life. I just have flashes of myself saving people on the battlefields.

“It’s ok doctor. We’ll figure it out together, and take care of you. We will assume you’re from Mexico City, since José was the one from Rio. He told us he was from Brazil, so taking into account he mentioned Mexico with you, we will start searching from there” I nod gratefully. “We also have something to show you. We found a picture in your pants pocket. It’s somewhat dirty because of the blood, but we managed to clean it without damaging it too much”.

He hands me the small Polaroid picture. Only the blue eyes. Her blue eyes, the woman I’ve been dreaming with. I try to remember her name but I can’t, I just have “Val” in my mind. He tells me to turn the pic around to read what is in the back: Forever yours, Val!    

“Do you recon it? Do you know who that is?” he asks, bringing me back to reality.

“I don’t know. I’ve… I’ve been dreaming about her but I don’t know her full name. I usually call her Val in the dreams”. I inevitably start crying, couldn't hold it back anymore.

“Try not to blame yourself. It’s not your fault you can’t remember. We’ll do everything we can to help you recover, I promise you. For now, get some rest and sleep tight”.

He leaves and all the nurses follow him. How can he expect me to sleep well after all he had told me? I put the picture on my chest and hold it firmly against my heart.

"Por favor, help me to remember. Por favor!" I keep repeating it like a mantra until my eyes shut down.