Photo taken by author at de Young Museum, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

The Fall of The Tower of Babel

A Short Story on Strength, Love, and Grief.

My eyes were on him the whole time.

His suit fitted him immaculately as he walked around, greeting everyone who came. It was black with thin pinstripes that made his frame taller and leaner at the same time. On his cuffs were the metal stud links that I gave him two months ago for his birthday. He adjusted his favorite silk red tie as he chuckled at something that his aunt said. His eyes crinkled, sparks of joy twinkling in it as he patted her shoulder. She returned it with a squeeze on his arm, his muscles being emphasized because of the act. His smile turned serene as he nodded in understanding. His aunt left him and his grin was back to accommodate the newcomers, perfect white teeth that would put Crest a run for their money showing along with it.

We are together for the past two years now. I remember clearly the first time that we met.

I was new in the company. I was offered by the competition a better offer than any promotion that my former company could afford. Besides, it was already getting toxic in my former workplace. I attended one of those Christmas holiday functions, to get to know my colleagues more and to observe the culture of the workplace. The function was a formal ball with dancing and drinks and music. It was a thrown-up promenade. Everyone was in bright and fun colors. I was the only one wearing black. Great. Note to self, you just employed yourself in Happy Bunch & Co.

“You know, it is not allowed to be a wallflower here.” A silken voice spoke. I turned and saw a tall man in a white suit and pink tie. This was not normal pink. It was steaming hot pink. He was not normal man. He was steaming hot man.

I raised my eyebrow at him. “What is allowed then if I cannot stay here in silence?”
He flashed me those kind of smiles that can make one melt just because he was hot. “You are allowed to have the time of your life. I know you are new here, considering your — ,” he gestured his arm over my sadness ensemble, “but we do not judge and we especially do not bite. What I need to ask you is are you ready?” He flashed me another of those smiles and he extended his hand for me to take.

I sighed and nodded, taking his hand. His smile grew wider as if it was still humanely possible for it to be. He dragged me to the dance floor and called on the nearest group of people to introduce me to them.

Our eyes met. I gave him an encouraging smile and was about to walk towards him when he shook his head and grinned. It was his way to tell me that he was under control. It was his way of showing me that I was not to worry despite the situation. It was his way to tell me that he was fine.

Today was his mother’s funeral.

“Where are you taking me?” I whined at him as I groped his hands on my blindfolded eyes. He chuckled close to my ear as he led me forward.

“How impatient. I have spent considerable time to make this great so, please, give me this gift of just being beautiful and excited.” I felt his lips press against mine before he continued to lead me ahead, caressing my ear with whispers of elevated steps and potholes.

He finally removed his hands and the blindfold and I was greeted by an intimate picnic setting on his backyard. I could see a bottle of champagne, some bread and a pan of baked something that I could pinpoint then because my eyes were at the twinkling lights overhead that he must have installed for the dinner.

I looked at him and just laughed at the obvious apprehension on his face. “It’s beautiful, Ray.” I said, kissing him tenderly and dragging him to the setting that he prepared.

I was pestering him the whole night why did he make such effort when there is nothing to celebrate. He would just shrug and flash me that smile that I love so much.

We were talking about the proposal that I was working on when my phone beeped. I read the message and I squealed.
“It’s approved! It’s approved! Ray, They liked my proposal! Ray, They — -”

I looked up and he had the smuggest grin that I have ever seen.
“Congratulati — -”
“You knew, that was this is all about, isn’t it? You knew.” I accused.

He just shrugged and was about to make this long speech that I was sure was about letting me know how great I was.
I just kissed him to make him stop. I already knew I was great. I had him.

The service has already started. It was a requirement that all visitors were to wear white except for immediate family. Ray insisted that I wear black since his mother already considered me as family. It was touching, really, as I sat on my place in the church pew, twisting my shiny new engagement ring around my finger while I watched him take the stand.

He looked at everyone and nodded, his eyes serious and commanding. He had no paper in hand to read. He was prepared like in every single business meeting and presentation. He did not meet my eyes.

“Good evening, everyone, and thank you for coming tonight considering it is a weekday.” He paused a bit as the mass answered back to him their own greetings.

“Elizabeth Garcia is a very wonderful woman. She has spent her life committing to the empowerment of the youth in our community especially the abandoned, harassed, and unloved. Being the founder of Mahal for Life Foundation, most know her as Mamita Beth. Her friends know her as Beth. To me, before all of the fame of good works that she had spread all over the community, she was doing good works at home. My sisters and I call her Ma.

She did her best to support us as you may all know after my father died when I was six. She was our strength. She was our rock. She had a heart so big that she was not able to fit us in it but she was able to fit all of us. I am certain that if she was still alive then she can fit even more.

I have to admit that I did not understand at first why would she dedicate so much time with other children and youth. I started to question if we were not enough for her. Being without a father was already hard as it is and I had to share her to other people as well. Then, I realized that Ma was teaching us something.

Life moves on. Love is eternal. The heart is such a wonderful concept. The pain brought by the loss of love compels the heart to grow fonder and wider. For, the broken heart can also distinguish another broken heart. The heart broken knows the pain is so bad that it can crumble the strongest of forces. The heart broken breaks even further at the sight of other broken hearts. That was what Ma had. She had a broken heart. Her heart broke at the loss of my father. Her heart broke at the struggle of raising three children all on her own.

Her broken heart saw other broken hearts in our community and her heart shattered. The sight was so painful that she gave every single shattered piece of her heart to every single broken one that she could reach, hoping to make them whole again. In turn, these broken hearts felt a warmth seeping through the cracks and crevices of their fragility. They felt love. They felt love so hot and so great that their hearts shattered. In kind, they gave their shattered pieces away to other broken hearts, hoping for their hearts to be whole only to shatter again.

Ma, in giving away the shattered pieces of her heart, receiving an assortment of shards of hearts that made her heart so whole and so unique. I thank each and everyone of you who parted with your shattered piece and gave it to my mom. She would cherish it to the end of her afterlife.

On a final note, I invite everyone to break their hearts. Break your hearts so much that it could not be whole again on its own. Shatter it to the point of the only way for it to be whole is to receive the shards of other hearts.

To Ma, thank you. I made a promise and I am willing to make it happen. You have nothing to worry about. I will take care of all your children. Say ‘Hi’ to Pa for me.”

Beside me, Agnes, one of his sisters, was sobbing uncontrollably. I reached for her hand as I continued to watch Ray with tears on my eyes. He stepped down and walked towards the casket. His face was calm as he looked down at his mother. Reaching up, he loosened his tie and slowly tugged it out of his shirt. Ray’s eyes were on her face the whole time while he gingerly folded up his tie and placed it on the glass. With that, he stepped down and went back towards his seat.

I woke up against white sheets and pillows. That was what I was feeling inside. My eyesight was still foggy with sleep but I was too excited and just checked my hand to make sure the night before was not a dream. Ring. Sparkly. Around my fourth finger against my knuckle. Nice. It was not a dream.

“Hey.” His grumbled voice sounded next to me. I turned my head to see him smiling sheepishly at me. I could not help but giggle at the utter mess that was his hair.

I placed a kiss on his lips, pouring out all I wanted to say. I love Ray. He was my pillar. He was my rock. He was my pride. He was my strength. He was always there. He was always strong. The least that I can do is love and take care of him for the rest of his life.

We were having dinner that night when Agnes called to say that their mother was rushed to the hospital. The whole way there, he was silent and stoic but I could tell by the hard grip on his steering wheel that he was panicking.

We arrived just in time for the end. His mother was barely awake and his sisters were crying beside her bed and comforting her. Her eyes flashed for the last time as she called out to Ray who just entered the room. No sound, just the gesture of it. He was fast and was on her side, leaning his head against hers as he closed his eyes. His features were calm as his mother gripped his red tie and murmured something only they knew about before she let go and left. It was chaos as his sisters mourned and wailed. He just stood there and gave a hug to Agnes who went to him to cry on his suit.

My eyes were on him the whole time.

Raymond Garcia just buried his mother earlier that day. I watched him the whole time. I watched him the whole time we were driving home. He took my hand and led my back to our apartment. I could feel beads of sweat on his palm.

He was silent as he opened our apartment door. “So, what do you want to have for dinner?” He casually asked me as he removed his jacket and hung it across the backrest of a nearby seat.

I did not answer. I did not answer because I saw his grip on his jacket waver and I saw his hold on the backrest shake. I watched him fall to his knees and scream. The excrutiating sound of it was sure to be buried in my mind for the rest of my life. I watched him pull at his hair and lower his head.

Tears were on my eyes as I walked and knelt in front of him. His face was the face of never ending grief. He looked at me and reached up to wipe my tears with his thumb. I closed my eyes and pulled him close, forcing his head against the crook of my neck and resting my chin on his hair. He held me and finally he cried. He cried for his mother. He cried for the foundation. He cried for his sisters. He cried for himself.

That moment I realized that Ray was human. His tears were the most precious things that I have ever seen. I held him as he kept them coming. At that moment, I was his rock. I let him shed out all his sadness. I let him cry and feed him his madness. For the tower has fallen and I was there to gladly pick up the pieces.

This is a work of fiction. Any name mentioned that is similar to any living or dead is purely coincidental.
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