Love Interest, Turned Enemy
The request given to the him by the medical doctor and caseworker was simple: wear a mask in public. Marciano, a 23-year old Mexican American, contracted tuberculosis after capturing, drowning, and burying a racoon in a garden while working as a landscaper. He started a 30-month regimen to treat his tuberculosis, but he discontinued it after three months when his symptoms began to subside. Unfortunately, the symptoms returned, and Marciano was forced to revisit the clinic with the knowledge that his disease had only mutated due to his failure to take his prescribed medication. The beautiful, bilingual, caseworker, Rosa Hinojosa, was of Spanish descent and not much older than Marciano. She served as the doctor’s translator, and explained to Marciano that their request for him to wear the mask was only appropriate; he had the potential to severely endanger the lives of others. Rosa Hinojosa made this very clear to Marciano, expecting him to comprehend the importance of the mask. Marciano tells her that he will wear the mask. Interestingly, the only woman Marciano had ever considered with love and understanding was his mother, but Rosa Hinojosa was different. She was immediately viewed as an object of infatuation and attraction for Marciano, that is, until she becomes his worst enemy.
Ignorantly, Marciano saw the mask as “a target painted on his back — or face”, and dreaded the idea of having to wear it. Rosa Hinojosa attempts to encourage Marciano to do what is best for him and people the that he encounters. She urges Marciano to wear the mask, take his medicine without fail and report to the clinic daily, which he agrees to in order to “play their game”. After the agreement, the doctor speaks to Rosa Hinojosa, in a serious tone, which Marciano registers as a last and final warning. He agrees to everything that is being told to him by Rosa Hinojosa and accepts that if he begins to relapse again he would be incarcerated to make sure he finished the 30 month regimen. Rosa wears her own surgical mask as she talks to Marciano and slides him a box of the same masks. Marciano can tell that Rosa Hinojosa has no pity for him, because it is, in fact, his fault that he is in the predicament that he is in now. As soon as he leaves leaves the clinic, Marciano goes against the doctor’s and Rosa Hinojosa’s orders by removing the mask. He visits a bar and partakes in multiple beers while continuously coughing and infecting the air with his deadly bacteria. Marcino receives stares from others in the bar and rhetorically questions, “it wasn’t illegal to cough, was it?”. Although, in his case it was illegal, Rosa Hinojosa had instructed him to keep the mask on at all times to avoid repercussion.
Rosa Hinojosa was a symbol of both lust and love for Marciano, “he kept saying her name in his head, because of the way it rhymed, which somehow made him feel better”. Rosa Hinojosa was also the only person that could speak to Marciano, because he he did not know English. She was the only person in the clinic that could understand him. For this reason, and also the fact that she was beautiful, Marciano creates a very positive image of Rosa Hinojosa. One that, in a way, relates her to his mother. Although he often neglected wearing his mask the week of his initial appointment at the clinic, Marciano goes back daily for his intravenous and once crosses paths with Rosa Hinojosa, who was always kind to him in passing. She flashes him a smile and encourages him to stick to his regimen by saying “do it for me okay?”.
The positive view of Rosa Hinojosa is suddenly altered when she arrives at Marcianos home along with a security guard from Health Services. She eludes a understood disappointment and anger toward Marciano. He sees this, evaluates the stature of the enforcement officer and the attire of Rosa Hinojosa, who is dressed in a skirt and heels, and decides to make a run for it. Clearly forgetting the state of his health, Marciano assumes that the overweight guard and caseworker in heels would never be able to catch up with him. He does not make it very far before he is caught and taken to the hospital. Marciano claims he was innocent, but Rosa Hinojosa explains that he had been recorded on tape at the bar and making purchases at a local convenience store with no mask in sight. Marciano proclaims that he is an American citizen, this is truthful, but it is also irrelevant. Not wearing the mask would have been wrong no matter his citizenship status. Rosa goes on to tell him that he was warned and they had done everything they could do to help him, but the paperwork had been signed and he would continue his regimen under the security of the Men’s Colony, a correctional facility, which was equipped with a special ward for prisoners with medical conditions.
Why is Marcino so against wearing the masks? According to a New Yorker interview with the author of The Fugitive, T. Coraghessan Boyle,
“He understands the situation, but the mask is uncomfortable and stigmatizing, and he resents being saddled with it. He wants to be free of it, free of everything — he took his chances in society, and so must everyone else… Marciano contracted a disease through no fault of his own, in the same way that most of us get a cold or the flu every winter, and yet he is criminalized as a result.”
Marciano is willing to do anything to gain this freedom. The most defining moment between Rosa Hinojosa and Marciano takes place after their moment of back and forth. The once beautiful Rosa Hinojosa, was now fat and hideous. Marciano assumes that she thinks of him as a charity case, but in actuality she cared about his well being and wanted him to do what was right. Marciano debates within himself and claims that he is not violent. He does the only thing he can think of that would allow him to get far away from Rosa Hinojosa and the hospital enforcement officer: spit in their faces with his diseased mucus. He then runs away as quickly as he can, as the tainted people try to rub the bacteria off of their faces. Previously, Marciano wished that he was not sick so that he would be about to come in close contact with Rosa Hinojosa, but disregarding his infatuation toward her, he spits in her face in order to escape his own well being.
“What he was about to do was wrong, he knew that, and he regretted it the instant he saw it before him, but he wasn’t going to any prison, no way. That just wasn’t in the cards.”
While on the run, Marciano recollects his mother. He sees his mother as his protector, and wishes that he could find a way back home to Mexico, where everyone, not just Rosa Hinojosa, is able to communicate with him. He vows that with his mother he would wear a mask every second of every day, as to not infect her like he had did with every other person he had encountered while not wearing the mask.
“He doesn’t see his own culpability here (i.e., because he failed to complete the regimen to eliminate the treatable strain from his body, he is guilty of creating this new and highly potent strain). Nor does he see the rationale for his being pursued and imprisoned as if he’d willfully committed a crime.”-Boyle
Marciano starts his journey toward home. What would have taken him ten minutes, takes him an hour. As he arrives to his home, paranoia begins to set in. Selfishly, he wondered if Rosa Hinojosa would be there again waiting for him, but he dismissed that thought and concluded that Rosa was at home with her parents or husband, absorbed in her own life instead of his. He takes his medication and decided that it was something that had to be done whether he saw Rosa Hinojosa again or not, but it was too late Marciano’s demise is the same as the raccoon that had infected him. He was captured and drowned, in the garden.
“And when he opened them again all he could see was the glint of a metal trap, bubbles rising in the clear cold water, and the hands of the animal fighting to get out.”