By Estela (Probably Part Vulcan) Caballero
Even though the show always said Spock was Vulcan, I was sure he had some Mexican in him. Side by side pictures of Spock and my dad beg the question, “Might they even be brothers?” Don’t go nuts Trekkies, I know his mom was human and his dad was Vulcan. Spock was a weekly visitor into our home. Sure, it was just a show but we only had three channels, maybe four if we made my little brothers take turns holding the square shaped antennae just right. The good shows were something we looked forward to. It’s hard to explain to someone who can’t remember a time when you couldn’t pull up your shows, anything really, at any time.
Before I could tell time, I used tv shows as a reference. An old broken watch rested among my most treasured belongings in the corner of the closet. As my mom would hurry out the door after making us food to eat while she was at work, she would ask me to recite the schedule of what she needed to make sure I did while she was at work. I would quickly retrieve my watch from the closet and tell my mom not to worry, I knew what time everything needed to happen and show her I had my watch. If the potato processing plant she was working at needed extra people to cover the next shift, they would give employees little or no notice, often waiting until the last hour to tell them it was their turn for mandatory overtime. There were no cell phones to call and check up on us during her breaks. We didn’t always have a working land line. “When________ ends, make sure you check you’re brother to see if he needs to be changed” or “Make sure you brothers and sister go to bed after ________.” The only time I saw my mom sit still was when she was driving– that didn’t seem to count since she was driving. Aside from that, she was on the move always preparing and readying. She rarely spoke of her own childhood and would quickly change the subject when I asked her how she learned to tell time or what her favorite shows were when she was my age. I came to understand that I should stop asking.
Star Trek was a marker and it’s possible the reason those old shows occupy a special place in my memories was because they were sometimes the only constant in rough waters. Spock helped my dad learn English and he inspired me to think in a new way. He gave my mother comfort. She knew his visit to our home would ensure her youngest got a fresh diaper if her oldest forgot. I was the keeper of time and in charge during those hours but I was still a child, a relentless day dreamer and my mother knew that better than anyone else. Spock helped a little Mexican girl watch over her brothers and sister. A mental map would activate at the first sound of the theme music reminding us all of our pre show duties. One brother would go grab a bottle for Buddy, the baby. My sister would drag a large heavy blanket from the room and we’d all climb on after it was stretched close to the rickety table holding the tv. Certain shows warranted a temporary peace between us and this was one of them. In order for peace to be real, all of us had to like the show.
The baby was named Buddy by my father. Just before my mother went into labor, we were watching a Jerry Lewis movie with a suave character named Buddy Love. Buddy was number five and by then both my mom and dad had several chances to draw a line in the sand over who would chose the name. They already had two boys and two girls and Buddy didn’t sound too bad. She worked all the way up to the day Buddy was born and her maternity leave would last little more than most people took off over the holidays. She was tired and had only enough energy to firmly convey Buddy was fine but my dad was pushing his luck if he told the nurse Buddy’s middle name was Love one more time. I was happy his name was Buddy. When people asked why we called my chubby littlest brother Buddy or “Booodgie” as my dad’s family pronounced it, the story would bring laughter even if they had heard the story many times before. My mother and father would laugh. As things went from bad to worse, as they too often do, I would try to retell the story and break the harshness permeating everything from the air to their looks at each other. Even the silence sought refuge from the heartbreak of a family breaking apart for good.
I learned to tell time that year. Spock and I grew apart for a time. The possibilities learned in those days as the keeper of time never left me, even as I eventually joined the masses at the factory myself. I found little comfort in the cell phone tucked in my lunch bag. It was night and my tiny daughter should be sleeping. At lunch time, I didn’t eat. I was certain I could work 20 years and still not feel right eating my lunch at 2 am. Instead I sat there and remembered sitting in front of the small screen, a tattered blanket became a magical carpet. I got to travel through space and go where no man has gone before. A rapt audience sat quietly on the floor in front of the tv and couldn’t wait to see what strange new worlds were waiting. Anything was possible, that’s for sure.
As you can see, Spock is probably at least half Mexican and/or my dad is half Vulcan. Don’t go all Mendel’s cross pollination on me. The way it happened or percentages don’t matter– look at those eyebrows. I couldn’t photoshop it that close even if I wanted to. Live long and prosper– and dream. Dream big, then do it.
Art, photos and words by Estela Caballero ❤
Someone had stolen his gloves in the night. He considered himself lucky that was all they did. A sweet melody woke him. The notes rising and falling like his heart used to when he still had one. Long gone the days when celebrations like a birthday marked time. It was hard to say how long he had been living this way. He reached in his pocket feeling around. If it was heaven, he would expect that the spare gloves he kept in his pocket would be gone. After all they wouldn’t be necessary. Heaven or hell, neither would require gloves. They were there and even though the fingers of the gloves had been worn through many winters ago, it was better than nothing. The music played and he still had hope God had just forgot to remove the gloves.
He struggled to his feet and tried to find the angel that was playing the song of a life he no longer had any claim to. The rise and fall of the notes from the violin reminded him of the days he and his beautiful young wife would save up to have dinner in the city. How many times had they walked by this very spot? Maybe it was best this way. He was lost in plain sight. Love and the pain of losing it was worse than being kicked or chased away from places, being ignored and even sleeping outside in the freezing rain. He welcomed the numbness regardless of the source. Brown glass bottle or below zero nights on the concrete– it no longer made a difference. Only the end result mattered.
The old man was warm now and pulled his gloves out of his pocket. Papery thin hands carefully paired them like his older brother had showed him long ago when he was a boy. They often fought over who would ball the socks as they helped their mother fold laundry for the Ballinger’s. They didn’t have toys and would toss the socks back and forth until they were reclaimed by his kind but tired mother. None of them, not even his mother had ever owned anything as fine as the impossibly soft socks. From father to infant, the Ballinger family feet were just as pampered as every other part of their life. Had someone told the citizens of the small town they lived in that they would one day live in the old Balinger home, laughter would surely have followed.
The subway was a world of its own. He noticed a particular boy and his mother. They were in his home along with the other usual morning crowd rushing and waiting. Well, they were in the closest thing he had to a home. The subway was a safer place than some of the shelters he would stay at once in a while when the cops did their sweeps. The boy looked to be about three years old and his mother held his hand tight as they walked by him. He lowered his eyes to show the mother he meant no harm to her or her child. She didn’t notice the gesture nor would she have understood it had she looked. We turn away from that which pains us. We turn away from that which causes fear. When it is necessary to confront the uncomfortable, it’s easiest to chalk it up to the flawed person that surely brought the misery upon themselves. Dismissed. Everyone can continue about their day.
The boy pulled at his mother’s hand, his eyes fixed on the homeless man’s angel playing a beautiful stringed instrument that was a dark rich brown.
Movement like a river all day long. People entered and hopped off the subway cars coming and going just as they did every other day. Few noticed the man’s angel and the few that stopped were children who stayed as long as their parent’s allowed. The violin is unlike other instruments in the way it calls something inside most don’t know is there. Dismissed. Best the call go unanswered. To listen requires an attention long extinct among people blind to angels and deaf to their song.
Not too long ago, a famous violinist, Joshua Bell, played in the subway. It wasn’t as a panhandler before he reached fame and fortune. He was already extremely well known. He became invisible to people who proudly claim to love fine music– his fine music. The cloak of the ordinary deafens so even heavenly sounds cannot reach the brain much less the heart. This ailment pales in comparison to the mysterious loss poverty provokes–a temporary blindness among the masses.
It was a social experiment. The question– Would anyone recognize the person playing violin in the subway? Would the award winning music draw a crowd? He was scheduled to play several sold out shows over the next few days in New York. Tickets at the events regularly went for $100 or more. Josh Bell played in the subway for about 45 minutes and made $32. Only a handful of people stopped to see him play. One thought him an angel that might lead him to a wife and daughter long disappeared in the fire.
No one recognized him. Josh Bell was in a subway playing a violin that was worth $3.5 million yet children– those still living in the freedom of enjoying something because of how it makes them feel and not what others think, were the ones who appreciated the sounds of the homeless man’s angel the most.
Feel that bit of fabric
Fingers along a face
See what is before you
This is not a race
I can’t rely on memory
A kindness that went unnoticed
A love too often late