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   That Latin Flair
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Page Four

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From:  Jeff Seltun <finiterider@yahoo.com>
Date:  Thu Feb 3, 2005  5:42 pm
Subject:  The Bond Beyond Kinship...


Marco Lopez separated himself from the others engaged
in lively conversation at the Year's End party at L.A. Headquarters.
It had been many days since his near death experience, but
it hadn't, as yet, left him free of introspection for a single solitary
moment. And his lined, tired face, reflected it.

Casting a glance around the room, Lopez found an open space
where he could sit down by himself, away from the noise and
oddly jarring gaiety.

He found solice in a pocket of quiet inside a room full of unused chairs
behind the dispatching station. Gently, Sam Lanier, the dispatcher, still
on duty, turned down his scanner radio to deepen the quiet that Marco
was seeking.

And there, in the brightly lighted store room, he found another small
person seeking the same kind of balm.

Lopez saw his own complex expression perfectly mirrored on a
hispanic boy's face and instantly recognized it for what it was.
His tiny features, too, were blanketed with a pale sadness.

"Stevie? Are you ok?"

Without looking up, the nine year old sighed. "Yeah, Mr. Lopez. I'm fine.
I guess I'm just tired, that's all. Tonight I think I need some time to just go
over the things painted in my head instead of celebrating, you know?"

"Kind of what I was picturing for myself, too. May I join you?"  Marco asked,
indicating the plastic chair next to the despondent boy.

"Sure. Have a seat..." Stevie gestured absently.

Several minutes passed and the two of them just stared at the walls,
perking up only when the familiar buzzing notes of a rescue call
came out from Sam's board for a nearby fire station.

Then Marco felt a tiny hand slip into his own.
"Wanna talk about it?" asked a treble whisper into his ear.

Marco nodded in quiet acceptance, laying his other hand over
the tinier one. "Yep. No one else understands at all what I'm
going through. I figured that you would, seeing that we both
have gone through nearly the same thing."

"You mean the bit where we almost died last week?"

"Yeah." Marco said, moving an arm over the boy's shoulder to
draw him nearer into a warm embrace to end his shivering.

Stevie did the same, and for more than just mutual comfort's
sake. He was reaching out, to the only one capable of understanding
the unique angst that was still dominating his very soul.

"I sure wish I got a note from the other side. Clear as pictures, senor.."
muttered Stevie, his own deep brown eyes connecting slowly with
Marco's. "Father Murphy says he can't tell me what what I saw means,
since he wasn't there. Now isn't that the craziest thing you ever
heard? A man of the cloth being totally clueless about the afterlife."
the boy scoffed.

"He hasn't seen the other side like we have." Marco said gently,
lacing his fingers into the boy's. He offered him a Coke from
a chilling cooler nearby but the child shook his head no.
Marco sighed, not feeling very thirsty either. At least, not
in a physical sense. "Stevie, what did you see out there?"

The boy's eyes filled with an emotion that Marco couldn't identify,
yet Lopez seemed to feel the child, inside of his heart, in an inexplicable
way that usually wasn't possible with complete strangers who
hardly knew each other.

"You first..." said the vaguely troubled boy.

"Well, " sighed Lopez. "I saw ...my dead father...and...I was absolutely
overwhelmed by something that I can only describe as a pervasive,
all encompassing sense of peace. It was as if Bernardo and
I ..suddenly had the same mind and body...for an instant. "

"I could feel what he felt...and hear what he was saying. I was seeing,
what he saw around him, effortlessly, and thinking what he thought.
And- and and it was a two way street. He could experience my life's
events as acutely as I had lived them. And I saw how he had lived his.
But soon, it was if he began weighing my life's worth, and deciding
whether or not I should go on into the light with him."

"Then I was pulled away from Bernardo's arms while in between
a heartbeat. I think it was then my friend Roy gave me an electrical
shock to get my heart beating well enough so that it could sustain
me again. "

"The first thing I heard was Captain Stanley saying that I was finally
breathing ok for them. Then I knew nothing for a while until I woke up
in the ambulance."

Throughout his tale, Marco saw Stevie's eyes get bigger and bigger
as parallels eerily lined up with his own sharp memories. The boy's eyes
watered in grief and sadness. "I should still be out there, Marco!"
he sobbed. "My being down here with everybody still alive
is so painful to me...  I don't think I can stand it.."

Marco drew the boy deeper into his arms and kissed his hair. "Shh, querido.
It's ok. I think that this pain's just us, getting used to our bodies
again. It'll go away. It has to, like everything else bad always does:
I think it'll be a little like falling until we've figured out how to walk again."

Silence stretched between them, but there was no distance at all.

Marco broke the stillness.
What happened to you when you found yourself...'outside'?"

The child's face flushed red with distress and he shifted
violently on the chair."People don't know how much those
who've gone on are still a part of them!" Stevie cried. "My abuela
was over there and she said to me that it wasn't my time to go yet.
She said that I had to stay with mom and my brother, until I've
done something I'm supposed to do. Only she couldn't tell me
what that was... I felt like I knew, Marco, absolutely everything."
his face twisted. "But now I've forgotten it all and that's now
the pain I got in here..." and Stevie pointed to his head,
"and here.." and his shaking fingers rested on his chest.
"And if I don't figure it out, I know it's gonna kill me again...."
he choked.

"It's ok, querido. I think the pain's supposed to happen, so you
can learn from it."

"How?!"

"Just talk to me. And tell me what you know...." Marco
whispered.

Stevie slowly relaxed and his eyes seemed like they lost their focus.

"Grandma was an angel, and she was so bright!" shared
Stevie. "I didn't want to leave her."

"I didn't want to leave my father either. But now, I see that
I'm not ready to go where he is now. Don't you feel that too?"

"Yeah.. a little. I can feel that it's in your mind and it's
making that awful pain leave you. Bit by bit." sighed Stevie,
wiping his tears away with a hand. He snuffled in the way
of the very young and that endeared him to Marco
instantly.

"That's right. And I think I know the reason why. When I
think of my father, I can see what's truly important now.
Family, love, creativity, was the impression I got." he
smiled. "It's really hard to have a bad day now since then.
Frankly, I simply can't have one because I realized that
I had awakened, still breathing. All because of what my
father said to me in those last moments."

"He said, 'Marco,go live your life as I have lived mine. I will
still be here, watching over you and your mother, every step
of the way until we are meant to be together once more.
There's nothing to fear from death. It is simply a change in you
where your body recedes and your mind grows up. Don't
worry about any of it. Everybody who loves you will support your
needs fully when the time comes around for good.' "

"Stevie, your grandmother probably told you the same thing, but
you've had a longer way to travel to get back to your mother.
Abuela's message will come when your body's settled again.
I know it will."

The small Hispanic boy sighed and stopped crying, still nestled in
Marco's warm arms. "You know what? Im not afraid to die now."

Lopez threw on a wry look for his benefit. "I sure dont want to quite
yet, even though it was a very wonderful thing."

"I think everyone should do it." Stevie voiced with finality.
"Well, ...at least, ...someday."

"Don't be afraid to talk about all of this with your mother
like we are doing now.  No one will ever look at you strangely
for doing this. Tell her especially the part about your grandmother
being an angel."

"I will Mr. Lopez. I'll try real hard."

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In the weeks that followed in church, Marco Lopez often heard
Stevie tell his friends about the time when he was dead. Hearing
the child's tale, each time, helped him connect with his own story
and it got stronger and stronger, easier and easier with each telling
to the support counselors or to his fellow firemen at the station.

At first, Marco was fearful that the folks around them wouldn't
understand their stories and become withdrawn after the listening.
But that didn't happen.

Rather, they got a profound, softened look on their faces that
always came with a smile.




FIN  
Season Two, Episode Seventeen..

  That Latin Flair  

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