We shiver in the darkness of the garage that Tito has unlocked just for me. “Come here,” he calls. In the dim light I feel my way to his side. “Mira.”
As my eyes adjust, I look at what he has brought me in here to see. Long, sleek, and powerful, it’s darker than the darkness outside. Tito takes my hand in his and puts it against its smooth side. “Mi carro,” he says. I can’t see his face, not even his eyes, but I hear his pride.
“Tu carro,” I echo. Your car. It looks peaceful, even at home, parked here in the garage. But that wasn’t how it began.
Every day at the garage the work was backing up. Problems that Nicolás thought were small were taking four, five, and six hours to solve. The mechanics couldn’t figure out what was wrong. In Nicolás’ eyes, Tito, his manager, was responsible. Each day Tito faced complaining drivers, tired mechanics, and a frustrated, bellowing Nicolás. One day Tito just took off his uniform.
“Huevón, it’s the middle of the afternoon. What are you doing?”
“I quit, Nicolás.” And this time he meant it.
“You can’t quit right now. Here, I give you a hundred more a week to stay.”
“I don’t want your money. I want peace.”
“Then, a hundred and fifty more.”
“No me comprendes nada. It’s not about the money.” You don’t understand at all.
Nicolás must have seen that he was on the verge of losing his manager, the man who knew his business as well as he did, the man whom he could trust to leave in charge when he went away on vacation, the man who was filling in more and more while his wife stayed happily home with their grandchildren. How would he explain Tito’s departure to her?
“Okay. What if I give you a raise and a partnership in the business?”
“Huevón, it’s too late for that.” Tito was as stubborn as he was angry. He turned his back on Nicolás and walked out of the office. He locked up what tools he had in the garage and strode out of the gaping doors and into the street. At home he put his head down and fell asleep, which is what he does when he’s upset. He woke when I arrived that evening. “I quit today, Rebecca.”
I took a bath, which is what I do when I am stressed. This was the second time he’d quit. I worried that this was a pattern. “Did Nicolás ask you back?” I was hoping he had.
“I can’t work for that man any longer, okay Rebecca? I came to New York for peace, not money.”
I didn’t have the energy to contradict him. Now was not the time to remind him of his obligations to his family. He already knew about the local layoffs. It was what he whispered to me nightly. The Bengali garage had dismissed three mechanics, the Albanians, another. In the back-lots of all of them, the number of idle Towncars was rising. In the recession of the moment, the demand for fancy taxis had evaporated.
“Mira, Rebecca, I’ll find something.
Tito stayed inside all weekend. I saw him poring over the want ads, caught him counting his money, and heard him on the phone with friends. “Nothing yet, mi amor,” he reported. “But I’ll find something. Besides, I have savings. I’ll be fine. For a month or so, anyway.”
I think it was his use of the singular that irked me. “There are other ways to work out disagreements than quitting,” I snapped. I didn’t have the liberty to quit my job.
He shook his head and walked away. “You don’t understand anything, Rebecca.”
I trailed after him. “It’s just not mature to quit like that. You should have given Nicolás two weeks notice. That’s how we do things here.”
“You don’t understand anything, Rebecca.”
“I understand more than you think. You might need Nicolás’ help sometime. You’ll get a bad reputation.”
Tito sat down on the sofa. “You don’t believe in me.”
I tried to explain myself, but he waved me away. He lay down and didn’t get up for the rest of the weekend. When Monday arrived, he padded into the bedroom. “I’ve been muy tonto, Rebecca.” So stupid.
“Estaba yo muy brusca.” I was too harsh.
“I’m just going to open the garage and give back the keys.” And with that, he got up and kissed me.
I thought I would have heard from him that morning, but I didn’t. When no one answered at home, I called the garage.
“Hello, Skyline.” It was Tito in a voice that sounded like any other day at the garage. What was he doing?
“Nicolás and Fernanda want to bring me into the business. They talked about it over the weekend. They think it’s time.”
At last, I thought. If Nicolás makes Tito a part of his business, surely he’ll have to sponsor Tito for a Green Card. Tito was holding most of the responsibility for the garage, and all of it when they vacationed. Tito had earned a percentage of the business.
“They said it’s time for me to buy my own Towncar.”
This wasn’t the partnership I was envisioning. “But they’re giving you money to buy a car?”
“No, un préstamo.” A loan.
I could only sigh at the audacity of it all. “Did they at least give you a raise?”
I could hear him beaming(?). “La Señora felt my salary should be more equal to the others. So now I make a hundred dollars more. Six hundred dollars a week now.”
He deserved more. He should have taken Nicolás’ second offer. But this was the cost of his impulsiveness. I tried to be grateful that he still had a job.
After supper that night Tito sat down at his desk. He opened his notebooks and took out his calculator. He turned on his computer. I could hear the scribbles and taps emanating from the next room. An hour later he returned to the kitchen. “I need five thousand cash, maybe six thousand in all to buy it.”
Tito had graduated to paying the electric bill and part of the phone, but we still weren’t sharing the rent. I gasped.
“I’ve got four thousand dollars in my bank account.”
I held my breath.
“I just need two thousand. La Señora and Nicolás are loaning me the money to register and insure it. That’s a lot of money, almost four thousand.”
I stiffened at a debt from them that he was so willing to assume.
Tito pointed to his computer screen. The neat and glowing numbers meant nothing to me. And I couldn’t decipher his handwriting on the scattered pieces of paper he held up, covered with more figures. He tried to explain. He spoke in Spanish and then in English. It didn’t matter what the language. I couldn’t understand him. It’s the mental block about finances that I have. I can’t even keep my own straight. I took a breath. “It’s okay, mi amor. I don’t need to understand.” I stretched. I needed to get back to the dishes.
“Espera. Necesito tu ayuda.” Wait. I need your help.
I pulled away, not wanting to hear what might follow.
“Puedes prestarme el dinero?” Can you lend me the money?
I don’t believe in loans. I buy my things outright. I’d bought my car, my computer, and all of my cameras without borrowing a cent. This was a lesson my parents had taught me. But they weren’t here. They couldn’t see Tito looking back at me with his dark brown eyes and soft mouth. I heard myself speak as if I were someone I didn’t know.
“I need two thousand dollars.”
I knew how much I had in the bank, but I pretended to count anyway. I kept extra money in reserve to cover dry spells, and I knew I had the two thousand. Tito was asking for the price of a camera body, what I’d call an investment to justify its price. Was this so different, except that it was a loan? I had to say yes and see what happened. Because if I didn’t, I’d be no better than Carmen, the wife who didn’t believe in him. And as much as I wanted to resist lending Tito the money, I wanted even less to be like her. Besides, if he paid it back, we could move forward. If he didn’t, I would learn that he wasn’t worthy of my love. And so I told him I’d give him the money.
Tito stood up and kissed me. I put my arms around him. When we pulled apart, all the questions I hadn’t asked came pouring out, as if in the answering, they would secure my loan. “What if the car’s stolen?”
“It’s why we have insurance.”
“What if it crashes?”
“Then we fix it.”
“What if someone sets fire to it?”
“Someone won’t set fire to it, Rebecca.”
“Well, I’ve seen it before.”
“If they do, then the insurance will cover it.”
“What if someone steals it, strips it, and robs it of its parts, like they did my truck?”
“The drivers know they have to park it in a safe place. The car is their responsibility.”
“What if they don’t have the money?”
“In all his years Nicolás has never lost a car. Not robbed, not stripped, not set on fire. Tranquila, Rebecca.”
“What if no drivers come? You said yourself that Nicolás has cars in the lot waiting to be rented.”
“They’ll come, Rebecca. Trust.”
Tito visualized opportunity while I foresaw disaster. I’d heard as many cautionary tales as optimistic ones. Neither of us was any richer for our beliefs. I would have to let it go. “When do you need the money?”
Tito smiled. “On Wednesday. It’s the day when they auction cars.”
Today was already Monday. “Can’t you do it next Wednesday?”
Tito shook his head. “This Wednesday is a lucky day, September 15th. You know how I am about numbers.”
“Why is it special?”
“My mother and father married on that date.”
I rubbed my eyes. “Okay, first thing Wednesday morning.” At least I had one more day to hold my money.
He coughed. “We leave for the auction on Wednesday before the bank opens. I would need the money by tomorrow.”
I want to shake my head, NO, NO, NO, but I just nod. “You trust an auction?” Most of the cars Simón repaired came from auctions. They were where Nicolás bought most of his cars. Back in the days when Tito was the sweeper, auctions were a magic source of Towncars. One day he asked Tito to accompany him. In the week that followed it was all Tito talked about. I didn’t trust Nicolás and his auctions.
“It’s where everyone buys their cars.”
I nodded. My father once suggested I buy a used car there.
“You can get a Towncar con poco miles for poco dinero, maybe only six thousand dollars. Limpio. Clean. Almost brand new.”
In my experience there were no bargains, only trade-offs.
“They have thousands and thousands of cars there.”
How would Tito be able to make a decision?
“You get this printed list with all the cars on it and which line they’ll be filing in.”
How would Tito know what was a good car and what wasn’t? He didn’t know much more about cars than Jorge and his fateful bus.
“I like this auction because they sell cars that haven’t been in accidents. So any car I get will be okay.”
It seemed too easy. The books I’d read about buying used cars all suggested test-driving the car. At an auction Tito wouldn’t have the chance to drive it at slow and high speeds looking for shakes. He wouldn’t be able to follow behind it in another car looking for burning oil. He probably wouldn’t even have time to look under the hood to check the condition of the parts.
“You have a few minutes to look at it. You open the doors and listen for creaks, you run your hand underneath to check for rust, and you walk around it. If you like it, you just follow it and bid on it.”
Did Tito know cars so well? He wasn’t a mechanic.
“I can do this, Rebecca. I’m the manager of the garage now. Sabes qué? I can now just look at a car and know what’s wrong. Confía en mí.” Trust me.”
I took another breath. Promises of trust always make me uneasy. “Okay, I’ll get you the cash for Tuesday.”
Tito went back to his numbers. That night he calculated how long it would take to pay off Nicolás, how many more months to repay me, and then how long it would take for the car to make money. He rattled off the figures, but I didn’t involve myself with the arithmetic. I hid behind my qualms and heard nothing.
“Our car will start making money after a year,” he announced.
I am jolted by his use of the first person plural. But then I remember how, in many ways, Nicolás is his model. Tito has told me their story many times, how they met, and how from there everything began. Back then Nicolás didn’t pay much attention to Fernanda. She was shy, and they were two of a number of young immigrants living in a boarding house in the immigrant community of Elmhurst. He was from Chile, and she was from Portugal. She worked in the office of a textile factory, and he worked as a carpenter and chauffeur. Most of the time no one socialized anyway. Then one day someone pulled out the Monopoly board. Everyone in the house joined in, even the reserved Fernanda. And so they began, circling around the board, buying land, houses, and hotels, or, if their luck failed, paying rent on them. Each night the group started where they’d left off the previous night. Fortunes rose and fell. Some went bankrupt while others became landlords. The game lasted a week, and one by one, the players dropped out. By the end of the week, only Nicolás and quiet Fernanda remained in the game. As they dueled across the board, the metal dog versus the silver slipper, Nicolás realized that he wasn’t playing to win hotels. He was playing to win the woman sitting across from him. Neither remembers who won the game. A few weeks later Nicolás proposed to her. They married within months. Together they have built an empire of cars, an entire fleet of them.
Now in the darkness of the garage, its black hulk gleams. We hold hands and admire it. “Mi vida, stay here. I’m going to put on the lights.” Tito goes off and, cluck-cluck, the garage is lit. Even under the florescent lights that make everything sickly, his car looks new.
“I drove into the garage and got out. Everyone put down what they were doing and shook my hand, Simón, Junior, and Guillermo. Later Simón looked it over for rust. He checked all the doors to see how they aligned, and he pushed down on the chassis to see how it balanced. All in order. Junior put it on the wheel alignment machine. Perfect.”
“They opened the hood and we all looked inside. I knew it needed repairs, but Guillermo didn’t think it needed much.” Tito names parts like manguera, filtro, and I don’t know what else, car parts that meant nothing to me in any language. “Just a few replacements that won’t take long.” Tito turns to me. His eyes are dark and shining, just like his car. “They’re going to make it better than new.”
“What did Nicolás say?”
“He said I got a bargain.” I recognize in his eyes his victory.
As pristine as his car looks, I am suspended between faith and dread, “How many miles does it have?”
“It has 125,000, but look at its condition. Practically new.”
I say nothing and squeeze his hand.
“I know this car will do well for us. I feel it. And I’m never wrong. You know that about me.”
“What about the driver? Can you at least find the best one?”
Tito looks at me with sad patience. “You don’t get to pick the driver, Rebecca. Whoever comes first will be the driver. How can I pick? Can I turn down an African because he was born in a town with no cars? An Indian because he drives too fast? A Latino because he doesn’t work hard? I can’t do that.”
I look at him. Surely he has more control than this. He’s the manager, for heaven’s sake.
“No, Rebecca. God will pick the driver. God will take care of us.”
He’s got a big black head with chewed up ears that stick out sideways, green squinty eyes, and a black coat slicked with oil. He’s the garage cat, and he’s el Gato.
Normally Tito is indifferent to cats. But this cat he curses. From the moment he opens the doors to the garage el Gato demands to be fed. And he doesn’t stop after Tito opens his tin. El Gato meows each time Tito passes with whines that can be heard over the loudest drill.
For all of his cussing, Tito loves el Gato. He doesn’t shrink from Tito’s rough caresses. He’s el gato duro, undaunted by rain, sleet, and snow in his hunt for mice. El gato feroz, because he’s tough enough to catch and kill rats. El gato sin miedo, for neither people nor dogs scare him. El gato sin límites, because his territory seemingly has no borders. Every day el Gato struts out the doors with his tail up high and walks down the block and beyond. All of Blissville is his domain.
I think Tito sees in this cat something of himself, a wide-eyed wanderer in Valparaíso, fearless in the streets and on the docks, welcomed by thieves, sailors, and captains alike. El Gato has made el taller his home and has found a place in Tito’s heart too. Which is why on Sunday mornings Tito rises and heads out to unlock the triple locks to the garage. He feeds el Gato no matter what kind of weather rages outside.
One evening Tito reports that el Gato has disappeared. I shrug. I don’t tell him that cats in this neighborhood have short lives. In addition to the windswept winters, feline leukemia, and AIDS, cats in Blissville must survive impatient drivers. “Maybe he’s out hunting,” I say.
He shakes his head. “I haven’t seen him in three or four days.”
“How can you know, querido? Three or four days isn’t that long for a big guy like el Gato.” I smile, but Tito doesn’t respond.
“Llamo al gato, I call him and then I shake his bag of food. He always comes to that sound. But now, nothing.”
“He’ll come back. Don’t you know that song about a cat?”
Tito shakes his head.
“It’s my favorite children’s song, about a cat that a farmer doesn’t want. First he tries to drown it.” I laugh because I know what comes next. Then I sing the refrain. “But…. the cat came back, the very next day…” Something about this song fills me with glee every time.
I can see by Tito’s frown that he doesn’t understand what would make me inebriated by a song. I go on. “The farmer tries two or three other ways to get rid of it and still it comes back, the very next day.”
“Finally, he tries an atomic bomb!”
I see Tito staring at me, his mouth half open. But nothing is stopping me now.
“Russia went.” I pause for effect.
“China went.” I sing as clearly as I can in the hopes that Tito understands the English.
“And then the USA.” I’m positively crooning now.
“But…..” I hold the low note for a couple of seconds. And then I slide into the happy refrain. “The cat came back, the very next day… ” I gesture to Tito to join me, and my arms are flying in the air. I am bursting with optimism for Tito’s cat.
Tito comes closer and embraces me. I like to think my little ditty has cheered him, but in truth I have no idea. Still, we decide to trust that el Gato will return when he’s ready, despite the lurking dangers.
Weeks go by. El Gato doesn’t return. Little by little he disappears from our conversation and my consciousness.
Then one day Tito comes home, his oil-stained face lit from within. “I saw him.”
I cock my head. I don’t have the slightest clue who he’s talking about.
I pull him to me and we kiss.
“I told you so.”
“I saw el Gato cross the street and go into the hotel’s basement. I think he’s found a new home.” The back of el taller faces the back of a Best Western Hotel.
“Maybe someone’s feeding him there,” I say.
“Oh, I think el Gato’s spending the nights there. It’s warmer than spending the night under a car in the garage with no heating.”
“I bet his coat looks better.”
Tito smiles. “I think his stomach and paws are whiter.”
That night we go to bed contented.
A week later Tito reports that a man came into the garage for an oil change. The other mechanics were busy so Tito took the job. He thought he recognized him. “You work in the hotel, right?”
The man nodded.
“You know that black and white cat?”
The man nodded again.
“He’s our cat.”
The man raised his eyebrows. “Well, he’s our cat now. He lives at the hotel.”
“He was our cat first.”
“Well, he’s not any more.”
Tito could only shrug.
But later that night, he tells the story another way. “He’s got a good deal at the hotel. Clean bed, good food, and lots of personal attention. And gratis.”
He’s fifteen minutes late, and I’ve started watching the clock. Tonight Tito has gone out for a haircut. His barbershop is a neighborhood away, so perhaps it’s taking him a while to return. Maybe there was a line in front of him, because they don’t take appointments. Or maybe he decided to wander back down the dark avenue under the elevated train tracks, anonymous among the strollers speaking every language but English—Spanish, Tagalog, Urdu, Korean—where he, an immigrant among immigrants, can blend in, anonymous and free, responsible only to himself.
But this is Tito’s illusion. I’m responsible for him, and no one else, not his Chilean friends here, not Nicolás and la Señora, and certainly not his sisters or mother in Chile. I am the person who will care for him in the event of an accident on the street or an injury at work. As terrifying as it would be, I like to think we could solve it. I have different fears way beyond my control. What will I do if they pick him up in some random raid and take him away to an unknown jail called a detention center?
Tito won’t talk about it. He needs his bravado too much to imagine this. But he’s had near misses. One lazy Saturday afternoon he took the car to buy fruit. He came across a random roadblock—the police never told him what it was for—and he panicked. He backed away and turned down a one-way street the wrong way. At the end of the street the police were waiting for him. He laughs now at his stupidity. He got away with nothing more than a hefty ticket.
I’ve heard stories. If Tito were picked up, it could be hours, even days, before I would hear where he was. I would need a lawyer for him. But who? Good lawyers are expensive. How could I afford it? Tito didn’t come here fleeing persecution. He would never qualify as a refugee. He’d be kept in a cell in southeast Queens or New Jersey or upstate New York. He would have little or no sunlight and few chances to see visitors, let alone a lawyer. I’ve read that some people have been kept in detention centers for years. For Tito it would depend on when the government decided to send him back to Chile. What could I do?
Fifteen minutes becomes an hour. This is typical of Tito, going out on one errand and finding ten others on the return. I look for a movie on television, something to distract myself. For a while it works, and then I check the clock. Another hour has passed. I tell myself that this is what Tito enjoys, this time to himself. He could have stopped in a shoe store to admire the latest styles in sneakers. He loves sneakers. He could have decided to drop in the Colombian bakery and eat a fresh baked spinach empanada, his favorite. He could have met up with Pancho and be helping him out with whatever chore he needs an extra pair of hands for. He could have stopped into Rodrigo’s house to hear him play music. Or Claudio’s house, to catch a little futbol. He could be in so many places that it would be pointless to get in the car and look for him.
Another fifteen minutes ticks by. Wherever I sit, there is a clock. I told him to take his time. But once again, I’m a victim of my impulsive generosity. My anxieties grow side by side with my love for him. Now I rue my quick tongue, telling him to enjoy his time out in the streets. He tells me I should relax, but I worry all the time now. I fret when he takes off for the park and stays into the evening without calling me. I grow restless when he goes out to a bar with friends to watch one match of futbol that turns into two matches. I am nervous when I come home and he’s not there. And he won’t even take my cell phone. “I want to be free,” he says. Easy for him.
Tonight he comes home smiling, alive, full of stories and with a trinket for me, a little painted bus typical of the Andes. He’s seen me admiring them in the shops. I love it but it doesn’t allay the anger that creeps up on me when he’s so late.
When we finally go to bed, Tito falls asleep immediately. I turn and turn until I am wound with sheets. He doesn’t even stir. It is all so unfair. If I could, I’d limit his outings. But that would turn the apartment into another detention center. And how would that keep Nicolás from sending Tito out almost daily to pick up cars and parts all over the city? I listen to Tito’s even breaths. I look down at his forehead, clear, without a single wrinkle of worry.
Lately his daughter has been urging Tito to return for her graduation. His love for her is unlike any other, so I know he is listening to her. Thankfully she doesn’t graduate for two more years. But I’ve heard him intimate he’ll be there for her. I tell myself that he’s made promises to her before and broken them. When I ask about this one, he wavers. This is a promise he doesn’t want to break. He is caught, because he also can’t bear to leave me. Once he goes, that will be it. The US government will cancel his visa permanently, and he will never be able to reenter again. Legally.
Thousands cross into the United States illegally, he says. Tito has taken to collecting stories of border crossings like I once collected stamps. Our friend Julio tells Tito the border is as porous as a colander. His brother slips over to Mexico and back every Christmas. Tito thinks he could do it too. He cites the example of his windshield dealer who crossed over the riverbed outside of Tijuana. He tells me all the time about the foreman of his carwash. He came over in the hold of a truck. And what about his tow truck operator who drifted here from the Dominican Republic? Tito doesn’t bother to tell me about the journeys of most of the mechanics in the neighborhood, but they’re all proof that he, too, will be fine.
I too have a growing collection of stories. I clip all the news articles I come across about the tragedies along the border. One described how 28 men, women, and children were tied up and abandoned in the Texas desert. Their guides, coyotes, had raped all the women and children. And each person had paid five thousand dollars to be led across the border. And for what? The Border Patrol sent them all back to Mexico. And this is just one story in the pile next to Tito’s computer that grows weekly.
The latest is a photograph I just came across again. I think it was taken a few years ago, before I knew Tito. It’s an x-ray of a container truck. Bodies line its walls as if in an Egyptian painting. By the time the San Diego authorities found the truck, it had become a tomb.
Tito appears immune to my warnings. Each night, when he sits down to write his family, he pushes my little stack aside as if it were junk mail. In return I’ve been trying to push him to pay more of our living costs. I won’t let him use his savings for a coyote. He says he’s smart enough to find the right one. I say he should just stay in Chile where at least he’d be safe. He smiles and tells me he’ll get the money another way. Perhaps it’s the challenge that attracts him to this folly. But if it is, then he loves me too casually. These are the things I think about in the soft dark night.
I slip out of bed and walk around the apartment. I have too much restlessness. I cannot wait and watch. I must save him. If he is so determined to cross the border, then I must help him. But I know nothing about the desert or the Mexican border. Tijuana is the closest I’ve been. There are two borders.
I pull out my atlas and page to the Canadian border. This is a border I’ve crossed several times. Somehow with its forests of fir and streams that appear to run everywhere, it feels more manageable. And it’s a landscape akin to where we already hike. This idea fills me with energy. Tito could fly to Toronto or Montreal. I could meet him at the airport in my car. Together we could drive down to the easiest crossing, where I could drop him off and pick him up on the other side. It all feels so possible. All we need is an obscure spot on the border. All Tito needs is a stream by which to navigate his way to the other side.
I dig out a road map of New York. The Canadian border is populated, and where it’s not, lakes and major rivers obstruct crossing. I rummage for my old maps of Vermont and New Hampshire. Tito would face mosquitoes and black flies galore, and maybe even a moose, but encounters with any of them wouldn’t be fatal. But the terrain is too mountainous. Tito could get lost. Besides, there’s no easy access between the United States and Canada. According to the maps, timber companies own almost the entire north.
I turn to Maine, the state I know best. I have an especially detailed map of it, really an atlas with pages. It’s one of my favorite books. It consists of topological maps and shows every park, every natural wonder, and every canoe portage. More importantly, it shows every river, stream, and road in the state. I thumb through it until I reach the maps of the far north. For years I’ve dreamed of exploring this land. But I see that the timber companies own most of the north here too. I leaf back to the Atlantic coast, where I’m comfortable. But of the myriad of relatives who live along its shores, no one lives anywhere near the Canadian border. And I couldn’t involve them.
I notice that the eastern border between Maine and Canada runs north in a straight line. Remarkably there are parallel roads running north too, one on the U.S. side, and one on the Canadian side. They are maybe ten, twenty miles apart. Small roads and streams weave back and forth between the US and Canada. Just maybe, I think, I’ve found a way for Tito to cross clandestinely.
I decide that on my next trip to Maine, I’ll take an overnight drive from my parents’ house to check it out. Perhaps I can justify a trip up as early as next month. My heart grows lighter.
But the next day, sitting on the subway on my way in to work, amid people with faces and dress from all over the world, I imagine another scenario. I am spotted, and someone calls the Maine police. They come, not in one car, but in many, as befitting a nation afraid of terrorists. They search my car and take me to the police station for more questioning. In a moment of weakness, to save myself from whatever threats they have detailed for me, I blurt out my plan. They go back to the woods, this time with dogs, lights, and more men to search for Tito. He will either retreat or be found, but in any case I will not be able to help him. One way or another, he will find himself back in Chile while I’ll be sentenced to prison. I won’t know how to tell my parents, almost in their eighties. But I won’t want them to worry, either, so in the end I will call them. But I will refuse their lawyers. I cannot bankrupt them after all they have given me. I will serve four, five, or seven years in jail with good behavior. I will be the first felon in the family. By that time I will be almost sixty. And when I get out, my possibilities for well-paying work, always precarious, will have dried up forever.
Back in Chile, Tito will be reunited with his children and his old job. Eventually, after some years of missing me, of writing to me, he will begin to forget me. I will grow hazy in his mind. And one day he will find another woman, because he doesn’t like to be alone. He would be the last person who could help me. I am chilled. This is no way to rescue someone.
The next installment will be posted Thursday, Jan 13.