Night Rainbow

Nine months after his father returns from fighting in the Spanish Civil War, Nicolás is born and grows up under the dictatorship of Generalismo Franco. He marries a young American, they emigrate, and become part of the 'sixties' revolution: not terrorist mayhem but a time when people came to believe they might make the world anew and better. The marriage ends at Tlatelolco, Mexico City, 1968, when his wife is "disappeared" along with his dreams. Eventually, he returns to Spain, to come to terms with the failure of his best intentions.

Snow Flowers Most of my family can keep children, friends, strangers, and the local police entertained for hours with their storytelling. We all have our own self-serving version of “what happened” of course, and no one confers or agrees with anyone else. When I was a kid and heard a story, I’d run to another relative for the next version. Papá’s accounts were the most formal and the most serious. You sat respectfully while he spoke and didn’t interrupt. I didn’t mind though. His dignity was mesmerizing. He had a dry, right-wing wit, and was the only one who understated things in a family blooming with wild exaggeration.

I could be a very satisfied amnesiac if my family would just stop demanding my story.

My cousin Paloma convinced me to write this down. She seems to think that will untangle and release my memory, soothe me, and reveal some truth that will make the loss easier to bear. As if truth were ever that kind. Paloma’s a philosophy professor at the University of Madrid; worse, she minored in psychology. She’s also a practicing Catholic, one of the few left in Spain. I guess that explains the tidy theorizing.

“Get your story straight,” she said to me, but someone once told me that “the road to the arena is never straight.” I’ll explain that later.

My family is here to protect me and to harass me and to confuse me, to take me in and keep me safe, to shake their heads, brainwash me, and cleanse me. They’re a self-appointed committee of squabbling know-it-alls full of life and full of the usual saints, heroes, visionaries, drunks, thieves, con artists. And, good-intentioned killers.

They want to know the basics—what happened, how my wife died, why I’m to blame for it, the exact measurements of the mess I’ve made of my life. The thing is, I don’t know what happened. I know a series of events tumbling down one after another but not really connected in any proper, clean way. Guilt and shame and fear cloud everything.

If I tell this story, who’s to say there aren’t other versions, truer ones?