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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Hearts Junction

“Miss, I’m going to have to ask you to put that away for now.” I look up into the facing of a smiling flight attendant. I feel my face flush and I nod, turning back to my phone to frantically scribble off the text I’ve been mentally composing in my head for approximately 10 hours now.

Sorry, there’s a lot going on right now. I’ll update you as soon as I can. Have fun, be safe…I miss you.

I turn off my phone and toss it into my purse. Resting back against my uncomfortable coach seat, I peer out my tiny window, at the snow-capped Utah mountains, wondering exactly how I got here.

It seems unnatural that just 24 hours ago I was in the middle of the Nevada desert, dancing under bright lights on the strip and exchanging slurred incoherencies with strangers. The presence of spring break and my nearing 21st birthday had seemingly given me a false sense of security.

As we ascended into clouds, I drifted off for only a moment, before I felt a light hand on my shoulder, ushering me awake. “Miss, we’re here now. You can turn that on now.” She cocked her head towards my lifeless cell, which, even though useless, had somehow made it back out of my purse and into my lap.

Pulling my duffel bag high up on my shoulder, I emerged from the plane and onto the small runway. The chilling Colorado air hit my naive Southern Californian body with vengeance, and I immediately regretted my former presumptions that my knock-off Ugg boots and skinny jeans would be sufficient protection from Colorado Mountain weather. As I made my way to the terminal, I tried to recall ancient family Christmas memories, anything that would provide me with some faint recollection of this estranged part of my family.

When the doors slid open I scanned baggage claim, hoping for someone to stand out to me. Standing in baggy jeans and hiking boots, her blonde hair tied up into a messy ponytail, she did. I smiled and hurried over to her, throwing my arms around her shoulders, and pulling her in close. She smelled like snow and dirt and Dove soap, and I didn’t want to let her go.

“Oh my God,” she said, when we finally detangled from one another. “It’s been like ten years, right?”

I nodded. “Yeah, something like that.”

She looked at me for a second, just nodding. Lots and lots of nodding. “I’m really glad you came.”

We exited the airport and piled into her Ford Escape. I fell silent, partly out of exhaustion, and partly out of a total loss for conversation. Dulcie understood this and began to explain the current situation to me: “Rick is with him right now. My mom went home to get some sleep. Becky is out getting food, she’ll be back soon. They have a room on the second floor for you to stay in. We can go see him right now if you’d like. I just have to warn you though…he isn’t how you remember him. He’s pretty bad.”

I nodded.

A few minutes later we pulled off of the main road, down a street and into a tiny parking lot in front of a large red building. Welcome to Mesa View Retirement Community. I read the sign over and over again, suddenly surprised to finally be in the place that I had heard talked about so many times. Dulcie led me in silence into the lobby. Plush, floral couches stood in a logical arrangement in the middle of the room. An obnoxiously large chandelier hung from the arched, wooden ceiling. A petite women in a red velvet tracksuit with a black bun tied neatly on the top of her head sat staring at us from her spot in a leather armchair in the corner of the room, her overweight Shizu panting and weezing on her lap. I smiled awkwardly at her and continued to follow my cousin down a long hallway, stopping at a door marked “Ed Dwyer” in little gold letters underneath the peephole.

I entered the room and was immediately greeted by familiar smells, ones where I could never actually pinpoint the origin, but nonetheless left me nostalgic for the days spent swimming in my grandparent’s pool when I was 7, when they owned the old house in Texas.

“Rick, Alisa’s here,” Dulcie called out into the living room.

“Alisa,” my uncle’s voice boomed. “Well I’ll be damned.” He pulled me into a suffocating hug, chuckling to himself. “Look at you! All grown up. I suppose you don’t remember me anymore. Well I’ve gotten a little bigger around the middle as you can see. But I’ve cut down on the smoking! Almost done with the pack I bought Thursday, and that’s, you know, that’s good for me.”

I smiled and nodded, if there was one thing I remembered about my uncle it was that he was constantly trying to convince us he was losing weight and trying to quit smoking.

“Let’s see if Grandpa’s awake,” Dulcie interjected, crossing the living room to peek into the bedroom. She stood for a moment, looking into the dark room, seemingly trying to make out his figure. She motioned for me to follow. She entered the room, flicking on a dim lamp on the table by his bed. “Grandpa? Are you awake? I brought someone to see you,” Dulcie’s voice was soft and gentle. The reply was a mix of mumbles and a hacking cough.

“Hi Grandpa, it’s me, Alisa,” I moved to sit in the armchair by his bed and reached out to grab his hand. He nodded and squeezed my hand with such force that I jumped a little. He may have been 95, but Irish blood coursed through his veins, and his body was still as strong as an ox.

Dulcie decked out of the room, leaving us alone. After a minute I opened my mouth to say something, but closed it, not wanting to ruin the moment with frivolities about the weather or how my schoolwork was coming along. So we sat in silence, listening to the snow tap lightly at the window and snippets of a very angry Nancy Grace from a Fox News segment that my uncle was engaged with in the adjacent room.

Suddenly my grandfather coughed and turned his head to look at me. He mumbled something I couldn’t make out and then looked at me for a response. “Grandpa, I’m didn’t get that. What did you say?” He looked annoyed and closed his eyes for a moment before opening them again. I leaned over him, turning my ear towards his mouth.

“The Republican Party is ridiculous.”

I sat back, a little stunned and then started to ramble. “Oh I know, they’re a shit show. Rick Santorum is an absolute joke. American democracy is just going down the tubes.” He widened his eyes at me but didn’t say anything.

I waited a moment before adding, “Grandpa, you know, I’m a registered Democrat now.” He broke out into a wide smile, nodding. He sat there beaming for a minute before nodding again and whispering, “Smart kid.”



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