December 2013

The Lord’s Prayer

     After a late dinner of arroz con pollo with my husband, I slowly walked over to the bedroom to grab my address book, but as I walked through the door, I detected the faintest smell of smoke. My eyes fearfully scanned the room as I tried to identify the source of the smell. I searched but didn’t seem to find anything burning, so I assured myself that the smell had been coming from the kitchen stove. I returned to look for my address book, and found it sprawled open on the wooden bedside table near the antique dresser we had acquired back in the 1950s after my mother had passed away. I flipped through the pages until I got to the section marked “Familia” , ran my eyes down the paper and stopped when I reached the eighth contact, my youngest son, Rogelio. I squinted at the paper, tried to memorize the number, and slowly made my way out of the bedroom towards the living room where the house phone was located, but just as I was walking out the door, Ramón, my husband came out through the bathroom door.
     “Where are you going?,” he questioned.
     “I’m going to call Rogelio,” I shouted over my shoulder. Ramón nodded his head, turned away and continued to get ready for bed. He removed his hearing aid, placed it on his bedside table, lit up the statue of Jesus, and kneeled on the floor as he began to pray. I flipped the light switch off and watched as the glow from the statue lit up my husband’s face. His usual white hair turned a warm yellow under the glow of the light. His glasses cast a dark shadow over his face, and all I could see were his lips parting as he began to recite his nightly prayers.
     I quietly shut the door, careful not to disturb him, and made my way through the hallway into the living room. I picked up the telephone and began to dial the number I thought I had memorized. As usual, it took me a few times to call the correct number, as my memory had been slowly fading, it also didn’t help that I still didn’t understand the whole process of how a telephone works.
     After a fifteen minute conversation, I told my son that it was late and that my arthritis in my hand was beginning to act up, so we ended the conversation and said goodnight. I hung up the phone, helped myself out of the couch using the armrest, took the cast off of my sprained wrist and left it on the coffee table. Before heading to the bedroom, I checked to make sure the front door was locked and walked through the kitchen to check the stove.
     After changing into my nightgown, I walked up to the left side of the bed, pulled out the covers and gently climbed into bed. As I began my nightly prayers I quickly came to the realization that I hadn’t told Ramón about the burning smell that I thought I had smelt earlier. I debated whether or not to wake him, and after much deliberation, I thought it would be best to let him sleep and not worry, so I closed my eyes and drifted off into sleep.
     I woke up suddenly when I realized that Ramón had been shaking me and calling my name for what seemed like quite some time. I opened up my eyes and slowly began to process what was happening. The entire bedroom was filled with a thick black ominous smoke that immediately began to make my lungs shriek. I looked at my husband, his face full of fear. He frantically yelled, “We need to get out of here. Go get help.”
     I disobeyed him and quickly walked to his side of the bed, my first priority was him. While helping him stand up, I saw that a majority of the smoke had been coming from his bedside corner. After I managed to get Ramón up, we shuffled our feet to the living room and sat on the couch. It was easier to breath in that room, so I assumed that we were safe, but the smoke was slowly creeping through the house.
     I picked up the telephone and called the first number that came to memory. Our neighbor next door answered, and I shouted through the phone, “Ayuda! Please come help! Our house! There’s smoke!” He responded by saying he would go and try to find some help as fast as he could. I quickly hung up the phone and looked nervously around the room. I still didn’t see any smoke, so I assumed that we were going to be fine. Since Ramón didn’t have his hearing aid, I shouted to him, “Martin said he would go and find help!”
     He yelled back, “I’m going to go back to the room. I need to get some items just in case this house ends up in flames.” I looked at him dumbfounded. Was he really going to risk his life for a pile of stuff? I would rather lose everything in the house than lose him.
     I slowly and hesitantly replied, “Ramon, I don’t think it’s safe to go in there. Somebody is coming for help.” I didn’t agree with his decision, but I realized that we probably were going to get out of the house in a few minutes anyway, so against my better judgment I let him walk across the hallway into the smoky room. While Ramón shuffled across the hallway, I decided that it would probably be best to open up the front and back door, as I thought it would help the smoke find its way out of the house and make it somewhat easier to breath. I walked to the front door, unlocked the latch, and swung the door open. The wind almost knocked me off my feet, the fresh crisp air surrounded me, and I without realizing it, stopped coughing as the fresh air went flooding into my lungs.
     I glanced at the glittering stars and quickly said a prayer. “Lord, please protect us from any harm, guide Ramón and I out of this house safely, Amen.” I snapped back into reality when I heard my name being called off in the distance.
     “Maria!” My heart dropped, fearing the worst, I made my way quickly to the bedroom. I caught sight of Ramón heaved over, his trinkets he had managed to find scattered all over the floor, he could hardly stand anymore, he kept coughing and coughing. I did my best to help him stand up straight, and slowly began to guide him out of the dark ashy room. I turned around and caught a quick last glimpse of our bedroom, or what was left of it. The walls and ceiling were covered in black, and the last thing I saw was the statue engulf in flames.
     The intensity of the smoke was getting worse. I told Ramón I was going to go and open the back door in hopes of releasing some more of the smoke. I left him leaning against a corner of a hallway and quickly scurried to the back of the house where again I was hit with a blast of fresh air. I frantically yelled, “Ramón, we’re going to get out of here now! I don’t want to wait for help anymore.”
     I didn’t hear a response. My heart sunk and my eyes started to water. I started to panic. I quickly walked over to where I had last left him. He was crumpled on the floor, unconscious, and bloody. He had smacked his head on the floor when he had passed out. I dropped to the floor and began to sob uncontrollably. I was completely overwhelmed. I didn’t know what to do anymore. I looked at our bedroom, saw flames encompass the entire room, and realized they were spreading, fast. I tried to wake up Ramon, but desperately failed. I tried to pick him up, but my bony arms and sprained wrist would do no help. I stayed laying on the floor with him, bawling, uncertain of what to do. My cough was getting worse and it was getting harder to breath, my throat began to swell and tighten. At that moment I thought my best bet was to leave the house and go call for help; I figured it would possibly be the only way we would be able to get out of the house alive. I was unable to get up from the floor, so I started crawling towards the front door, in hope that maybe Martín would be outside with help. As I was halfway towards the door, I turned around in hopes that Ramón was coming to, but he was still sprawled on the floor. I knew at that moment that I couldn’t leave him, against my better judgment I crawled back towards him.

—Ashley Ramírez

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