The blare of his office phone tore Miguel from his state of daydreaming back to reality. Shaking his head, he picked up the phone and said, “Miguel Cortes speaking.”
“Hello, Mr. Cortes. My name is Julie, and I am a nurse at St. Agnes Hospital in Long Island. I understand you live in Long Island?”
“Yes, I do. Why are you calling me?”
“We have your mother here, a Maria Espinosa. She’s been a patient here for a long time but… she doesn’t have long.”
“My mother? I don’t have a mother. She died shortly after I was born.”
“Your DNA is the only familial match to hers. Anyway, she doesn’t have long and you are her only living relative. Just calling to inform you of that. Thank you.”
With that, the line went dead and Miguel sat slouched in his chair, paralyzed by shock. He’d been told by his father for years that his mother had died… but was it possible that he had lied? It must have been. DNA doesn’t lie.
Miguel hopped up from his chair, grabbing his jacket from a hook and yelling to his secretary: “Cancel every appointment I have until I get back!” She looked shocked, but nodded; Miguel wrenched the office door open and slammed it shut behind him.
As he made his way to the subway only a block away from where he worked, a hole began to open up inside of him. The scar tissue he had built up after years of the absence of a mother began to deteriorate. That void that he had had his whole life could no longer be ignored. As he swiped his MetroCard through the machine and ran to the nearest car, a slideshow of memories began to play in his head.
He recalled the various times he had attempted to make mothers of his father’s many girlfriends-- how often he had been rejected. He had learned to distrust women from an early age. Not only was his mother not there to protect him, but every other woman in his life treated him like a doormat. To this day, he’d never dated. Not even throughout high school and college. He couldn’t open himself up without admitting that there was a hole inside. It was easier to push others away than to let them in.
He’d instead focused on his success. His father certainly never cared about anything else. It was always about how good his grades were, what jobs he held, who he networked with, what he would do with the rest of his life. That was where Miguel excelled, in an attempt to win the love of his father who had none left to give.
Having attended Harvard University, he graduated from the School of Business top of his class and was now a senior member of a national bank. He made nearly two hundred thousand dollars a year and could do anything he wanted. But none of it mattered.
Miguel pushed himself off of the train and stumbled back into the blinding light of day. Orienting himself toward the hospital, he took off at a run. Shoving people aside, panting heavily, he probably seemed like a madman who just broke out of the nuthouse. But he didn’t care.
Arriving at the entrance to the hospital, he flew through the sliding doors and sprinted to the welcome desk. “Maria Espinosa, where is she?”
“Sir, I’m going to need you to calm down and fill out--”
“Tell me, now!”
“I can’t do that, sir.”
Miguel was about to lose it when he felt a hand on his shoulder. Whirling around, he saw the face of a nurse, a look of sympathy and understanding dominating her features. “Mr. Cortes?” she asked.
“I’m Julie, the one you spoke to. Right this way.”
Miguel followed her through a set of doors and down a long hallway. Julie stopped just outside the room at the very end, on the right. “This is her.”
Feeling numb in all parts of his body, Miguel walked inside and found a woman lying down on the hospital bed. She looked peaceful. Her hair was mostly black, just beginning to grey at the roots. Her skin crinkled at the corners of her eyes and mouth. As Miguel walked in, she seemed to wake up and sat up a little.
Unsure of himself, Miguel made his way over to a chair beside her bed and sat down. Taking her hand in his, he leaned in close and studied her face. He knew it was her. Staring back at him were the same eyes he saw every day in the mirror. Overcome by emotion, Miguel’s vision began to blur as tears welled in his eyes. He rubbed his eyes clear, let the tears stream down his face, and he turned to her saying, “You may not believe this, but… I’m your son.”
She just smiled, a tear rolling down her cheek as well, and replied, “I always knew I’d see you again.” She squeezed his hand, weakly, rested her head back on her pillow, and closed her eyes for the last time.