Her Daughter's Gone
Isabel waited two days for word from Señor Sierra Vargas. When the phone finally rang, a man Isabel had never met, who said he was an “assistant to the Señor,” told Isabel that her daughter had already made it across the border.
“Where is she now?” asked Isabel.
“I cannot say more,” he told her. “But the Señor asks that you come to the villa for supper two nights from now at seven and he will tell you everything.”
He hung up and Isabel was left to wonder how this was going to help her get Lita back home. The knot that had started tying itself in her stomach when she heard that Lita had left now felt like a fist relentlessly punching at her.
All her life, for as far back as she could remember, Isabel had always been able to lose herself in the process of creating. She would enter her studio and something would take over – something she never questioned, never harnessed in any way. It was as if a spirit entered that room with her, a spirit that spoke from inside her and from all around her. When that spirit took hold, time vanished, and with it her sense of self. These were the glorious moments when she was unaware of her own being and given over to this other world.
But for this to happen, her world had to be intact. That other world, the one of time and place and people. Now with Lita gone, for the first time in her life, Isabel could not let that creative spirit in. She tried. She went into the studio with every intention of working. But the brush in her hand felt heavy. The paints on her tray looked flat. The canvas in front of her stared back with no message coming to her. It was all empty. Thoughts roiled in her mind. Worries about her daughter. Fears of what she would encounter. Recriminations about how she, Isabel, had handled things. Her mind wandered back through the weeks and months when she had missed so many cues. Now it was obvious that Lita had been breaking away. But Isabel had been involved in her own world. Now it seemed to her that Lita and she had lost each other a long time ago. An insidious thought began to scratch at her brain like a cat wanting to come inside from a storm. What if she had been so wrapped up in her own world that she had failed as a mother?
This thought took shape slowly over the next two days. It haunted her like a song whose words you can’t quite remember, whose tune slides in and out of your mind in phrases that never turn into a full melody. And with this thought came a nagging doubt about her own life and what she had made of it.
She began to see her success as an artist not in terms of how hard she had worked and how much of her soul she had poured out in her work, but instead in terms of a kind of idolatry. She began to feel soiled by her own egotism, her own need to fulfill all the early expectations of her, even her own expectations of herself. When she looked into the mirror on that first day after the phone call from the assistant to Señor Sierra Vargas, she saw a woman in the full bloom of her natural beauty. But she also began to see someone who had squandered her talent in pursuit of a success that now seemed superficial, even squalid. All these years, had she been working toward the higher calling of art, or for the success and fame that she was about to achieve as a result of her deal with this devil?