“Uncle Dan, you never married. Did you ever think you might?”
That was my great-niece Hope, on a rare visit from Merida, on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Her frank question, and the curiosity in her wide, blue eyes, prompted me somehow to do what I had never done.
“Hope,” I said, “I’ll share with you a story I’ve never shared with anyone before—not even with your grandmother, my dear sister, when she was still here. It’s a story that goes back some sixty years, and you’ll be interested that it takes place in the country where you now live, in Mexico.
“You see, I was a young instructor from the United States, teaching English literature at the university, in Mexico City. Now, you realize that university students are at an age when they may develop very serious romantic involvements, including, sometimes, those that are one-sided and quite fanciful.”
“How do you mean, Uncle Dan—like an impossible crush?”
“Right, Hope. That’s exactly what I mean. So, I had this charming, delightful student named Esperanza—yes, Hope, your same name in Spanish. She plainly wanted my attention, and more. She was attractive, as I’ve said, and her family was obviously well-off.
“The winter holiday came along—not so much winter in most of Mexico, but a real holiday, and some friends invited me to spend several days in Cuernavaca, which is over the mountains, south, from Mexico City, as you know.
“Esperanza knew about that, and had an idea of where I’d be staying, although she didn’t know for how long, or when I’d be coming back.
“Well, we finished our visit, and I was driving back over the mountain road. I don’t know how it is now—maybe you do—but at that time it was heavily traveled and had a good surface; but the mountain terrain made for some treacherous curves.
“As I approached one of these, there was, abruptly, a back-up. Cars were stopped; the road completely blocked, and some people were getting out. I did the same, going ahead on foot to see what there was.
“There, on the shoulder of the highway, a car had somehow flipped over and come to a stop, reversed, with all four wheels in the air. As I approached, someone in the cluster of people that was gathering shone a flashlight into the car. Remarkably, there was broken glass, but minimal damage to the interior, minimal damage to the driver, who was the sole occupant. A young woman, she lay curled up on the inside of the roof, which was now the floor, appearing to be unhurt, as if she were comfortably asleep.
“And then, as the flashlight shone on her face, I saw that she was my student—Esperanza! Almost at that moment the highway police arrived. An officer forced open the car door on the passenger side. Crouching, he leaned in; then straightened up.
“She’s breathing,” he said, “unconscious, but breathing. Must be a severe concussion.
“Thank God!” I exclaimed.
“Do you know her?” he asked.
“Yes. She is one of my students at the university in the capital.”
“Then the other officer broke in. ‘Here is her handbag,’ he said, ‘and her license. I see also an address and phone number for emergency notification. If you know her well, sir, you can call, while I send for the ambulance.’
“Sure,” I said, “I will call, and I’ll follow the ambulance, to stay with her until someone of her family can take over.
I thought I’d let the story end there, but my audience, Hope, was dissatisfied.
“So, what happened, Uncle Dan? You can’t leave Esperanza like that,” she declared.
“No; I stayed with her. I followed the ambulance, and then sat in the Emergency Waiting Room at a country hospital nearby, where they took her.”
“But did she die?” Hope’s question, with the hint of a quiver in her voice, trailed into the unfathomably unknown.
“No, dear. Esperanza, true to her name, woke up in the hospital bed; and when she saw me, her pale face lit up in a wonderful smile. She put out her hand, and I gave it a careful squeeze.”
“But you and she didn’t live happily ever after?”
“No. I went back to Mexico City; then home, later, to Denver. As for my student Esperanza, she moved up, and moved out of my life. I saw her graduate with honors. I hope she has been successful and is happy, wherever she may be. She must be getting older now, as I am.”
Author Notes: At age 101, after publishing 9 books, Don Fletcher is writing flash fiction and short prose pieces.