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Three Humans Emilio Sandoz Loved

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1. The Father of His Soul

In the days of Emilio Sandoz’ youth, D.W. Yarborough was the parish priest in La Perla. Emilio might have avoided the priest as much as possible, considering his family’s line of business, but his mother was an easy-to-love Catholic woman, who was of course, a human being who did not resist temptation while her husband was in prison. And so Emilio -- beloved by his mother, though not by his mother’s husband -- became an acolyte and an altar server.

D.W., being former military, treated each of his charges as personnel, and it didn’t take him long to realize that little Emilio Sandoz, at the age of 11, was getting the shit beat out of him on the regular. Knowing that Emilio was the kind of kid who had some brilliance with languages -- latin, certainly, but also picking up all sorts of slang and expletives from tourists -- D.W. began looking for opportunities to whisk him away from La Perla.

Emilio learned how to fight dirty from D.W., and he felt for the first time that a grown man might perhaps think he was worth loving, possibly a father-type figure. But he resisted it.  How could he know to trust?

When Emilio and his older brother got mixed up in their father’s black tar heroin business, and Emilio beat the shit out of his legal father at the age of fourteen, D.W. called in favors to get Emilio into private school. When he sat down with Emilio, D.W. emphasized his options. “You’ll probably not be able to return, certainly not any time soon, and possibly not ever,” said D.W. “But if you stay, you’ll probably get the drug charges pinned on you.”

“And if I go, Father Yarborough,” Emilio said, seriously, “my brother will certainly go down alone.”  D.W. said nothing. Emilio looked at Yarborough, and it seemed that, for the first time, he was being given something akin to salvation. He’d lose his mother, and reject his brother, but escape the man who had tormented him from the minute he had been released from prison.

Not knowing, quite, what fathers were for, Emilio came to love D.W. because of the salvation he offered. And perhaps that’s why he also turned to God. And maybe, that’s why God turned to Emilio.

2. The Mother of His Heart

When Emilio asked Anne on a walk into the fall evening in 2014, he wasn’t sure, exactly, why he sought her counsel. She was his height, and putting her arm on his -- acting the gentleman -- felt right and real. When she heard her midterm grade and shouted, “Shit!” a the top of her lungs into the crisp, darkening evening air, he felt suddenly as if she had created him -- as if his self was somehow part of her self, and he realized that in a real way, this extraordinary, white haired woman was a mother to him.

There was no love lost in his family. In many real ways, he didn’t know what it was like to be soothed through life’s hurts and supported through difficult moments and exalted in filial love.

And it was this mothering that prompted him to confess to her his growing spirituality, his growing belief that God was an emotional truth, like the quarks that Anne once compared to God. His belief that God didn’t speak to punks from Puerto Rico. His surprise that she seemed to think he was worthy of truly (and not just as a private school taunt) being God’s favorite. Of falling in love and standing naked before God and God loving him, personally.

And that’s when he named her the mother of his heart, when she said that God’s love could in fact be true because he was so easy to love.

3. The Woman he Denied

Perhaps it was that their first meeting was fraught with tension. It was like learning a language, he thought, where he would tentatively call and watch ther responce, where he would test a word or a sound and then find that he was not communicating the way that he had wanted to. He needed someone bilingual, someone who might have some key to the language, and that’s when he turned to Anne.

When he tested the program that Sofia had developed from his techniques, he had said that it was beautiful -- and in this language that had developed in this tension, he was calling her mind beautiful, he was calling her beautiful.

When he first saw her again after a separation of years, in the kitchen of the Edwards’ home, he hoped that seeing where he was born she would understand his language better, understand him better, and when he offered her a flower, she accepted, and he could not help but feel elated at the acceptance. When she played that old, Spanish melody that evening after looking into her eyes, and he felt compelled to sing along. And when the music changed, when she sang her own song and the music was the most beautiful thing in the world, it was all Emilio could do to not to find a private place to find the intimacy and the closeness that he so sweetly craved.

But he was a priest.

And the next morning he found a purpose in life.

He knew that God gave him this purpose, and he knew that Sofia was to be a part of it, and he knew that the Jesuits would buy out her contract, that they would see that this intellectual slavery was wrong, but they refused. And he had to wonder if his -- and he didn’t admit this to himself, but his love -- had clouded his intuition, perhaps even his understanding of God? Perhaps she is to be punished for his wandering heart?

And then a miracle -- her freedom, bought by anonymous persons. And that’s when he turned back to God, turned back to God and his purpose and life, and did his best to find the path that didn’t include loving Sofia. But he couldn’t not love her, he discovered, it had become his mother tongue. Love, at least, had become his mother tongue, and so he tried to keep it to small acts of devotion -- learning Sephardic Hebrew, avoiding sitting next to her for a year, teaching Marc the Hebrew Prayer for her wedding.

But he had a life purpose. And for that purpose he paid the Pearl of Great Price: a humaneness beyond sexuality, love beyond loneliness, sexual identity grounded in faithfulness, courage, generosity. And transcendent relationship with creation and Creator.