Marcelo wondered where time dissipated. Or, conversely, why time dug in so doggedly, trickling by in infinitesimally small drops. Sometimes the week would drag on, day by day, each moment not a moment, but eternally long; the weekend would whiz by in a whir, surely breaking some law of physics. Or, sometimes, it felt like both workweeks and weekends would fall, one by one, like obedient dominoes, for weeks on end, each one succeeding the other in a blur, nothing quite sticking, every day much like the next, each alike in the rapidity of its passing. Marcelo didn’t understand time, how it could meander like the stream in Malibu Creek State Park, or rush like the Los Angeles River in flood after a storm, or seem constant like the roil of the Pacific, often simultaneously. There were times he tried to control his perception of time, to consciously live every moment, inhabit every minute, take in the time and savor it, whatever he happened to be doing. But time had a way of subverting his attempts, and it would quickly impose its own will with little trouble. There was, however, one certain feeling he had: time was inexorably passing him by; whether it did so quickly or slowly didn’t matter; if it did so quickly, he would marvel at the suddenness of it all, of how onrushing flowed the time from awakening to repose; if slowly, he would sense its slow passing, its grinding away like so much wheat being sedately milled into powder. He was far from old, only in his early thirties; however, each year that passed saw him tacking further away from his youthful goals, his dreams remaining so, and it gnawed at him. It didn’t gnaw enough at him for him to do anything about it, though. It gnawed at him just sufficiently for him to feel put upon, and to elicit random, elegiac sighs.
For Marcelo, time was bifurcated, divided into “before” and “after.” Not before Papá’s death and after Papá’s death, no, but before the family left New York and after they arrived in Los Angeles. That was the great fissure in his life, the point at which time started over. A lifetime had passed since the great trek westward—Mamá and Papá and Lexie and Celito and Abuela and Abuelo, catching a redeye like refugees on the last plane out of a disintegrating South American republic. Carlos was already in Southern California by that time, having decamped for warmer climes, seeking something different, some other experience than that offered by a cold northern city. Carlos had hated everything about New York—the noise, the grime, the casual rudeness, the banal brutality, the bitter winters leavened by the humid, insufferable summers. He had even bought a car—a Dodge Omni, with a barely functioning engine—just to get used to driving, because he knew he would take it one day and drive it across the continent and park it in front of Tía Evelina’s house, with a eucalyptus tree exuding its redolent oily smell, broad-leaved plants sprouting in the back yard forming a wall of green on the white fence, roses blooming in December. He had always known he would pack up his forlorn little car with all his possessions, and drive west over the George Washington Bridge, west across New Jersey and beyond, and slough off New York’s grit like a heavy, snow-laden woolen overcoat.