I was five years old. El Paso del Norte was by now a distant memory. The Imperial Valley was such a long way from here.
We now lived in Oxnard in a Mexican neighborhood. The people here were descendants of the Spanish, Sonoran colonizers and were called People of the Country. Many lived on the farms or in the original township of El Rio.
I say original because El Rio was there before Oxnard was established, a place by the river crossing of the Santa Clara River and the King’s Highway, El Camino Real. It was established by Simon Cohn in 1875. He called his place New Jerusalem. It consisted of a general store, corral, and eventually a post office. Over time the place was called El Rio because, well, that is where it was. Oxnard was established a short distance away and became the dominant city, but that is another story.
All my life I have awakened before sunrise and have gone out to inspect the world. One day I was walking down the street very early. Two boys lived in the next block. They were bigger than me and they enjoyed knocking me down and kicking me in the ribs. I did not enjoy that a bit.
As I said, I was walking down the street, very peaceful and minding my own business when I heard the boys from the next block running after me and yelling threats.
Since I knew what was going to happen next, I started running. I do not know how it happened but I found myself running through a strange neighborhood and those guys were catching up to me.
I heard a voice that said, “Hurry! Run this way!” I did not see anyone except a dragonfly, and she was saying, “Hurry! Run this way!” She was flying in front of me. She guided me through a door in a wall.
We went in but the boys could not find the door, so they did not enter. I could see and hear them but they could not see nor hear me. After we entered through the door we left the boys outside of the wall.
The dragonfly sat upon my hand. I took a closer look. I could see that it was not really a dragonfly. She was a tiny, graceful and delicate creature with a human shape. She was a fairy!
“This is the fairy garden, I live here sometimes.” She said. “I like the rivers. I love the water. It reminds me of me homeland, the Green Isle.”
She spoke with a strange accent, but everyone around here had an accent.
She sat on my hand and guided me along a path. It was very beautiful here. There were many trees and flowers. We climbed a hill and I rested against a big rock near a river of clear water. It was then I noticed, “How is it that I climbed a hill when this valley is a flat plain?”
Other fairies were flying all around me. So many, all of a different color.
“Hi! Boy!” They said in their sweet gentle voices. I could see the smiles on their transparent faces.
“Hi! Carlitos! Hi! Little Charlie!” They knew my real name and my new American name.
I leaned over a brook to get a drink of water. It was clear and sweet and each time I took a drink it tasted like a different kind of sweetness.
The birds and the fairies sang throughout the day. Sometimes they sang together their gentle fairy songs.
“This place is not me home, but it will do until I find me destiny.”
“Destiny?” I asked.
“Destiny is the place where we are meant to be.”
“Do I have a Destiny?”
“Aye me laddie. It will take thine entire lifetime to seek and find Her.”
A tear fell from her eye. “She is elusive. Not everyone can nor will find theirs.”
Nena sat on my hand. A tiny tear fell on my palm.
“That tear is me pledge to you. I have been with you since you came into the worl’. I was dancin’ on the big river when I heard your Mum cry out. I had to see. Such a wee child, and then they gave yee the name, the name of another lad I once knew many years ago. I have followed ever since and I promised me self to keep yee safe.”
I remembered the fighting in the street back in Ciudad Juarez. There was a flash of light that made me turn my head.
“Aye! Tha’ was me, and there were many another times.”
“I can hear yur voice and yee can hear mine. I will ne’er be far from yee. That is all yee need to know.
The magical music I heard was like a lullaby and soon I fell asleep. I do not know how long I slept but when I awoke I was lying on our front porch.
I am an old man telling you this, and I do not know when my time will come. I have never really seen her since that day, but I know she has never been far away.