Editor’s note: In this season of miracles, a message of hope can be found in the most hopeless of situations, as you’ll discover in the NEMS Daily Journal’s “The Christmas Oracle of Room 316,” a 10-chapter series that recently ran in the NEMS Daily newspaper.
By Emily Le Coz
The ring of a cell phone halted Esteban Flores’ work. He’d been checking the freshly laid foundation at a new construction site but now slid a black phone from his pocket.
“Flores here,” he said, his words soaked in a Mexican accent.
For the next two minutes Esteban nodded and paced around the sunlit job site. Heavy machinery and equipment hummed in the background, making it difficult but not impossible for him to hear.
One more nod, one more step, and then Esteban ended the call with a promise: “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
He strolled to a little trailer propped on a grassy knoll near the construction and went inside.
“I’m going to the hospital,” Esteban told the men inside. Then he looked at one in particular and said, “You’re in charge while I’m out. This is an important job. Don’t disappoint me.”
The man mock-saluted Esteban as he stood from his chair. Esteban grinned, patted him on the shoulder and exited the trailer into the blinding sunlight.
In his mid-50s and living with his son, Esteban volunteered as a Spanish-language translator at North Mississippi Medical Center. It was a way to fill the empty hours while doing what he considered God’s work. It also felt good to be appreciated for his heritage in what was still a foreign land.
Esteban and his adult son, Jaime, moved to America from Mexico three years ago after Esteban’s wife died.
For Esteban, the move was a clean break from his former life, which had hung around his neck like a sorrowful chain.
For Jaime, it was a chance for more money and a better life for his family. He hoped to bring his wife and children over the border soon. For now, they remained in Mexico while he worked as a mechanic.
Unlike some other immigrants, Esteban and his son came legally since Esteban’s mother was American and got him papers when he was still a child. Sarah Flores, nee Edmons, married Esteban’s father and moved to Mexico as a teenager. That small detail made a world of difference for her son.
The drive to the hospital took 10 minutes. Esteban parked his pickup truck on the ramp, entered the building and rode the elevator up one level.
“Thank goodness you’re here,” said a woman in pink scrubs as soon as the elevator doors opened. Jill was the head nurse on the third floor, and she had a case she’d never seen before.
“Follow me,” she told Esteban, leading him quickly down the hallway. “A woman is waking from a coma – at least we think she is – and she’s talking in Spanish. We have no idea what she’s saying.”
Jill stopped at Room 316 and gestured inside where a worried Ginny Dickens leaned over her mumbling mother. Ginny looked up when she saw Esteban, her eyes tinged with confusion and hope.
“My mother doesn’t speak Spanish,” Ginny told Esteban as he entered the room. “No one in my family speaks Spanish. Can you understand her?”
Esteban leaned in close to Helen St. Cloud, who spoke in perfect Spanish without a hint of accent. And as he listened, he began to smile.
“What is it?” Ginny whispered. “What is she saying?”
Esteban held up his hand, silencing Ginny’s soft questions. He wanted to hear what else this Spanish-speaking American had to say in a voice reminiscent of his late wife. How beautiful it sounded. How familiar it seemed. And how interesting the words.
It was almost as if Helen St. Cloud were talking about his own life.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal