Rudy & Yuka
Anthony Adrian Pino

Not everyone gets old the same. Take Rudy Hernandez for example. He loved a woman, but the woman didn't love him. Her name was Yuka. He saw her every night. He would touch her if he could, but could not. She was on a video. Someone had given it to him with a wink after he was alone, after Carmen had died and the children had left. Then all he had was the little house and the yard, and the roses in the garden he took care of so faithfully. There was also a skinny old dog named Trini, and two cats, Carla and Esteban. But he was especially dedicated to the roses. They reminded him of Yuka, when the camera closed in on her mouth and moved around her sweet folds of skin. And so he was faithful to the roses.

Rudy saw Yuka once in person. It was on a trip in Los Angeles with the old people from the church. On the bus everyone talked and laughed, except Rudy. He slept, and dreamed of himself and Carmen when they were young. The next day they toured the movie stars' houses and ate at an expensive bistro. They saw Olvera Street and went to the mission. They visited Union Station and walked the sidewalk of the stars. In Hollywood, they stopped at a light to cross the street to meet the bus, and there in the pedestrian zone was Yuka, the only Japanese face in a crowd, in a black fur coat with a black leather shoulder bag with the name of the designer in shiny chrome letters. Her hair was long, black and lit in the sun. Her forehead looked troubled. "Yuka, wait!" he shouted, grabbing her arm and smiling. She darted a look at him and smiled back. Forgetting himself, he screamed in Spanish, "How are you, Yuka?" She pulled away looking troubled and walked quickly into the crowd. As she moved, Rudy lost his balance and fell to the street. The people from church began to stare at him and then helped him up. His knees were bloody and his pants stained.

For weeks there was talk about Rudy at the church and finally a delegation came to his house, including the priest. They told him he should move to a care home. They said they'd talked to his children and they agreed. He found it a beautiful place, where he could look at a garden outside his window. They fed him twice a day and he could walk around the garden when a care lady was present. And the first day was wonderful! Standing by the roses in the garden was Yuka. She smiled at him and they talked for hours.

First published: February, 2006
comments to the writer: Knob'