Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Man Who Disappeared

(Jorge Mulally's Last Words To The World We Know, 1999)

I want to share with you a piece of my history, and something very personal to me.

Jorge Mulally was an uncle of mine that I came to know during my time in the southwestern deserts of New Mexico. He was living a little more than 200 miles away in Albuquerque, New Mexico’s largest metropolis and to my sisters and I when we went to visit Uncle Mulally, was an escape from the small town world of Gallup.
Jorge often told us how we were very important to him, that no other relatives made him happier to see than us. And it was because he saw something awfully familiar in us. I never knew what he exactly meant until later on.

Jorge Mulally was born in Acapulco, Mexico to an Irish-born father, and a Mexican-born mother in 1957. His father, my grandfather’s brother, Jonny, left Ireland not long after his time in the war. Seeing his best friend be blown up by a mine just feet before him made him realize there is a world he was so close to never seeing and so a few months upon his return from the war he left to travel South America. What he had seen was a world beyond anything else he had seen before, and he fell in love with the culture and the scenery he found on the road. It was in Chile, he met a certain traveler along the way, a small Mexican woman by the name of Doris, and soon after they fell in love, married, and travelled some more before settling in Mexico, where Doris found work as a nurse, and Jonny worked as a writer for the local paper in Acapulco. A few years after Jorge was born, Doris found work in a hospital in San Diego, where Jorge would spend the longest stretch in one place before moving to the next place. They would live in San Diego for almost a decade before moving to Tucson, AZ for three years, Marfa, TX for four years, before Jorge was old enough to live on his own and so he left the nest in the summer before his parents moved to Santa Fe. When I met Jorge during his time in Albuquerque he told me of the many people he had known over the years. I asked him if he still kept in contact with any of them, and he said, only a few. People would just come and go in his life, and trying to keep in contact over the years was like keeping in contact with your childhood, it would fade to “the milk of dreams”, he would say. Every place he moved to, he never felt like he belonged, as if he was a stranger in their eyes. And though he would form deep friendships, this notion of the stranger never left him. He told me once before, he never felt pride in anything, that pride was knowing you belonged to something, and that you were happy to belong to something; feeling safe and comfortable. Jorge was always in-between two worlds, the two worlds of his parent’s ethnicities and cultures, the two worlds of his past and his present in each place he lived, his art and his writing, and his girlfriends over the years and his need for solitude.
Though I was quite young when I knew Jorge, his words are well kept in my memory, and were there more than ever when I felt alone, that his separation made me feel like I had someone; we were united in our loneliness.
In the summer of 99’, Jorge disappeared from his house in Albuquerque, leaving his things to his parents, and one single note for his disappearance. During my last visit to my parents house in Wailuku, in a box of old letters from over the years, I found a copy of that same note and I made a copy for myself. The note said,
We become individuals not by choice but by how life sees fit. Through a lifetime of alienation, abandonment, and lack of belonging we find ourselves against the groove of the crowd, and an arm-reach from those we care for in the only comfort we know, ourselves. One can travel their whole life and never find comfort until the end, when they find themselves. I am not there yet.