Chasing Hope

Amadeo waits until the soap opera ends to talk. After almost two years in Galveston, he and Jacqui are debating moving to Louisville, Ky., to be near Dr. Luis Scheker, a Dominican-born reconstructive hand surgeon, and his colleague, an eye specialist.

They trust Scheker, who speaks Spanish and seems attached to Jacqui's case. He's already operated to begin separating the stubs of her right hand and is set to operate on her eyelid in August. If they're moving, they need to decide soon.

Jacqui hesitates. Galveston is comfortable — she has friends and therapists here. Earlier in the year, when she went to Kentucky for a hand operation, she felt isolated and depressed. Her psychologist doubled her Zoloft dosage.

"Ay, yay yay," Jacqui says. "Sí o no? Sí o no?"

It takes Jacqui two weeks to decide to move.


The Saburidos are up before dawn, carrying a few last loads to the U-Haul, checking in cabinets and underneath beds. They leave behind only their rented furniture and Amadeo's little markers — "tei-bol" on the dining room table, "jaus" on the front door.

For the last time, Jacqui counts the 14 steps from the second floor, then climbs into the rented car with Angelica Castro, the housekeeper they had flown up from Venezuela.

"Ciao. Adiós, Galveston, and in the name of God we go," Amadeo pronounces at 6:10 a.m. "Note the time."

Rain begins falling as they cross the causeway to the mainland. Jacqui dozes off.

"Así es la vida" — that's life — Amadeo says. "Good. Bad. I don't know if it's bad or good."

The Road to Kentucky

Kin-tukay. Ken-tooky. Ken-twocky. They bicker over how to pronounce the state that will be their new home.

They're nearing the Arkansas border. Behind the steering wheel, Amadeo listens impassively to salsa, merengue and Jacqui's other CDs.

"This is music?" he asks.

Later, Amadeo warms up his flat voice and sings softly in Spanish:

Sí, sí, sí, this love is so deep

You're my adored, spoiled one

And I want the whole world to know.


The Memphis skyline passes by in a slow, hazy glimpse on the late July evening. Jacqui decides she wants to see Graceland.

It's late, Amadeo says. Graceland is probably closed.

"I would like to see it," Jacqui says in a sweet, little girl's voice.

The white mansion is shut when they arrive.

"Tito, we could see it tomorrow," she says.

Amadeo says he doesn't want to spend another night on the road.


"Are you understanding?" he asks as they drive away.

"Ya, it's all right, Tito," Jacqui says, and sings along with the radio. "We're never going to come back."

Amadeo pulls into a chain motel. In the lobby, Jacqui beelines for a rack of tourist brochures, picking out the ones with pictures of Graceland. She presents them to her father.

"She's unbearable when she's impertinent," he says with a sigh later as he drives to get dinner.

Jacqui's watching television when Amadeo returns with the fast food. She hops to her feet, her voice pierced with excitement.

"And?" she asks.

The King's Grave

It's a bright, muggy morning. Jacqui scrambles over the asphalt, dodging patches of sunlight for the shadows cast by Elvis' planes and museum walls.

She plunges into the crowd. Wearing her white beach hat and flanked by her father and Angelica, she almost fits in.

Then she waves to a boy. When the boy waves back, his mother slaps him, apparently thinking that he's staring. Jacqui gets angry.

Inside Graceland, Amadeo describes what Jacqui can't see — like the wedding dress worn by Elvis' wife.

"White or beige?" Jacqui asks. She hates beige.

In the yard, Jacqui stands in the shade by the King's grave.

"It makes me sad," she says. "He was still young when he died."

Amadeo stands nearby. "I like the place, not the guy," he says.

17 Steps

After spending two days on the road and driving nearly 1,000 miles, they arrive at their new apartment in Louisville, Ky., about a 15-minute drive east of downtown. The apartment complex looks like a leafy suburb.

Jacqui hops out of the car, counts the wooden staircase's 17 steps and walks into their second-floor apartment.

"Hello, hello, hello," she calls, moving from room to room over the plush beige carpeting. The bright white walls and doors smell of new paint. Jacqui inspects the rental furniture and, with her feet, nudges a recliner into a different place.

"It's prettier than Galveston. Wonderful," she says. "Tito, the television goes there."

In the bedroom, she thinks about the people in Galveston she'll miss: her friends from the burn unit, the nurses, the doctors.

She wonders if she'll make friends here. Only God knows, she says.

Shoes in the Closet

Jacqui drops to her hands and knees in the walk-in closet. Each pair of shoes, she decides, goes heel to the wall and toe to the center, evenly spaced. The framed pictures of Jacqui reappear by the sofa. In the bedroom, Jacqui sets a photo of her mother next to her computer. Amadeo nails Jacqui's wooden cross above the bed.

Jacqui wants her Virgins and saints on shelves facing her bed. Amadeo grouses that he's going to lose his $100 deposit because of the nails. Jacqui watches him mark the wall and drill in the shelves.

"Tito, do you know if I marry someday, I won't leave you alone?" she says.

"Of course, so I can take care of your things," he replies.

Jacqui holds her stomach and giggles.

"It's true," she says.

Jacqui Tries to Drive

Their new car arrives — a Honda Odyssey minivan. Jacqui wants to park it.

It's drizzly and almost dark. Jacqui struggles to see the space and labors to turn the wheel with her palms. The rain falls harder.

She can't park without help.

As she gets out, upset, she slips on the slick grass, nearly falling into a bush, then regains her balance.

Later, in the apartment, Amadeo clasps Jacqui to his chest and presses her head to his cheek.

He follows her into their room and comes out alone.

"It's not her fault," he says. "It's life's fault."

Jacqui lies in bed with the lights off. In the dark, where there are no missing fingers, no scars and no blindness, she cries, gulping down air.

"Two years ago," she says, "I could do many things."