“I guess we can’t just pick the good things to remember, can we?”: The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz
“The thing is, I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to know what it felt like to be drunk. You want me to explain this with logic? Well, where was the logic to loving? Where was the logic to dying in accidents? Where was the logic to cancer? Where was the logic to living? I was starting to believe that the human heart had an inexplicable logic. But I was also starting to get drunk, so I wasn’t trusting anything I was thinking.”
-Salvador from The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Do you know about the Sewol ferry disaster in South Korea? If you don’t, then check this link out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_MV_Sewol
Just when I was finishing this book, my co-workers and I were talking about this incident. Something about the idea of “inexplicableness” of life that Benjamin Alire Saenz portrays in his novel seemed to click with the “inexplicableness” of the incident of the Sewol ferry disaster. That day, as my co-workers and I remembered the tragedy, and I was finishing Saenz’ novel, rain poured down all day from the sky, and I thought that the sky, too, must have been crying over the loss of many innocent lives.
This is something that always puzzles me. There are people in the world who commit horrendous crimes who get to live luxurious lives, while there are people who spend their lives working hard and trying to do good who never get what they truly deserve. We grow up, learning from our teachers that we need to work hard and do what is right. Why bother teaching kids this when the world doesn’t work this way? And, really, what kind of world do we live in? How can our world be explained “logically” and “sensibly”?
Salvador’s father, Vicente, is a gay man. He and Salvador’s mother had both been students at Columbia, and when Salvador’s mother realized she was going to die without anyone to look after her baby, she asked Vicente to look after him, and he agreed. That was how Vicente and Salvador’s mother were married. Even though Vicente is not Salvador’s biological father, Vicente loves Salvador and cares for him as if he were the biological father, and Salvador also loves Vicente as if he were his biological son. “Logically,” this situation is a teensy bit complicated to make sense, but that’s how it works in Salvador’s world.
Salvador shares a memory:
The sky had cleared after a summer storm. I’d been crying, and he (Vicente) tried to get me to smile. “Your eyes are the color of sky. Did you know that?” I don’t know why I remembered this. Maybe it was because I knew he was telling me he loved me.
There are many things in Salvador’s life that don’t make sense – his grandmother’s cancer, his best friend Samantha’s mother’s death, and his warm-hearted friend Fito and his cold-hearted family – but with the guidance of his father, he is able to take things one step at a time. Saenz’s novel made me wonder about the illogical, unfair, and inexplicable things that happen to people, and how, most of the time, people miraculously make it through. Who can possibly provide a logical explanation as to why Salvador’s grandmother had to die from cancer, or why Samantha’s mother had to die from a car crash? That day, before Samantha’s mother had died, she had written on the bathroom mirror with lipstick, “Just because my love isn’t perfect doesn’t mean I don’t love you,” a memory Samantha will carry with her always. Where is the logic to these things? And, what does it matter that Salvador’s dad isn’t his biological father? Who decides these things anyway? The more I think about the logic of things, the “certain things have to be done in these particular – a, b, c – ways,” the more unsure I become. The most hardworking, honest person can get killed in an unexpected accident. At the same time, the person who causes that accident can live a long and prosperous life, maybe not even remembering that he/she had caused a person’s death. There is no logic to many things that happen in our world.
Vicente had been there when Salvador’s mother gave birth to him, and so, really, from the very beginning, Vicente had loved Salvador with all of his heart. Vicente had always been there for Salvador, and when Vicente’s mother suffered from cancer and eventually passed away, Salvador had the chance to be there for his father. In one scene, the narrator describes the conversation between father and son:
I (Salvador) sat on his bed. “Dad?”
“I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”
“It’s hard,” he said. “Grief is a terrible and beautiful thing.”
“I don’t think it’s so beautiful.”
“The hurt means you loved someone. That you really loved someone.”
“Dad.” I reached for his hand. “I’m here, Dad. I mean, I’m really here.”
My dad took my hand. “This is a good hand,” he said. “A very good hand.”
Work Cited: Sáenz Benjamin Alire. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.