Bruce Berger manages to use his imagination to convey truth in his short story. Although he is conjecturing for the majority of the story, his imagination leads him to a stereotypical truth about young love, about immigrants to America, about the disintegration of a relationship after two years, and about their predicted futures.
After reading this short story, I did not finish the page with a sense that he was lying to us or letting himself rant about a subject about which he had no evidence. From the caption written on the photograph combined with his description of Marisela’s “moist dark eyes,” he brings a girl’s life into a story form.
In only a few pages, he paints his imagined story with many missing pieces, but the readers can reabsorb his conjectures and fill in those gaps for themselves. What writing could be more truthful than that of a story that people can understand and fill in with facts that they can identify with? Whether or not Fernando ends up marrying a blonde American woman, Berger is probably right that whatever Marisela feared Fernando would do and become when he left her and traveled to America was most likely not what he ended up experiencing. And most post-adolescent readers understand the common focus of the youth on trivialities that are seemingly important in the moment. For example, readers can identify with Marisela’s superficial attempts to hold onto Fernando by photographing her blonde hair for Fernando before he traveled to the land of “golden Americans.”
Berger switches from a distant narrative voice, looking in on Marisela and Fernando’s separate lives from an aerial view, to a voice directed at Marisela. His personal voice at the end of the story holds the reader engaged with the unknown future of the girl, despite the fact that there is no more information on her life other than the photograph and caption. What is she doing now? Where is she? Suddenly, the story morphs into a love letter for Marisela, asking her to come to him, the writer, if she is lonely.
Berger’s passion for stories is part of the nonfiction element of his story. Nobody would write a story like “Fernando and Marisela” unless he or she cared about the histories and truths of lives preserved through found objects that reveal some information about their owners. He speaks with an air of excitement for Fernando saying “But two years is a long time for a young man tasting the novelties of another country.”
Berger’s writing shows me that a writer can create nonfiction by taking a truthful event, like finding a photograph in the preserving qualities of the Tucson desert sand, and writing about the way in which he or she imagines the truth behind the face on the picture. If this were fiction, he would be telling us that everything he wrote about Marisela and Fernando actually happened to them. Instead, he lets us know where he is writing from—from a position of ignorance and curiosity, and from this we learn truth about human nature.