Mi Abuelita Muere Cada Noche

Every story is a gateway to a more detailed dream, so I asked my dad to stop telling them.  My bedtimes were filled with recounts of the death that he has seen, and that I now cause.  It’s a memory of mine now, one we share, and when I close my eyes I can hear the wood creaking when the ropes tighten, as my abuela steps off the chair.  His stories, my dreams, are what my father remembers from when he came home from school that day.

The rigidity of her fingers and fabric, unaffected by the wind generated from her own swaying, tells me when I’m dreaming, but I still wander the crooked flooring of the apartment building and become suspicious at the air standing still.  I know what will happen before I gaze inside her darkened room.  I don’t choose my this, but Abuelita swings from the rafters of her bedroom and dies every night.

That same year my dad found his mother, he quit school.  School hid behind ugly fonts and stories about perfect white families, and he could no longer pretend to listen.  He had seen what the world was like as the paramedics sawed the rope from the rafters, letting her carcass collapse so heavily to the floor that the downstairs neighbors ate bits of the ceiling that had dusted into their cereals.

My dream tonight was not like the other ones.  On the night Abuelita died, my dad said the rain water fell in quarter-sized drops, and all of them hit his head as he spent the night in the park’s tennis court, alone.  Tonight’s rain mimics this, and she knows it.  Her legs kick wildly for the first time, and water spills from ceiling around us.  She screams Stop this, Mija.  

I jerk awake, hyperventilate, and run for the park, for the tennis court, while my dad takes sleeping pills.  His back slouches along the couch as the TV’s voice sooth his thoughts into reruns.  He does not stir when I swing the door open or shut.  He does not ask me where I am going.

I sit against the tennis net with the breeze that comes with it biting my nostrils down through to my throat.  All of the rain hits me, but the drops against my skin fade while I think about her voice in my dream.  She had not only kicked, she had spoken.  For the first time in 30 years, her voice clawed through to her mouth.  I only starred.

Every story my dad tells me is a new memory.  Each word builds the room she is in, until it is more like my home and less like her casket.  From old photographs, I know of a sign she kept above her door:  love is not bearing the pain alone.

The truth is, Abuelita did.

And so will I.

Mi Abuelita Muere Cada Noche


Half the sky, sunlit cerulean.  Ashen clouds softening the remainder.  Skylar throws rocks.  In his hands they break the skin.  From under the skin, the dirt seeps in.  Through the blood, the dirt flows.  From the veins, it meets the heart and also his brain.

Hospital tiles are dirtier than they want him to know.  His feet dangle above the grimy floors.  Phlebotomists can’t stick the needle in just once.  They gossip: “hard stick.”  Skylar’s veins were worms hiding safely, fearing greatly the sharp beaks of the needles.

The needle presses long before it pierces him, his skin slowly rising around the syringe.  He doesn’t dare look.  Echos of blood slurping into the barrel is all the information he needs.  Wafts of rubbing alcohol and new plastics invade his lungs, assaults his tongue.  He counts seconds, hundreds of them.  Nurses’ voices bounce off the labyrinth of walls and down the halls.  He hears only the last syllables, and the last word.  “Positive.”

He is left with arrays of old needle points on his arm and the rising bruise.

Straining his ears, phlebotomists mumble apologies.

He doesn’t tell his girlfriend the news.  He coughs a lot.  Skylar can’t hide health.  He tries.  Sarah stops asking, turns on her side in bed.  He does not press, but wants to.

They don’t speak.  They talk over dinner.  Neighbors hear yelling.

Half the sky, sunlit orange.  The sun, running away.  Sarah follows suit.  Her jacket, forgotten on the lawn where boxes of her things sat earlier.  Her car, driving away.

Skylar smokes heavily again.


Sky Writing

Joaquin spun clouds, based from oils, for tourists and locals alike.  When he was younger, businesses paid him for this.  When the money stopped coming and his family stopped visiting and he no longer set his alarm for his medicine, he kept flying every weekend.  Even though Joaquin forgot to turn off the TV, the lights, and occasionally the stove, he never forgot how to skywrite.

On his last Sunday, his plane looped in the sky.  With elegant twists, the locals on the sand watched him spin the words “How do I land?”  Within minutes, the clouds smeared with the winds.  “What a sense of humor,” someone said, watching him fly deeper out to sea.

Sky Writing