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.