I sat back on the sticky black leather chair with piercing cold chrome armrests. It was early in the morning. Outside, planes were taking off and landing at JFK. A plane landed in a gate nearby, and people rushed out. It may be that they are going to their homes or that, like me, they are in transition. They are waiting for the next hour to pass. They are waiting for their time to be called. A couple of days have passed since my aunt was taken from me after forty-eight years of comfortable existence. My heart breaks every minute, my mind attempts to feebly patch things together. My soul, where is my soul? Is it with her already? I was with her as she lay on the warm asphalt. I was with her in the cold morgue. No, right now I am waiting for my plane and a three hour flight to San Juan. EVENTUALLY WE ALL HAVE TO STOP.
If I could, I would do this myself. I leaned against the wall of the cemetery and ate my limber. Was it healthy for them to sell these so close to the cemetery? Or, did they provide them as a consolation like one would with flowers? I entered the old cemetery carefully, navigating through the old place, largely abandoned in this mountain town, as if I had lived there my whole life. There were tombs everywhere in various states of preservation or decay, almost one on top of the other. A good number of them were completely destroyed, as if an earthquake broke the cement and raised the sturdy coffins full of bones and dust. A robin’s egg blue coffin peeked from its tomb. I had only been here twice before: when my grandfather died shortly after my fourth birthday and when my aunt died last year. I reached our family tomb, practically falling apart, and sat down next to it. THE DEAD WILL SEEK US IF WE DO NOT SEEK THEM.
For weeks Puerto Rico beckoned: a call from the warm southern winds pushed northwards to the city upon a hill. Why did I ignore that call home? Now we stood in this venerable heat as the sun lashed the backs of our heads and necks. Isn’t it supposed to rain during a funeral? I felt the guilt and regret inside, past my throat and in the deepest hole of my torso. Fear wrapped everything together. I wished I had called her, but we never connected. I looked over, past all the faces, to my grandmother. Hers was blank, deprived of the bliss that characterized it. A mother should never have to bury her children. My aunt would hate how we mourn her. She lived her life to the fullest. Had we lived our fullest with her? TIME DOES NOT STOP FOR US TO CONSIDER OUR DECISIONS.
We chose what we wanted in her apartment. I searched for small objects and books. What did she fill her head and heart with? Romance novels, history, and theology filled her small bookshelves. She had always been searching for something. Love and identity perhaps? The apartment was a mess. She had left in a hurry; died in an instant. We collected the momentos she had secretly left us. As I stepped out of her apartment building, the ocean spoke in waves. The sun began to hide behind the buildings to my left. On the door, an elegant black bow had been placed by the neighbors who loved her. It was the only thing they could afford to get. REMEMBER WITH STORIES.
We went swimming at dusk as the sky had lost its color and stood naked above us. The dark navy hues became the black blue of the night sky. Faint lines of light remained on the horizon. We had to evoke the last shred of joy that we had within us. It might vanish soon and we could be plunged into the darkness. I felt the sand underneath my feet. This was my country. There was no better time for me to be here. I walked slowly into the water. The ocean bowed before me, and pulled away. I could see my family swimming in the distance. Their heads appeared and disappeared into the water. The wind hit my skin. Everything had changed around us. The meaning of who we were and what we represented had changed. Now the sun was gone and all that remained was the remnant of another day in Puerto Rico. THE LAND IS STEEPED IN MEMORIES, RETURNING AWAKENS EVERYTHING.