1.) I always felt it was cruel to die on a Sunday. they were made for waking up slowly, breakfast with family, the day where God himself took a breath. sometimes I fantasize about ghosts on Sundays as a sort of purgatory. I assume they awoke and as they left the bed, they left their body behind. they pass into the kitchen, start the water to boil for coffee, snap open the paper, sit at the table. they enter the world, smile at strangers as they pass, carry a warmness. in the evening as they go to return to bed, stumble upon themselves still sleeping.
"oh, well at least that was a lovely day."
Aunt Bess died on a Sunday. 23 March. she was a strange woman, with a face like a fox but a voice like a horse. painted with a little too much make up. with her died a brain full of southern-inspired recipes, memories of the Depression, and a fondness for Elvis Presley. as i looked at her from where i stood, i nodded my head with a small, silent approval. she looked quiet. not something i was used to. her makeup was done well. her cheeks had lost their eagerness but her lips seemed as lively as ever, still poised and ready to tell me that i had gained weight since the last time she had seen me.
i think the strangest part was that i had never seen her asleep. i had just grown up believing that a cup of coffee had grown into her hand. as a child we used to sit on her porch in the california woods and talk about my dreams. the lives i lived when my eyes were closed. in my dreams i was fearless, a heroin with quick wit and a sharp tongue. Aunt Bess said she didn’t dream. I called her a liar. She told me she was a robot, and instead of sleeping she takes her batteries out, unplugs, slipping into a quiet stasis until the sun rises and the coffee maker chimes to let her know her fuel is ready. I called her a liar. i can still recall her chuckle and sigh, as she looked back towards the mountains and told me that all of this coffee was making her bitter.
2.) my mother sounded angry when her voice filled the void at the other end of the line.
my voice shook, my resolve broke in two, and from the middle my words poured out in a gross, leaky mess. i told her of my night before, of my heavy sobs in the basement, how i abandoned my integrity with little remorse. i told her how easy it was to make people disappear in my head. how my knees and ribs and heart ache so badly.
she told me to swallow it. she told me to bury it like a bitter pill in the pit of my stomach and keep moving. it was sound advice but i am no good at swallowing stones. i feel twenty-one years of rock like cobblestone inside me. i have built pyramids inside my ribcage. new york city in my lungs. i have not built bricks walls around me but in me is a war fort. and it hurts worse to know that this one has your name on it. like the brick at the zoo that bears mine.
i am not an architect but i am good at loving you.
3.) there were a few things i had gathered about New York when i met her. she never smoked an entire cigarette, never locked the back door after going outside to burn one, rarely spoke a sentence without a swear word in it, and always had a cookie in her bag when i wanted it.
"fuck, Texas. i don’t know what i’m going to do."
her left hand shook as it wrapped back around her coffee mug, and her right held a cigarette in the air near her face. tears burned like forest fires down the lengths of her cheeks. i wasn’t good at consoling. if anything, i feel a little awkward when people cry. but the way her crying soaked her eyelashes hit me in a new place. she hadn’t touched her coffee, and instead watched it lose all of it’s steam. she had worked in the library since ‘83, tucked in a corner cubicle behind a door. the floor she worked on had a faulty air conditioner that ran year-round, which resulted in scores and scores of thrifted sweaters and sweatshirts that i found like a second layer of carpet in the apartment. she had never been to Portland, or Disneyland, nor had she ever seen a minute of a Red Sox or Mariners game.
i woke up at 2:02 a.m. last night to the sound of sirens blaring past my window. that was nothing unusual. what was strange, however, was that New York was sitting on the couch at 10 on a Wednesday morning, watching the news. the tv replayed footage of a large building fire, one that looked vaguely familiar through the plumes of black and shadow of the night, and she howled like the coyotes i used to hear in the middle of the night back home. the camera changed views, and she saw her planter box that sat outside the window. her tulips that she had replanted the week before bowing before the heat of the fire inside.
as we sat at the table in the kitchen, she told me she felt homeless. she recounted the stack of books beneath her desk that she had never gotten around to reading. she stared into her coffee. i watched her smoke her cigarette to the filter.