The spirits of the children arrive first. Mateo runs along the marigold pathway, eager to join the living. The candles on the ofrenda illuminate his photo and guide him to his mortal favorites, a football, mango candy and mama’s tamales.
But twenty-four hours is never long enough, and he must leave his family behind. Papa with the brave smile pasted on his face. Mama trying to stroke his arm. But worst of all, little sister, now taller than he, holding out the yellow balloon he cannot take.
“Life is a puzzle I try, endlessly, to solve with my writing.” – the writer
It was the first pop concert to admit a live audience since the onset of the pandemic. Mia and I joined the back of the queue. At the front, a disagreement was brewing between two boys and ticket attendants. When the boys started making confrontational gestures, a couple of bouncers stepped forward and turned them away.
The queue inched forward. There was a sign: “Proof of vaccination required before entering.” I glanced at the QR code on the wristband I’d been issued after my injection.
The two boys approached. Their eyes, burning with the perceived injustice, settled on our wristbands.
Traveling, I bought a picture postcard – a sunset scene, the sky aflame, the ocean a wash of lavender, the silhouette of a lone cypress. The card drew me in. Seen at close range, the ocean’s colors were unimaginably beautiful. I saw myself up close too – the steady self I knew and my restless, unknowable soul.
The card’s beauty pulled me through the mail to where I longed to be, to the one I’ve loved ever since for fifty years. A soul may be found wandering anywhere at any time, but there are few places it can come to rest.
Gene Altman is a retired psychiatrist, who says: “For decades I listened to other people’s stories. Now it’s time to tell my own.”
I have mid-day dreams of kissing you. But there is no you to kiss. In my mind is an amalgamation of lovers I never even got the chance to miss. They don’t exist. You don’t exist. In the midst of my shower I imagine the waking hour when something clicks in my body and I am brought down from the clouds.
Alexia writes, she says, “to truly transport and communicate.”
Habits by other names, he shoots back — and then begins to enumerate: Gym on Monday, Stunned Mullet on Tuesday. Library Wednesday, Gym and Coffee Club Thursday, out with your mates Friday, racetrack Saturday then family catch-up Sunday. And each morning mixed berries to start off your breakfast. You really ought to change.
I’ll think about it, I say. So I do.
Now I do The Stunned Mullet on Mondays, Gym on Tuesday, mates Wednesday … and so on, just to prove how flexible I can be.
“I had great fun with this one, but my son is still not convinced.” – the writer
Mother won’t eat or drink or cook. Fasting for God, Father said. Be patient. Her breath smells rotten. She’s grumpy. No, coffee makes her like that I know, but Samina doesn’t. She cries for food and attention, clings to Mother’s knees. Mother curses, pries her away, thumbs her rosary, locks herself in the bedroom. Snot and tears streak Samina’s cheeks. I cut an apple for her. When she falls asleep, I take a piece from her fist. Tastes like salt. When Father returns from work, I ask if Mother loves God more than Samina. You won’t understand, he says.
If I were a tree I could grow strong and tall like the man who once stood before me when I was just a sapling. Except that same man who lay before me has wilted away and is no longer that big strong tree hovering over me. Once a tree starts to decay, there is no chance of overcoming its death, trees can’t “heal” damaged tissues. It takes a few seasons to decompose, but it still decomposes. Oftentimes that tree is suffering, and the best solution is to just cut it down. You were a good tree dad.
“Writing is like free therapy where you can express your emotions without feeling judged.” – the writer
I found peace in silence, stop and think, how many of us can say that now? In the quiet of the evening before drifting into sleep, no TV, no radio, only darkness. Are you at peace? Does your mind wonder? Regrets too many or too few? Love any at all or lost love? What of it? Proud of what you have brought? Or happy with what you have built?
Remember life matters, not the rat race, peer pressure, money. Be kind to each other.
“I write to stop my mind racing along at a 100 miles per hour.” – the writer
Inside a shopping mall during the pandemic, I hurry past a collection of toxic adults, hoping the guy in tight pants doesn’t get too close I don’t want to get his COVID cooties, wearing his mask at half-mast, his nose sticks out like Pinocchio and his breath could skin a cat I just came for a burger at Red Robin with everything on it and endless fries First time outside in over a month, I hope the straps on my N95 hold up, and my medical gloves are snapped tight— I need to get out of this Venus flytrap alive.
“I write to understand my human predicament.” – the writer