Sunday, December 11, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

We might be coming closer to terms with the truth; that you have stayed here for just as long as you were meant to. The air that moves around us has heard us declare it regularly; we’ve repeated it like a line that must be learned, and now we’re digesting it.

We came, like a band of thieves, back to the grounds for the first time since the interment, desperately searching out your name along the rows of bronze, feeling short of time. We scanned over crosses and praying hands with the map flapping like a flag in the wind; and then, the exclamation came.

We paused, each one of us, to watch the woman clasp her hands. She cried out in jubilation or exaltation or perhaps relief or grief or all. She was the first to discover you all over again, just like in your beginning and just like at your end. The company murmured that there was no mistake in it.

We made a chain of clutching hands and whimpered as an elder prayed over the letters that form your name. The woman knelt down to place a wreath against the metal and touched the plaque with both of her hands; the garlands were designed in some of your favorite colors and we heard her thanking the maker for having given you to us.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

We gathered your clothes finally, your mother and I, to put them away or give them away. We loitered at the door for a period before entering your space. It is still your space although you’ve withdrawn. It feels like you. Your things are all arranged in the way only you would have them; the cocoa butter lotion in a big bottle on the shelf next to loose pennies and dimes, a watch, some cologne, an empty potato chip can toppled over, and DVDs in a row overlooking stacks of books. Your shirts and jackets hang like museum pieces: garments that were once worn and kept warm, but now hallowed artifacts after the sudden relinquishment. I ran my hands over the material.

We attempted to work with ears willed deaf to emotion and folded each piece after careful consideration. The woman was standing at the foot of the bed slowly buttoning shirts, gently folding slacks and quietly pairing socks. She sighed every once in a while. I remained silent as I handed her bunches from the piles that surrounded me on the center of your bed. I thought you may be watching from behind the veils between dimensions, and hoped you would appreciate the reverence with which we worked. We loved you so. I crawled across the floor and assembled your shoes. I placed them all in a bag. Who could have dared fathom life would bring us to this?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

The woman sits in the armchair alone quite regularly now. She takes many of her meals there. She looks at the television as if she can see through it clear to the other side, with the sounds and colors carrying on unnoticed. Maybe she is remembering overseeing some stage of your development, with a sensation that cannot be imagined or described. She attempts to recover herself whenever someone walks into the room.

We speak about you often and in bewilderment still, shaking our heads to complete our sentences; and from somewhere in the viscera, a grunt would come.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

Because you altered the state of the whole universe by going, I will continue to write about you. Somewhere, in some atmosphere, a cluster of stones have modified their trajectory. Here, my complete consciousness has been realigned. You have gone from us; you have abandoned the only manner in which we knew you, and left me alone in our once common struggle to live a life of meaning.

I did not know it was possible to sink any deeper into a shroud of malaise. I started the process even before your departure. The thing inside that sees all things must have been alerted, but I was in the dark. I think of us with no more than twelve years between us, lying on the bed and imagining our time twenty years into the future – we lived to see it. We made it to that place after doing battle in series, trudging through unfamiliar territory, and mastering life in what the powers have termed as the inner city.

We used the best of what we could muster and persisted. We persisted. For even in the many days where I was certain I would fall dead from the strain, you shouldered me and pulled me along. We met the trials of the young men coming of age in our environment like twin apprentices training for a warrior’s title. We held conference on the concrete rails of those Crown Heights stoops, knowing that the adults in the house could not possibly comprehend our strife, nor would we have wanted them to. They had their collective and individual troubles to manage, so we made do with our own; trouble in the yard after school had let out; trouble behind the sliding subway car doors; trouble in the pack of sneakers trailing after us down the block; trouble in the path leading past the project walls; trouble at the edge of the stick-up kid’s knife, trouble through the bullet holes covering the backboard in the park. Like twin apprentices training for a warrior’s title, we met those trials coming of age in our environment. We used the best of what we could muster and persisted. We persisted. My beloved brother, If only for the legacy you have left with me, what volumes of significance your existence has had!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

And finally you speak – you speak in a dream; no more sitting silently by, gazing in a daze as we all surround you, interrogating you; no more stealing up to the bedside in my sleep within sleep to slip rolled dollar bills underneath my pillow. Words! Words spoken from your voice; and shining from your eyes is that same familiarity and affection. Oh, how I miss you and cry for you in many quiet spaces. We that have remained, console one another, feeling perhaps, that our own individual loss of you is the deepest, as selfish as the thought may be. We have known you, you see, and we feel entitled. But now you speak. This is the thing that the mystics articulate, sermonizing according to their respective affiliations. This is the phenomenon that the elders describe, when the body rests, and the spirit relieves itself to float into the outer spheres. I have taken to sleeping with the hallway light on, thinking you would come, hoping for it but being a little fearful still. I have been conditioned, after all, by the limited and ridiculous imaginations of those that have been given license to create entertainment. They depict images born out of fear and faithlessness. If you had been here we could have discussed it, and the interesting and crippling aftermath of your departure.

Your appearance was unkempt at first. You came bruised and with restrictive forces that I could not see, asking them if you could tell me where you were. But they prohibited you from identifying your location, and I wanted so badly to know. You told me that you were taking time to adjust and that you were studying again. I was uneasy when it was over and recounted an abridged and more palatable version in the retelling. In the next moment, you seemed more confident, preparing me for the trip you would soon take; you were full of suggestion and metaphor - affording me a luxury in the realms that you did not give me in life. Maybe it was necessary for me to relive it elsewhere, re-envisioned. I wept and begged you not to go. You were resolute. Then, another night came and I slid under the covers ruminating over personal issues intermingled with thoughts of you. It has been that way every night. We stood with our siblings around us. Yet, we were the only two in conversation. There was some surge of light being produced from your skin; brown, brown, shimmering brown – brown in luminescence. Your hair flourished down your back in its natural state. Your eyes were so knowing and full of affection. And so, my brother, you have finally found your place, I said. Yes, you responded. Yes.

Monday, July 4, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

Our cars rolled one behind the other like we were first and second in a motorcade. It was a sunny afternoon, some of the most beautiful weather that had come to town at that point; a sample of the summer you would never see. I led the way to the highway. It was a route you had never taken. We had placed the cargo we were delivering in the seat behind mine. The child said he would rather take the ride back with you, going the same way he had come; choosing you to be his carrier once more. We laughed about it on the sidewalk and then entered our vehicles. I smiled to myself as I pulled out into the main road. You were waiting for me there.

We drove through a city in which we had faced so many obstacles, shoulder to shoulder, and survived. We had a history here. Our destinies had been tied together in knots and had stretched back through these streets and across the continents. And now we were together again, as we had been so often, sharing a moment only we could share – there is such a bond between us.

I led your way out of the borough, ushering you out. My God, but it was a pleasant day! I could not even locate the troubles of my mind. I looked in the rearview mirror and saw you, taking in the scenery as we drove. I thought about how odd it was, you, looking as if you were sightseeing; as if you had never lived in this place and now saw everything for the first time. We were moving slower than I anticipated, but it seemed appropriate. You were dazzling in the glass, surveying everything around you, seeming so very calm, so stunning and young as the sun showered your eyes, your skin and the edges of your hair in a burst of bronze.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

We can’t see the future, we think about what it should be, but we never get it right! That is what our grandmother said. I sat diagonally on the bed, across from the place in which she was always so grandly positioned. There was a silence between us so heavy… and looming somewhere in our environment was the threat of collapse, the demise of poise and composure. But neither of us would succumb. Her legs were elevated as she sat upright against the headboard. Her feet were covered with a pair of those colorful silky socks she was known to wear. And her hair was tied inside matching material just above her traveling gaze; eyes that had seen the better of nine decades now looked equally pained and puzzled. Hadn’t you and I discussed her great departure? You and I. How we would shudder to even contemplate that coming time and say in those somber and quiet talks that we would have to prepare ourselves – what a loss it would be! We would hardly know how to bear it. But you preceded her. And now I was there sitting alone with her, diagonally across from the place in which she was always so grandly positioned, diagonally still from the chair where you would sit close to her by the bed. I recalled how they had held her by each arm and walked slowly with her, cane and all, to view the last of you. She cried out your name then, and the room instantly became silent.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

You reclined on the couch. I remember. You reclined on the couch with your feet dangling and the remote control working in your hands to find channels on the new television. You said that you liked the size of it, and I laughed with my eyes still fixed on the computer. Our nephew was playing somewhere in the area, running his line of cars across the hardwood floors.

A sudden thought broke my concentration. I saw that you were asleep when I turned around. The child was still busying himself with the toys; using his mouth to make the sound trucks make. And I watched you for a short while – I do not know why. For no signals in the wind suggested that this was our last day together. No voice from outer space pitied me enough to even whisper that only two days stood between you and death.

It had already been recorded in the atmosphere.

We were like children again, I thought, laughing at some joke in the hallway. We could always come across a good laugh between us. I heard you tell the little boy to wait for us to accompany him down the stairs. I stayed by the door with a leg touching the old television, while you searched for a place in the hall where you could briefly rest your drink; a large cup of that sweet tea you had loved so much, with a plastic lid and straw. But there seemed to be no place that could hold it. You looked over at me and grinned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

In the still and chilly parlor, they placed your body amidst a sea of petals; with hundreds of empty seats before you; with air and solemn music flowing – possibly from the vents. And life was at such a standstill for those of us that had arrived – just us four at first, bearing witness to what the others would come to see. We huddled like displaced orphans, in a cluster not far from the casket, too stunned even to speak; too stricken even to let out a whimper, at least for the moment. And in time we were moved to action, arranging things to suit you best; working to give ourselves distraction; wanting our love for you to be on display. We twisted the towering wreaths so that the roses could confront the crowd. And our family soon appeared in a mass of hesitant black, with the elders leading the group like priests guiding a pilgrimage. And as they ventured forward, staggering and gasping for breath, the group disassembled in the aisles and there were tears everywhere.

Friday, May 20, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

They lifted you, up the stairs and out into the living room, marching right past us and our waiting, widening, worried and weeping eyes. They carried you as if you never had any weight at all, like black plastic bedding or a hammock elevated at the ends. But it was you; you they were taking, your body that they were fetching out. Your body! Oh Omnipotent God, let the ground open up and take us all!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

I cried in the bedroom, sinking to the bed with word just received and the phone slipping from fingers that had loosened their grasp. I cried on the thruway, clinging to the steering wheel before veering off the exit to seek the safety of the service road. I cried in the mirror with a face full of shaving cream and steam rising to blur vision that had already misted over. I cried in the chapel, convulsing on the chapel walls. And out in the streets, rain was falling.

Monday, May 16, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

For even in this great and sudden exit the Divine has shown us mercy; it allowed us to stoop at the base of the platform and position your flowers around the frame. We moved like stage-hands in suits just before a curtain call; working with a swift resolve for perfection, suppressing the reality that the last of you was before us, motionless. We twisted the towering wreaths so that the roses could confront the crowd. Whenever they finally arrived, they would have to look upon the mountains that were erected for you. We loved you so.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

I only pray for the ability to accept the fact that you have fulfilled your purpose. I ask God for the pause not to wake up and wonder if the clouds have exploded, and the mountains collapsed, if the rivers have flooded over and the walls of every city have tumbled – they should; all things in the world should stand still – even if only for a moment – when someone of your caliber has left it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On the Loss of My Beloved Big Brother

Drag me out, feet first, into the highest point of day; pull and tug me fast so that my arms can cut themselves on scattered pebbles and broken glass; cover me with dust and let it dissolve deep into the wounds; and leave me to weep, just leave and let me weep.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Excerpt from "At The Doorstep of Dawn" (Chapter 4)

It was the loneliness that he had felt so often. It was the sadness that had taken hold of him. Whenever Lionel would be standing by in the kitchen on a Sunday, watching Mrs. Anderson cook, he always thought about his mother. He kept promising himself that he would not, he tried to push her out of his mind, but Cheryl was persistent. Mrs. Anderson cracked eggs on the side of the frying pan with more effort than his mother had ever used. She breathed heavily and constantly placed a hand on her chest or her waist or used the front part of her wrist to wipe sweat from her forehead as Lionel watched her curious struggle.

“Hand me that oil over there, boy,” she would say.

Lionel would hurry over to the bottom cupboard and grab the clingy plastic bottle; he would shut the door abruptly and thrust it into her outstretched hand. She never looked in his direction. And Cheryl would appear in his sight. He couldn’t help but compare her to this common woman, who breathed heavily and always stopped to catch herself. Nothing she did carried the same hypnotic ease with which Cheryl executed all tasks. Cheryl, in some flowery negligee, seemed to almost float around the kitchen. She was spellbinding. Her wrist was too delicate to be used for anything as gouache as swiping perspiration from her forehead. It was held out and away from the flame and there was always some trinket hanging off of it. Cheryl would hum tunes that young Lionel might have heard in the same house the night before at a party. Occasionally, Cheryl would turn to her son and smile, as if to reassure him that she was there in the flesh. She loved him. He could feel it. She would descend slightly and bring her face inches away from the pots to inhale the aroma. It was her measure of what else needed to be added. She tasted nothing. She would pull back the refrigerator door as if it were a magical treasure chest that had transformed itself in the interim to produce some surprise that would please her. She held the long steel spoon like a wand, or a scepter depending upon her mood. And to make a request that was vital to her art she would say…

“Lionel, sweetheart, reach up to the top left cupboard and hand mommy the salt…”

“Lionel, love, bring mommy de burn sugar from the table...”

“Lionel, baby, fill this mug with water for me…”

“Lionel, darling, pull the big chicken outta de fridge to defross...and careful not to hurt yuhself with it…it heavy.”

And Lionel would hop down from his post on top of the stool to carry out his charge with honor. He would carry out each chore with pride, happy that he was valued enough to be included. She loved him. He could feel it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Glamorous, by the Service Road

Within her compass, there was no room for pretense and affectation. She was frank with herself about all matters, and only constrained her views in her dealings with others for the sake of courteousness (she had, after all, been raised to be gracious). She was sure that she could not afford insincerity, since more than enough years had passed already and one day shifted into the next too quickly for her liking. She would never profess out loud her feeling that time was running out, but that was her general mood nonetheless. A lot had been lost, her innocence for instance, and maybe a smidgen of virtue. She smiled less and watched her pride systematically deplete like sacks of grain in a barnyard. She felt very much like a hen required to fight for the feed, although she opted out of the scuffle. There seemed to be less and less to be joyous about. Still, she retained some of her former qualities and that was some consolation: for example, she could splurge with distinction and was convinced that she had few peers when it came to making a stylish representation of herself.

She arrived at the lounge alone and chic. The glasses on the overhead rack gleamed like a row of bulbs, barely lit. They caught her eye for a moment, but then she noticed that there were more women than men in the place. Naturally. It was a theme she had witnessed too often. Someone had said it was the curse of being a woman of her kind, where she would gradually become more accomplished and a comparable man would be unavailable, locked-up or dead. Dead! Or, maybe she had read it in a magazine. Either way it was a hell of an outlook to have. How did she feel about it? It was difficult to say. She was never one to deliberate over statistics, or delve too deeply into the reasons surrounding the social conditions of any particular group. She saw herself in a vacuum and made her own wellbeing her focus. She knew that she just could not stand another year of stretching out on her bed and not pressing up against another soul; and, good God, another year of having no voice to respond to in the dark!

And so it was that she found herself at the venue, venturing out despite her past misadventures, and her present misgivings. She settled in and conducted a survey of the scene. She checked the earrings’ glimmer in the wall-paneled mirror. She reached out and met glances and looked pleasant and smiled. She swiveled her chair sideways so as to invite conversation. She even joined a feminine caucus, hoping to benefit from their catch. The entire effort was fruitless. By the time the house lights started rising, she was following the breeze out the front door. She was hunched, walking on five inches down the avenue; wearing her discontent like a shawl. She squeezed all of her passions into the purse under her arm. She veered to the right, almost trotting down the adjacent block as a drizzle started to fall. The car appeared in her view. She heard her keys and bracelet jingle when she put out her arm. She stopped short. She paused. She leaned forward to focus her glare. She placed a hand across her mouth. The flat tire made the car lean slightly to the side. It was a final affront. The water hit her face as she brought her hand to her hip, looking to the left and the right her.

Friday, February 25, 2011


He should have counted himself lucky (had he been able to count) that he had arrived during a different age in this dimension. His mother and father might have done some tallying of their own, had they not been otherwise disposed. The truth was that they themselves were too young and ill-equipped to fully take hold of the texture of the period they occupied. After all, were there not countless settings they could stroll through without being accosted? The possibility of seeing the eyes of God on a limp swing at the edge of a branch was an abstract one. And they had never grinded their teeth by lamplight, crouching, with windows barred and ears straining to hear footsteps approaching in the wind. Instead, they wore iPods, with sixteen bars pounding on their eardrums; and reclined in front of forty-two-inch screens that made their skin glow from pink to blue to green.

The elders, now well past their prime, were quietly certain of the child’s good fortune. It almost astounded them that he was just three and could access cell phones and laptops with startling familiarity, even if mastery would not come for another four, five years. Whenever they all gathered, they took turns throwing tales about their grandchildren gleefully onto the table, and sat back to watch them bounce together like marbles among competitors. The young child’s parents convened with their own contingent, staggering in from jobs they disliked, making plans to pay for extra studio time, and sending the boy and his toys to the back bedroom so that one of the guests could commence with the splitting of the Dutches at the kitchen counter. Their pungent phrases drifted on fog to where he was contentedly navigating his toy Hummer; they swirled around him; they swooped him up; and when the child swore in front of the elders the following day, everyone was aghast.

These were signs of the times, the elders said. They shook their heads and walked away, and left the young to tend to the young. The boy was boosted in his booster seat as his parents chuckled on the ride home. He marveled at how quickly the houses and trees raced across his window, and the cars. Cars! There were cars in multiplicity roving right beside him; cars for him to pick up and roll clear across the ground or to fling from high on the bed to see them crash. He giggled. Ooh…there was a white and black, no blue car pulling up alongside them, a car with flashing lights! The child called to his mother to share his excitement, but she just placed a pacifying hand behind her seat and tugged his leg. He was not convinced she could see it. The boy called again…Daddy saw it! Yes! But somehow the man was not pleased. He said something to his passenger. They turned the music down.

The vehicle slowed and then stopped. A man with a helmet and something reddening his cheeks was at the window, taking papers from Daddy. He left. He came back. He disappeared once more and returned. The blinking lights mesmerized the child, but he tried hard to focus on what his father was saying to the man. The two seemed to be disagreeing about a grave subject. Daddy started yelling. Mommy was yelling too. The voices formed an echo that made the child’s ears hurt; it frightened him when it reached into the back, undid his seatbelt, and yanked him out of his chair. The boy was cloaked in his mother’s arms. She squeezed his back to her chest and moved out into the grass. Her hair was blowing wildly around her face.

The boy stared at the rotating red glow, allowing its magic to penetrate his eyes. A sudden instinct made him seek out his father. The man had put a lock on Daddy’s hands and was taking him away. What was he doing? The boy’s distress mounted, and then, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” The child hollered, feeling his mother twist him to the side. The boy attempted to spring from her arms as the lights began to taunt him – their earlier radiance now changing unexpectedly to a darker tint. The red flicked fire at him, scorching its image into his memory. The wheels started a slow roll. They were taking his father away. The child was overcome with dread. He let out a frantic shriek as the car pulled off, with his father’s head bowed in the back, and those lights dancing jubilantly in the midst of his tears.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Gathering (Rewrite)

They came in a caravan, tumbling one on top the other like a line of dominoes; a convoy of characters mimicking something in a biblical parable. But they rode in cars instead of on camels, and replaced sandals and robes with designer boots, sweatshirts that read Brooklyn, jackets branded with pricy insignias, hats with wool sewn at the sides, and jewelry. There were no rods or staffs, no shawls or blankets, no water receptacles or metal pots. It was quite the reverse. They sipped caramel drinks out of cardboard cups, plugged neon-lit phones into the dashboard and rotated CDs every hour…tapping their fingers, nodding their heads, and throwing grim glances out of the passenger windows. A jingle erupted in the back, signaling yet another text message from someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend perhaps. How far had the vehicle advanced from the city? The dearly loved would have wanted to know. When would the exact return date be? And so on. There was a phone call soon afterwards and a hushed backseat conversation. There was an irritated sigh up front, and then, a hand found the plus sign on the radio and pumped the vintage Whitney Houston up a notch. One or two of those present, secretly wished to feel a cell phone suddenly vibrate; they wanted to hear some familiar voice on the other end tracking their own movements, sending peals of sentiment over the distance; waiting eagerly for a grand reunion. However, they hastily shook themselves from the feeling. This was not the time to think of such things.

The house appeared festive on the surface. The new arrivals walked through the door and there was a noisy greeting; hugs for the cousins, kisses for the aunts, and a clasp of hands between sisters. The baby walked a little unsteadily, still being unused to the art of the activity, but drawing the crowd in his direction nonetheless. The driver made the final entrance, climbing up the last leg of the long trip. He held a traveling bag in one hand, and in the other, a plastic bag containing goods from the homeowner’s favorite Caribbean restaurant. The entire company seemed to have been awaiting his arrival. He felt it. He greeted the elders with some affection, but not too much. He greeted his siblings. They had all gathered like flies around honey coated glue, and he greeted them. A longtime family friend sat in the corner with worry hanging on his face. It was a disturbing sight. The driver smiled and presented the man with a cheerful salute. Always the strong one, that one, the eldest boy, you know…was what the driver heard him say. He acted as if the words did not reach him, and kept moving.

The group was energetic, pretending not to notice that the phone was ringing incessantly. They passed the baby from hand to hand and made a gigantic fuss. They chattered on about the inane, anything but the event that was to take place in the coming days. No, they would wait to speak of hospital waiting rooms and the specific instructions that were given directly by the surgeon. They would wait even to think of it. Someone put the music on. Yes, that was what was needed. There was brandy and ginger ale on the table, and ice making its way into the glasses. Something heavy had been seeping into the air, but the assemblage quickly turned their backs to it. The driver felt it. That dear family friend downed his drink in one go. He started to talk loosely about courage with a crack in his voice. The driver focused on his game with the baby, thinking…he better not dare cry! The older women were in the kitchen cooking something big. “So, you’re only on liquids now?” Someone was heard asking, making light out of the heavyhearted. Laughter jumped up and out of the kitchen, high and loud as if to cover up the thing or drive it away.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

At Hill And Bedside

Some woman came to the door, and it was a surprise. Some woman came to the door barefoot. She held it open in a way that indicated the visitor should enter. This visitor, the young teenaged boy, seemed to provoke much curiosity from her; she just stood there assessing him, wondering probably if this is what the children in America looked like, pulling in the smell of detergent from his clothes. She was thinking, maybe, that there were green bills folded neatly and concealed in the large envelope he was holding. And the young man could not access any emotion. There was anxiety perhaps. He felt it. After all, he had been awakened quite early that morning and called upon to set out on this much-anguished about segment of his visit back to the country of his parents; the country of their ancestors and those that had brought them there by force; his country. But the land had belonged to no one, at least, not anyone who had come by ship. And that indigenous group who stood most in right to lay claim to the creeks and waterfalls, the internal islands and the rain-drenched leaves, the tough bark and minerals that rose to the sand’s surface like stars reflecting on water; those who stood shoulder to shoulder and greeted the barges as they sailed in, did not subscribe to a philosophy that allowed them to see nature as a possession. It was natural to behold how the trees ascended and bended to the side. He had remembered them that way, looking as if they stopped in the middle of some sort of dance. He had sensed how time itself seemed different when he stepped out of the airplane. It was at once familiar and terrifying. He felt the commingling of the spirits. They swayed in between the coconut palms. They spoke languages in the wind that beat against the blue pick-up truck, which whisked him away from the airport. He could barely believe that he had been born in this place. That he had actually been produced there. And now, he had returned as a mere observer; a visitor with roots somewhere in the vicinity.

The boy was made to understand that he could not let his month-long vacation end without visiting his grandfather. It was a mandate. The task had been looming like a loose chandelier above him and now the inevitable was actually happening. He had sat quietly in the passenger seat of the vehicle as it climbed into the hills. He watched the bungalow houses flicker past him on stilts, and was mesmerized. It seemed appropriate somehow that this man would live in a place as removed from the city as it was. Everything about the old man was obscure, his story spoken about in patches and pieces. What had any of them really known about him? The boy had watched his own father discuss the elder with that aloof look held by those that are simply speculating. His eyes were devoid of familiarity. There was no ownership in his tone. And still there was a mandate.

Some woman had come to the door and ushered him in. He walked past her stare and into the back room. She watched him walk to that back room without compassion and left him there alone with the old man. The wood on the walls was graying from neglect. Bags of clothes had been flung into a corner and leaned on one another for support. A solitary window opened out into a budding jungle and was held up by a stick. The old man lay in his bed. He beckoned his grandson with a trembling voice and mimicking hands. The boy approached his relative. He pulled a nearby chair closer to the bed as he was instructed to do. He looked at the man’s face and saw something in it that he had known. The man started to speak. He asked about the boy’s mother and father, his brother and sister. He spoke about age and isolation and learning by living. He wanted to know what life was like in that other world. Was it not cold? Was it everything people described it to be? He had always wanted to discover for himself, he said, the answers to those questions. The boy nodded, not being able to imagine that he had ever known any other kind of existence, although he had. But all of that recollection had grown dimmer with time and relevant only as a point of reference, as something that had shaped him in some imperceptible way. He remembered this man, standing above him at a standpipe, pouring liquid on his head from a bucket of herbs and saying prayers of protection. It was the memory that devoted him to this elder in secret; the idea that someone thought him precious enough to protect in such a sacred manner. The boy was unexpectedly overcome. He huddled by his grandfather and gripped the edge of the mattress. And he was suddenly taken aback, for the old man started to weep. He just wept and wept.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eleven by Night

Flocks of feathered floats had helped to facilitate the fantasy, flaring in and fanning out; ruffling as if the breeze had snuck up from the adjoining seaside and tickled them. They were tugged on and put on parade by tanned figures that were glistening with sweat, gyrating and giving in to a general sense of euphoria. They danced on vapors. It was an emancipation exclamation, a festival of melody, a gala that deceived even the native residents into thinking that they had been transported to some tropical dreamland for Carnival. Carnival! Except that this was North America; this was the land of migrants and Mounties, in the summer months, when the clouds were flickering and fleeting, and something frigid was a-rolling-in.

Fed by all the frenzy of the earlier hours, the revelers took the nightfall as it came. They took to the streets, persevering with the recreation and the revelry. The more flamboyant of the set parked expensive automobiles on the avenues with lights beaming, sounds blasting and the cleaning solutions drying unseen into the paint. The sidewalks were abuzz with the intoxicated and the inquisitive, and impudent youngsters on the prowl for their own amusements. Another line of vehicles made a syrupy slow drain down the main boulevard. And inside, the passengers' faces drew closer to the glass, meaning to miss nothing.

From five or so feet away, there seemed to be another costumed mass gathering – similar to that which was marching in the sun just hours before…but here? No. All of that pageantry had died out with the daylight; these were symbols of a different variety. Was it the red stripes surrounding those caps that made them look so unnatural? Out-of-towners would find the attire too bright and celebratory for actual enforcers of the law to wear. And then, a woman screamed! The throngs suddenly became sluggish; frowns were formed out of just buoyant features; a kind of internal movement changed the formation of the police unit and a woman screamed.

Fists pounded on metal. The air had changed. The surge of blue parted to reveal the woman; her braids had unraveled and her head swayed low over her protruding stomach. The squad of blue, eleven they were, advanced upon the bawling captive. She wailed an announcement of her pregnancy, but she may as well have been shouting at thunder. The woman screamed. She wrestled her wrists against the silver handcuffs. Eleven officers struggled to take hold of the woman’s body, unaffected by the emotional exhibition. Eleven men were taking hold of one woman’s body. This, at Carnival!

Monday, January 17, 2011


The noises that echoed from the hollow spaces in the back reached around the hall like long fingers and grabbed and wiggled at his ear. Even at the gate where he stood, the words were crisp with enunciation. It was like listening to a radio in the dark; in the wee morning hours when all but one thing in the world was mute. He waited for an acknowledgement that he could carry out his task. He leaned on the wall in his gray suit and something misty was floating around his mind. He overheard his name. He was surprised. Even at the gate where he stood, the name was crisp with enunciation. His name! There was a sudden foreboding rumbling in the deep. He would know before knowing that whatever reached him next would hurt him. And then, the adjective came; it made his spirits fall like cucumbers just sliced by a knife.

Still, the God of the universe had been merciful, for it allowed him to receive this latest destruction in the hallway alone. The God of his imagination had destined that he would have to share this shame with no one.

Amen. He let his head hang for a second in a mood reminiscent of his earlier more vulnerable days, long before his majestic transformation; his evolution into something elegant with a suit and a pricy watch and an expensive cashmere overcoat that fell toward his ankles; Oh how he walked like a king and held his shoulders up, and stood face-front before judges to articulate his phrases - very persuasive. Who could even comprehend the catalogue of mortifications he had already crawled out of? They were always nipping secretly at his heels. There was a quick moment of delirium. Panic. His eyes were searching for a swift solution. And then, it was decided. He would walk to the end of the hallway and return after an introspective intermission. Perhaps, none of this had happened at all. He was his only witness after all. Yes. He buttoned up his jacket and started to walk.