Jan 14

The final chapter

Chapter 5: Cora

I know death like the rough of my tongue. I have crossed the atlantic on a dinghy, with my six children, meant for five people. I have given birth. I have held my husband in my arms as he said his final word, after being shot in a riot in the streets of our home. I am no stranger to suffering. But now here i am in the nearest hotel to my nursing home, where all my fellow patients are located. Our nursing home has just burnt to the ground. A small thing, a mere candle in the meditation room, caught the cloth and in less then an hour smoke poured from every window. Luckily no one was hurt, but the place where all my belongings and home was, is now gone. Ashes to the wind. They are now coals still so hot I could boil my morning tea over them. My nurse, Amanda Beth, tells me my family is coming to get me. She thinks I may be happy at this but my family are the reason I'm here. They didn't believe in me when I needed trust. they let me down...

My name is Cora, I came to the U.S. to seek asylum 30 years ago. I am Cuban, I am 96 years old. I don't need a wheelchair or a walker, I'm perfectly fine on my own except that I need Amanda Beth is hear. I'm deaf. I have not always been deaf, I lost my hearing back in Cuba in my younger years when a bomb hit my street. Right now we're sitting at a table in the cafe, Amanda Beth signs into my hand. When people see us they assume I'm blind as well as deaf, but no, I just like to be able to look around even when she's signing to me. Across the cafe there are families and loners, one of them is a black girl who is opening a letter. When she reads it, her eyes spill over with joy, I know it was joy... I could tell. just then a couple bursts through the doors, their hair and clothes ruffled and worn. They run to her, she races toward them, and they meet in the middle hugging and crying. That is a family, I think. My family just seems to want me fragile and dead. Amanda Beth guides me to the elevator but I insist on using the cono stairs.

When we reach our room, I settle myself into the baby blue rocking chair. My family calls me zorra, but I don't mind... I think it suits me. Amanda Beth signs to as if I would like my tea, I nod and she kindly brings it to me and signs that she's got to use the bathroom. I rock, sipping my tea, sweet yet earthy. I stare out the window and into the parking lot, living people come and go, cars rush away and back again. A bird in the lot pecks at a- what was that? I look around my room, nothing. Weird... I'm sure as cono someone just signed "hi" into my hand... hmmm, it seems these days my body is an unknown map. A dédalo, a maze winding through my veins. What-? There it is again. Someone or something just signed “ my name is Jane” into my palm. I grab the “hand” before it slips away. It's warm and small, and not really a hand. If you could hold an exhale in your hand it would feel like this. I sign “who are you” into the “hand”. “I'm here to help” the hand signs. “how” I ask through my fingers. “I've come to know about your family issues...” Jane signs. I frown. “They think you weak and deathly, yes?” the hand signs. I sign, “I just want them to want me, it feels like I'm no longer of use to them. I think they want me to die...” there is a pause... and “then teach them how you live.”

Then the hand belonging to Jane goes and I am alone. Teach them how I live? I eat, I drink, I breathe... I write. Ever since I was a young girl, I have written poetry. And I was good! I got awards and won contests. I was a good poet... and I still am. My family doesn't to like being around me, they stay far away, and as I like to say, amor de lejos, amor de pendejos. I decide to write them, “I love you all more then peticor, but I need respect, I want to be loved back...” I pause. I look up to see my own reflection in a mirror. My face looks like a crinkled piece of paper, I look down at my un-crinkled piece of paper with only few words and glance back up at my face so full of words. Now my hands beg for attention, my skin appears to be a wet rag draped over my bones, sagging over my broken body. One you would wash your hands on, but I refuse to be the handkerchief my family and the rest of the world dries their wet, bloody hands on. An excuse for peace.

I suddenly feel something inefable, all poets know that these things happen, there are things in this big world that do not need or want words to their unknown name. Some things do not need words to make themselves heard above the clammer of repetition. I know that feelings are, often, this way. I feel things too, I was once in love, madly, with a man who I watched die in my arms with nothing I could do about it. It is ok to feel ashamed about NOT writing about them, to feel slight failure at the thought that you did not bring a thought into the world. It is so much harder then birthing a child, to labor an unsaid presence of hope to life is a feat not every person can achieve. You are milagro and alma, I leave my unfinished letter as it is because I have an unfinished family. I set a warming but short not on the table for Amanda Beth telling her to not bother looking for me for I am already long gone, but to not worry, I am safe and whole and thanking her for caring and loving me when nobody else wanted to. Where my family failed, Amanda Beth achieved.

Do not let the heart dwell where it is not welcome unless love is possible. I pick up my handbag in it already is a notepad and pencil, and that is all I need. I set out of the hotel, the heavy doors seem lighter then when we first walked in. I feel the sunshine spilt over the ground and onto my face, I stop in the lot and close my eyes, and welcome in the life I have been seeking for 96 years. I walk away from the hotel and into the Vermont wilderness. I may see you all again sometime, because of course, el mundo es un panvelo, and not the one you dry your hands on.

cono - damn
zorra – bitch
dédalo – maze
amor de lejos, amor de pendejos – long distance love is for assholes
peticor – the smell of rain touching the ground
inefable- something that cannot be described in words
milagro – miracle
alma – soul
el mundo es un panvelo – the world is a handkerchief