I expected rabbits to talk; to be carrot-munching wise guys, waiting for the next pratfall victim. Imagine my disappointment when I first encountered them at my grandparent’s backyard. They were nervous, wild-eyed creatures in wire cages, impossible to hold with thumping back legs. Rabbits were neither Bugs Bunny nor Peter Cottontail. Yet, their thick fur truly was heavenly to the touch. Beautiful whites, browns and every shade between. They smelled bad, though, probably due to the heat and humidity in Puerto Rico. Unlike the fancy church ladies of New York, who wore fur on Sundays, rabbits couldn’t remove their coats.
Captain dug in the front and rear anchors, securing the pontoon in place. As soon as he gave two thumbs up, the gang jumped in. All, that is, except Lily. She hesitated. The water was waist high and looked clean, yet she fixated on the lake’s boggy bottom. She shuddered at the thought of dead sea life mixed in with sand filtering through her toes. Seconds turned into minutes. The sun continued to climb. Soon beads of sweat dripped down her ears and cleavage. The building sweat washed away the phobias. She jumped in and welcomed the refreshingly cool water.
Large black seeds filled the coral flesh of the watermelon. Its juicy scent made Lola’s mouth water. A long time ago, her grandmother had picked an extra-large Calabaza from the squash garden. The extraordinary Calabaza grew on a separate vine. Imagine her grandmother’s surprise when she cut into soft flesh rather than Calabaza’s tough flesh. A sweet treat for the entire family!
Lola pushed aside the black seeds. Most people prefer seedless watermelons, but Lola learned the morning of her grandmother’s discovery that watermelon with black seeds is sweeter and juicier than the seedless type. Give her seeded any time.
The air was so thick that if you were to swing a bat, you would see traces of a make-believe ball suspended in midair. Cousin Olga and I found refuge from the heat beneath the house. Our grandparents’ house was elevated on stilts that served two purposes: to level the house because the terrain was rocky and hilly and to avoid floods from streams that rushed downhill on rainy days. We always found treasure that had fallen through the floor cracks. Small objects such as marbles, balls, combs. We could count on finding lizards, frogs, and stray baby chicks, too.
This summer, two robins formed a nest on the door topper that my brother-in-law had gifted us. A roaring lion head representative of his masonry work. A week after the nesting period, three little beaks appeared, wide opened and silent like the lion. One parent fed feverishly while the other kept vigil. Two weeks went by before we heard the first chirps and the same day, the family flew away.
It has been five years since my brother-in-law left this world. Now the empty nest sits atop the lion topper waiting for new occupants, and we await another heavenly visit.
“Stick out your tongue.” The woman examined Jo’s eyelids then her nails. “You’re a Pitta.”
Jo walked out an hour later with a bag full of herbs. Dermatologists had looked at her face, pricked, injected, and prescribed creams and antibiotics. A year later, the red protrusions persisted. It was time to take a holistic approach to her health.
She tacked the short list of permitted foods on the fridge. The woman said it was the foods she ate and cut out all proteins and processed sugars for a month. Jo said a quick prayer and swallowed the bitter herb tea.
“I’m dying,” I moaned pressing my forehead. I saw the pained look in her eyes.
My mother has buried two of her four children. The first when he was eleven, the second lived to fifty-five. Can a parent discern which death hurt more? The tender child who never got a chance to live a full life, or the one who lived life to the fullest but got bested by cancer? A parent’s grief is insurmountable. She clings to her surviving children like a child to its parent. We keep her grounded especially during fleeting moments when her mind blanks out.
My chart looked crooked. I deleted and began anew, yet horizontal lines curved in. Panic set in for typing is my thing. Plain and simple, my soul flows through my fingertips. Thoughts race too fast for my longhand making it indecipherable. When I learned to type, my handwriting completely withered. Fingers became my lips giving voice to the scrambled thoughts. Now I was facing crooked lines.
I walked away from the screen and refreshed my eyes with drops. I restarted the chart. The lines remained crooked and letters began to disappear. I would later find out AMD compromised my vision.
I had trouble choosing gifts for myself. I lacked a clear identity that I wished to highlight and wanted to diminish my obvious trademarks, such as thick hair that couldn’t hold a ponytail or thick glasses that hid my almond eyes and emphasized my wide nose. My sister, on the other hand, reveled in choosing trinkets. Clips for her smooth hair, sparkly sunglasses, earrings of every length, lip glosses, chunky bracelets. While she chose glittery items at the souvenir shops, I examined maps and travel books. She learned how to enhance her beauty. I learned about the beauty around us.
Her step had an extra pep. Fridays had that effect. But this particular Friday offered more than just a step, it was more like a spring board. She tried to contain the giddiness that oozed from every pore. After all, it’s taboo to revel in other’s misfortune. But the nasty boil at the head of the nation had festered long enough. At long last, Humpty Trumpty’s posse had started to fall. One by one. It was just a matter of time before the head popped, draining the putridness that festered within. At last, the stars had aligned on her birthday.