We like to think our doggies have a sixth sense. They sit beside us when we feel under the weather or our spirits hit rock bottom. Their gesture brings us comfort. Truth is, dogs detect scents that escape us ordinary humans. They sniff our physiological changes and go into caring mode. Sometimes they retreat and bark from a distance and we fret that they’re in a bad mood. In reality, they’ve detected a new scent.
So it was with my sister. Her poodle growled and barked angrily when she came home from work. He knew that the cancer had returned.
Not a great way to end 2017. My person, my sister, is running out of options in her battle against metastatic breast cancer. I’ve been expecting it, of course, but it doesn’t diminish the lurch in my gut.
I’ve been sick to my stomach, literally. Is it the flu or the noro-virus that has been rampant across our nation early this winter season? Maybe, but most likely it’s that sixth sense when it comes to my sister. I don’t experience it with anyone else, just her. I feel sick at the same time that she’s going through something and we don’t even live in the same state.
We have not lived in the same state since 1979. She went to live in Pennsylvania while I remained in New York. She returned to New York and I moved to Florida. I returned to New York and she went to New Hampshire. I’m currently in New Jersey and she’s in Florida. But her soul is stuck to mine as if we were twins.
We’re not twins, by the way. She’s my baby sister.
My baby sister has been fighting for her life for 9 years now. And her options have narrowed dramatically. Pain has increased tremendously. And all I can do is sit here numb. Letting my fingers fly across a keyboard to express my wail. The wail I cannot and will not let her hear.
Yokahú overlooks El Yunque, a fertile rainforest in la Isla del Encanto with its own climate and ecosystem. Stand atop the 142-story tower and close your eyes. Listen to waterfalls, rare birds, and tree frogs indigenous to the land. Take in the true scent of green. Open your eyes and witness to the north the Atlantic Ocean lapping Luquillo.
Ave Maria, what horrors befell on September 20th? Winds pulled trees from their roots like a giant picking off lint from its shirt. The brave mountains fought back. They battered the ferocious storm, but not without loss. Mangled trees lie everywhere.
The story held Reader Dan captive. He shook his legs and rotated his neck. He needed to walk away and digest the story line, but the make believe world sucked him in completely. After all, a good story elicits gasps and giggles, tears and white knuckles. Storylines worm their way through brain cells rendering the reader incapable of other activity until the satisfying conclusion. Dan indulged his imagination. He grabbed Popchips and went back to the novel.
Writer Dan, though, died a little at the end of each chapter. He knew full well that he’d never match such excellent standards.
It was the day before my seventh birthday. I was in Puerto Rico where my grandparents watched over me while my mother, far away in New York, delivered my baby brother. The New York landscape exuded grayness with its tall buildings, concrete pavements and elevated trains. Puerto Rico exuded life, its air pregnant with the greenest greens and azure skies. On my seventh birthday, though, trees bowed in every direction and shook their leaves. Midday darkened. Winds howled. Hurricane Faith swept across the island. Today I remember the fear I buried long ago as Hurricane Irma barrels across the Atlantic.
Luz took a deep, long drag. Her eyes fixed on the hanging clock shaped like a cat. It ticked loudly. Deafening, in fact, in the otherwise silent kitchen. Its tail swung with each tick. Its eyes shifted left to right. That was the only truth in the silent kitchen. That, and the smoke in her lungs. She exhaled on the fifteenth tick and imagined the gray smoke formed into the shape of Ana’s lover. His expectant lips partly open. She shuddered and swiped the smoke as if to erase her dark secret. “Ana, hija,” she called out. “It’s getting late.”
Mel stared at her twenty-year-old hands, similar to her mother’s without spots or crinkled skin. She pondered the next big move. Schooling was behind her. So was her steady boyfriend. In other words, everything that tied her to dependence. It was time to step into a fully grown up world and embrace the challenges that lay ahead. She knew two things for sure: that someday she’d buy a house like the one that she grew up in, and that she’d want her own twenty-year-old. The question was how to get there on her own, without the crutches of her past.
It’s the end of July. The sky should be bright blue and the sun shining through the haze formed by rising heat. Yet, clouds swish across the sky pushed by the blowing wind. The tops of surrounding skyscrapers are barely visible through the grayness that shrouds the city. Down below, the streets bustle with the comings and goings of gawking tourists. I wonder if the overwhelming pedestrian and vehicular traffic makes them uneasy. When I travel, I want to spread my arms wide. I want my toes free of pulleys and wheelies that constantly trip passersby in this congested realm.
Miranda’s eyes shifted in confusion. What exactly had played before her? “The whole time?” she asked.
Daniel’s nose poked through the torn silicone mask. His face came into a slow focus; a bashful smile touched his lips.
“The whole time?” she asked again. Her eyes took in the enormity of the events unfolding before her. Did her soon-to-be ex-husband really disguise himself as an elderly matron? Had he passed himself off as a nanny for the past few weeks? The truth sank. Her eyes narrowed to thin daggers which her forehead swallowed. “The whole time?” she spat through gritted teeth.
Elena stood by the doorway. She carried a haughty demeanor with the ease of someone born into old money. Except that she wasn’t, as her mother-in-law pointed out whenever the subject matter of grandchildren surfaced. The old woman spat that Elena was nothing but a barren imitation. Yet, nothing in her posture or poise betrayed Elena’s humble beginnings. Not then, not now.
Elena moved to the windowsill, ears fixed on the monitors. Her gaze settled on a family of four across the hospital’s courtyard, the little girl skipping. She waited for the sound of freedom, the old woman’s last exhale.