Friday, May 28, 2010
Ever since I can remember, I've wanted time to fly by. I've wanted to fast forward through all the superfluous moments in my life and just skip right to my wedding....I used to think that's where life really began...but life starts as soon as you say it does. Really. Until recently, I wanted to rush through life, now all I want to do is make it stop, just for a moment. I was going through an old album, looking at photos of my grandmother, her regal beauty showing through the pixels packed together, creating the image. I wrote this piece in Autobiography class. I hope you enjoy.
My grandmother sat me down on the long, L-shaped, white couch in her living room, putting her icy hands on mine. They were cold, but soft as a bed covered in silk. She looked at me and said in Spanish, “I’m going to leave you before your eighteenth birthday. Before your graduation I’ll be gone. I’ll be a memory.” As we looked at each other, my expression turned to horror as I saw her turn into a dark cloud, all the features disappearing from her face, leaving behind a brittle, gray, skeleton; my heart pounding in my head as I tried to run out of her apartment as fast as I could. The last thing I remember is waking up with my head throbbing from pain. My bed was covered with an array of old photographs, some with corners bent and faces fading away, but still harboring the outline of what once was. The smiles were real. The moments were precious; a boat ride, a birthday party, sisters, cousins, friends, a wedding, and another wedding. Frozen in a split second, to produce one happy image, one moment, that can never be replaced. I picked up a studio photograph taken of my grandmother during her years as a professional opera singer. Staring into profoundly expressive eyes, a Mona Lisa smile so delicately draped across her face.
After that, I stopped calling her every day, pretending to be busy with schoolwork when my mother tried to get me to talk to her. When she came over to my house to spend the week, I would try to be the sweet granddaughter she always knew, but I would stiffen at her embrace and robotically answer her questions about what was new in my life. I stopped saying, "I love you” to her, and to anyone else that was close to me. It was the phrase that I just couldn’t bring myself to say anymore. It hurt to say it. It was like forcing out a boulder from my throat. I tried so hard to protect myself, putting up walls, barriers, barricades; no one could seem to knock them down, no matter how much they tried. I tried to protect myself from the pain it would cause me to lose her, or anyone else for that matter. I figured if I didn’t love them, then I wouldn’t suffer as much when they left. If I didn’t have a strong connection with anyone, then I couldn’t lose anything. But then I would somehow get lost in the excitement she created over anything I told her, like my awards in piano and my poems, and would jump to show her my newest purchase, a royal blue dress with sequins, black ballet flats, a diamond necklace. I had this inevitable, magnetic connection towards her, something that kept me wanting more from her, no matter how much I tried to stop it. I wanted to hear her stories of the past, of when she was young and full of joie-de-vive, the constant galas and events she attended tirelessly, each different, more special than the last, the attention she received from everyone around her, the love letters and fan mail. She would tell me that they were the best years of her life.
Now her memory is failing; she asks me the same questions multiple times in one phone conversation, as if she had asked them for the first time. She says “I love you” before we hang up every night, and I stay silent on the other line, and say goodbye, wondering if that was the last time, and I should have said it, but couldn’t if I tried. Once the phone is off, I say it, in my head, wishing that she could get the message as if she could read my mind. All she wants to do is sleep, taking naps during the day for hours at a time, resting her eyes, her body getting more fragile, as her vision and hearing slowly deteriorate, but her poise and grace is not marred. Her head always held up with an air of undeniable pride, walking with delicate, fluid movements, like a dance, almost floating. She’s the one who walks into a room full of people and everyone will stop and stare at her. Even now, people come up to her and compliment her on her elegance, just something about her that people are drawn to. She laughs, throwing her head back, her eyes glittering and starting to tear up. She doesn’t see what they do. She doesn’t see what I do. She is such a huge part of my life, just like she has always been, the only constant force of normalcy and understanding. She has been my protector, my guardian, like a soldier, ready to fight for me, and put herself on the frontline, even if it was against her own daughter. Growing up with a mother whose stress affected everyone in the household, I became very withdrawn as a child. I was outgoing but at home I was always afraid, my room was my paradise, my escape. Her outbursts of anger and rage would come without notice, and most of the time without purpose. I was her stress reliever, a stress ball that she had squeezed too tight and was now afraid of her. I grew up feeling afraid of the very woman who gave life to me, only growing closer to my grandmother, thus strengthening our relationship.
Please don’t take her. Not yet. As I watched her fall asleep on the couch, I saw the bitter gaze of death, lusting and craving to take her away. My grandmother, who was once dubbed the most beautiful woman in Matanzas, Cuba in the newspapers, was falling asleep on my floral couch, hints of a faint snore creeping up her throat, her round belly going up and down, like the ocean tide. She smiled in her sleep and I watched as it faded away slowly, with each breath. I found myself wondering what would happen if she stopped breathing right there. I got nervous and gently shook her awake. She smiled and told me she was just closing her eyes for a bit. A sigh of relief wasn’t enough to relieve me of my worries. When the time would come, would I be ready? Could I ever be ready?
I find myself complaining about how time doesn’t go fast enough. I feel like an old soul stuck in a young girl’s body. I want so desperately to be married, have a big family, seeing my babies run around the house, making trouble, and making me laugh. I think I should already be there, but somehow, somewhere, time must have screwed up. I’m in such a rush to move out and start my own life somewhere, planning out every detail of my future, even though I know most of the plans will fall through in the process. I never took the time to think of what I was heading to. I never really took the second to realize where my life, like all others, is going. The truth is, I’m terrified. The girl that wanted time to go faster now wants it to slow down. The girl wants the impossible.
Sometimes I’ll stare at my reflection in the bathroom mirror when I’m alone, and try to memorize every inch of my face, every line, every curve, every new and visible wrinkle, every blemish, discovering new details I never saw before. I think of how fast the time will go, and before I know it, I will be eighty-six, looking in a mirror, trying to memorize my face at that moment. I don’t want
to forget. I always want to remember what I looked like when I was young, my whole life waiting for me, my future an open field of dreams and desires spread out for me to find them. When I think of growing old I am terrified, on a level that wrinkles cannot reach. I wish I could stay here. Safe, right here, this moment, that seems so sure, so real. What should be the happiest moments of my life are now shrouded by my constant worries. I can barely get through a night out with my close friends without thinking about it being over too soon. I’ll be eating my favorite dish at my favorite restaurant and think it will be just a memory in a few hours. A few minutes. I’ll just remember it, and then forget it. All the fun we had, the words we exchanged, the vows of friendship forever lost with time; corroded, then soon we will all be just a memory. Then eventually forgotten.
When my close relative and mentor passed away in the year 2006, I was a freshman in college. I remember that night my mother called me close to midnight and I was studying for a Psychology exam I had the next day. I picked up the phone and she said hello. From the tone of her voice I knew something was wrong. “He was killed,” my mother said. I was speechless on the other line, just waiting for the details. I couldn’t believe it. My Titanic. Mortality caught up to him, and this time it didn’t pass him by. It grabbed him and took him. I never thought he could go. I always pictured him as untouchable, invincible. But he was gone. Just like that. He had built an empire. He was the greatest man I ever knew. He was a household name…at least in my house, and his presence was strong. He was a very powerful man with everything and anything he wanted. He was my
mentor. I never got to spend much time with him, other than sitting on his knee when I was little, as he bopped me up and down, while trying to have a conversation with my father about business, and while taking small sips of his black Arabic coffee. All I knew was that I wanted to be like him one day. I never got to ask him any of the questions that had been brewing in my mind ever since I was sitting on his knee. I never got to tell him how much I admired him or respected him. I never got to thank him for everything he did for my family and for me. I never got to say goodbye. I couldn’t be there for his memorial, so I sent my mother a poem I wrote and a eulogy that I had written after I found out the news. I poured out everything I was feeling, confusion, sadness, pain and complete shock. I requested they both be read at the memorial. His sister read them. My mother said everyone applauded at the end. His family was very proud.
My grandmother called me once and told me she had been thinking about her death. Where and when it would happen. She felt it could be soon. I told her to stop thinking this way, but I knew I couldn’t convince her. Right now, she’s probably at home, sitting outside on the balcony, the wind blowing in her ears, looking over the ocean, thinking to herself, quietly, silently, wondering if today is the day. I am sitting outside in my backyard, the same wind blowing through my hair, staring blankly the pool, thinking to myself quietly, silently, hoping for my future to hurry, wishing for the impossible.