it means “to rot”

brace. inhale.



“Hi, girly. It’s Mema. How’re you doing?”


“Fine. How are you?”

she’s ‘okay.’

“I’m okay.”

every beat –

“That’s good.”

no miss.

“I heard you were leaving.”

we’ve been over this

“Yeah, I’m going to California.”

many times.


eyelids close in a wrinkle.

“San Diego.”

forehead grazing forearm grazing wall. spine arched.


peek: silently counting tiles on the floor.

“June 4th.”

beige, beiger, beigest…

“Your birthday?!”

eyes climb the wall.


she remembers.

“Do you know anyone there?”

sharp inhale, not mine.

“For how long?”

no: a choke.

“I’m going with a friend. For a week.”

quiet, slow, shallow on the other end.

“I –”


“I thought you were leaving forever. alone.”

between each word I hear water.

“No. I’ll be back…”

she speaks in jagged ebbs and flows.

“I thought you were leaving forever.”

Years ago – some time while I was still in high school – I had a dream. I was in a grocery store. I could see the air: it was the color of the bastard child of grey and blue – thick, but everything was visible. I walked, and down one of the isles was my Mema. She was staring blankly at a shelf. I felt an unsettling presence, so I walked toward her and every I took toward her triggered skeletons to encroach us. The skeletons’ bones clinked together, but she didn’t hear anything. She didn’t register my fear. She just stared.

I said, “Mema, we have to go. We can’t stay here. Don’t you see what’s going on?” she saw me, but didn’t answer.

“Do you know where you are?” she recognized me, but didn’t answer.

A connection had been lost. her eyes… She was aloof, somewhere else. I-

I held her shoulders and tried to lock her eyes with mine,”Mema…” but she just kept staring: past the shelf, through the shelf…

I couldn’t save her.

I hid and looked at her from my place of refuge. she continued to stare. stare and stare.

on the phone, I heard that stare. I heard it

in between”leaving forever.”


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