Saturday, January 24, 2009

Brushing Away the Dirt, Part 2

This continues a story started in the previous post.

It started after Grandma died. I was 14 and I missed her a lot. She had always been quite the presence in our tiny home - sitting in that corner, sewing our ratty clothes, telling stories about devils or spirits, and cracking dirty jokes. Her husband had been gone some twenty years when I was born, and I think my birth gave her a new, comfortable role to fall into. Not a widow anymore, but a grandmother. We were tied together that way. And when she died, I missed her.

Our crowded house, so loud during the day, dipped into silence at night. A week after we buried Grandma, I crept out. Tiptoed past my brother's bed and through the shared living space. I cracked the light screen door open and slipped out into the warm night.

Although the street wasn't lit, the moon was bright and I easily ran along the side of the road. The cemetery was close and only a few cars flew past me, blazing headlights and screaming merengue.

You know, I've always loved our cemetery. Lush green and red leaves hug the graves, and it seemed like a fitting entrance to Paradise. I wondered how Grandma felt, and I hurried over to her new tombstone.

It was new but already it wasn't shiny. As usual, we'd had rain storms daily, and a few had brought down waves of soil from the cliffs above the graveyard. So her tombstone, like all the others, was dirty. What a shame, I thought. I pulled my nightshirt off my head and used it to wipe the stone clean. I'll admit, it was a bit of a thrill standing there bare-chested in the warm night.

I put my shirt back on and kneeled down to whisper to the gravestone. "I miss you Grandma," was all I could muster, both because I was a kid with not much of a way with words, and because I was trying not to cry. To distract myself, I looked at her name carved, not all that well I'll say, in the stone. The letters were still dirty and so, one by one, I traced my finger inside them, scooping out the grains of island dirt.

When I cleared the 's,' the last letter in her name, again I told my grandma how much I missed her. To my surprise, she answered back.

"Good lord child I've only been gone a week."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Brushing Away the Dirt, Part 1

My name is Maria. Named after the Virgin Mary, of course. She and I don't have much in common, but I like to think we share at least one thing. Mary, virgin mother of Jesus and wife in name - but not body - to Joseph, led a secret life. Her marriage was a sham, if a tender one, and her son was a mystery. She had a different understanding of God from every single one of her neighbors. She, a humble, poor woman, was the mother of God! Yet she couldn't say a thing to anyone. I'd bet even Joseph didn't know much of it, though maybe she whispered in the ear of the infant Jesus. I can't even imagine what that much secrecy felt like. A heavy blanket covering her body? A brick wall dividing her soul? I don't know.

Like Mary, I have a small secret life of my own. It couldn't be any other way, I think. Perhaps it's just the legacy of my name, but I think that everyone should have a secret life. It protects us, keeps some part of our self safe, clean from the scrutiny and insinuations of others. In our secret life, we know what we do is for ourselves, or maybe for God. Now, I don't deceive myself. The presence of a secret life by no means predicates goodness. What are murderers but those who live secret lives? I know the tragedy that such secret manifestation of self can wreck. But that isn't an argument against secret life. People come in all types, and anyone can distort beauty.

But enough philosophizing. It's not like me, usually. Only on this topic. I want to tell you about my secret life, but I can tell I'm delaying the action of turning it over, relinquishing it to the anarchy of others. Still I remind myself, I am about to die, and this secret life will soon be of little use to me. Maybe it will be of use to you, if as entertainment only. And where I come from, we live off entertainment. Sometimes there's not much more to go on.

Continue to Part 2.

Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma