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."

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Princess Nijma

Princess Nijma