I imagine she accosts me at night, in her playful, joking way: Come sleep with me! I have missed you.
She is a small, gray-haired woman with the brightest, sea-like eyes. Her hair is muted, but it glows in the night, reflects the moon, reflects the sun. Her skin is dried up, like an exposed apple. I am every age I ever was with her. She tells me she loves me. She holds my hand. She moves toward my hair and says: It’s short again, you’ve always liked it short. She lies on the bed, and she can’t move. She stands and is looking out the window. Her hand is no longer fierce, no longer a fire, no longer raised to warn me, to tell me: Please, anak, act like a lady. She does not look at me when she says: You left me. No, she does look at me, her eyes still illuminating. But she does not frown. She relents, and then she turns to my husband: You took her away from me! She laughs, and does not stop. He is here and he is gone again. Is he at sea? She asks me. She shakes her head, in violence: This is not good. This is not good.
I am nine again. She dresses me in long pajamas that cover my arms, legs, neck, and then I am sixteen, she buys me a black gown that looks like a conservative glove. I am swallowed in black from head-to-toe. You look so beautiful, she says. She always elongated the full. You look so beau-ti-fullllll. She is 80 and then 90, she is 20 and she is dashing with long, black hair that reaches her hips and she commands the air with just a tone, a voice, her white zoot suit, her red, disarming smile. She tells me I am no longer a ghost. She tells me she has been waiting so long. She tells me the world has stopped spinning. She tells me one day, heaven will become earth again. She tells me this, that, and points to the sun, the sea, and we walk along a beach with nowhere to return.
I am missing her, like the rain or the ocean that curls back into its existence.
I am, I want to be, the rain, I want to be the ocean, just so I could say back to her: I am home now.
I want to yell: I have never left you.
But she would laugh and look at me with such doubt: Leaving? You had to leave. I told you to. You were a fire, you were my fire who would never go out. You need the world, and it needs you, just like I needed you.
She would not touch me or weep. She clasps her hands on her chest. She does not beat it. She does not cry out for God. She lays her head on my shoulder. We do not say a word. There is no loudness.
With her, any rage was of consequence.
I am 20 again, leaving for the university in downtown Los Angeles, the first one in my familia to do so. She waves on the doorstep despite the fact I am still packing. I walk back and forth from the blue house on Neptune Avenue to the car. She keeps waving. I keep walking back and forth, carrying boxes after boxes, shoes, clothes, everything I had ever owned. She never stops waving. She was always waving good-bye to me. I knew you would leave, she does not weep. I didn’t give birth to you, she doesn’t continue. She keeps waving, she can’t stop. I don’t want to leave. I leave. I return. I rarely return. Years pass and I disappear like a ghost, always wandering.
But at night, when I walk home alone on darkened streets, I feel a soul behind me. I turn and there is only more blackness. I look forward and the limelights crowd my mind. I keep walking. I keep walking. I hear her voice: I am near you. I return home, in cities where I am only passing through. I am near you, she says. I keep walking. I wave to a lonely lamppost. I walk up to my apartment. I open the door, open to the door to emptiness. I place my bags down and sit on the bed. I wave to the lonely window. I say: Hello, window, I am home now. And I can hear her voice reply back: I am near you. I feel a hand on my shoulder. Sleep now, anak. Sleep now, child. Sleep beside me, sleep with your old lola, I am always, always, always here. I keep waving. I keep waving until I enter the darkness, enter the realm of sleep, enter and am no longer alone, no longer searching, no longer reaching for home.