Thousands have lived without love, not one without water.
W. H. AUDEN
Do you know the words that make the hidden door open?
Can you speak my secret name and fix me?
I have no heart, I have no brain
Lord I have no courage
Can you get me home again?
Could never be heaven without you
Could never be heaven without you
Never be heaven without you
Brand New, "Could Never Be Heaven"
JACK, A JACARANDA TREE: I discovered a secret as I was contemplating what lies beneath my bed of living soil. I discovered it beneath my gnarled roots these soggy feet and tangled toes, deep inside my muddy veins. You wouldn't believe me if I told you. Oh, I'll tell you anyway. Ah, the secret of course...get closer a bit, before this my thought runs away with the wind: love is real. You're not surprised, ey? Did you think I had some deeper secret to tell? What's that? You think I'm simple, silly, oh crazy? Sure I am. Look, this thing called Love that you humans eat, sleep, dream of and die for... it's not unattainable, or fantasy; it's a complete possibility.
I am blessed, yes so I've been blessed by El Olam. Yet...how can I say this? I also feel say cursed; blessed because I have a loving home, cursed because I'm immobile to a certain extent; also have got no choice but to be intrusive. Alright, I'll actually admit it; I can't help myself.
There's a couple living on the other side of my window - my mirror and pillow; my life goes on reflecting in billows. My green hair, in reality, I'm not as young - auburn leaves shiver in the soft fingers of the wind. Alondra and Estéfano are my daily coffee and bread. But I yearn to be flesh, to have fingers instead of stale branches. I would like to have blood, instead of sap. This is my fate though, why should I complain about that which was chosen by El Elyon for me: my cross in life - who am I to not carry it?
1 The Bleeding Jacaranda
We all have a tree inside of us. Finding it is just a matter of time. Sahar Delijani, Children of the Jacaranda Tree
"If you're gonna let me down, let me down gently
Don't pretend that you don't want me
Our love ain't water under the bridge
If you're gonna let me down, let me down gently
Don't pretend that you don't want me
Our love ain't water under the bridge"
Adele, "Water Under the Bridge"
ESTEFANO: I dreamt a couple drops of water were falling from a purple tree in a forest onto my head, this morning I woke up cold, but last night, I drifted into dreams and entered instead a sandy world. There were bullets hidden in soda cans in a hollowed out, fallen log - it was the body of a Jacaranda. At the end of a dreary tunnel shone a light like water and a river opened to the sea. I saw myself aged two, dirty making cakes of mud, then all of a sudden I grew up to find the girl of my dreams walking along the white sands. It wasn't my Alondra. No, she was different - reckless, wild, with large eyes like a blinking doll. We were about to...and we did. I felt I was melting, though. She was strange, and I felt absurd about what I had just done; I lifted my head to find the river, wishing to run back fly away home, away from this ghostly dream of a girl. I could see as I looked into her eyes through a vision that I could read everything in her: she is a book of calligraphy blurred, what is written? Do not enter, you will not remember the way out. Love is a game to her. I woke up with a bleeding nose.
The next morning, I jolted and had woken up with the urge. No, amor, my woman Alondra complained faintly and rejected my hand on her thigh. I insisted. My lips opened and closed, a pouty fish pressed against her slightly fuzzy back. She pulled away. I reproached her. You don't desire me anymore. I'm sleepy, she said. I relented and turned. Minutes passed. I had to go. Someone's got to work, I said. I was sliding my work pants on and buttoning my shirt on my way out.
I drive a shuttle, carrying the mentally unstable. I get along better with these people than I do with anyone else in the world. I play no music on the radio for them. Instead, we talk. We have the best conversations ever. I sometimes feel like the doctor, the therapist, the parent. The people I drive, they are so vibrant compared to what you may call "normal" people! Take Davey Angel: he is anemic, with bouts of depression. He's the deepest guy I've ever met. He does believe in love at first sight, yet not in one night stands. And this - I admire in the guy: how he is taking responsibility for his mental health, unlike most men his age - who in denial that they have depression prefer to drown out their mental health woes with alcohol or drugs; Davey doesn't, he trusts his doctor and meds.
Then there’s Anna - Dios mío - the psychiatric patient with the juiciest lips I’ve seen. The moment I saw her, I immediately felt a deep connection with, a deja-vu if you will.
I go to work, and Alondra leaves the girls at school. But sometimes, I don't work. Anna and I get away from the world again, at a cheap motel, on the way to her doctor's appointment. Anna doesn't mind the harshly starched sheets, the white walls, or the lack of champagne. And I like that about her, the fact that she doesn't mind. I also like her small breasts and small waistline. She is bipolar. I like her because she has a love for life that in my opinion seems to surpass Alondra's. I think about this as we cuddle in bed. "I love being with you. You know that, right?" I hold Anna's face and peck her nose. She turns her sad face aside and says, Pero no soy la Mujer de tu vida. Her words echo in my heart: But I am not the woman of your life. I feel like a jerk because I know it's true. Anna, I never promised you a rose garden! Isn't that the title of a book, baby? she responds, sitting up in bed. Yes, it is, you're right! Then Anna adds as if ignited by an idea, How about a rose, a single rose? Fuck, I don't need an entire garden. I just need you! I change the subject on her, Anna, let's just live the moment alright, that's all we have? Just live the moment, her face crumples in disgust. Anna rises from the disheveled bed to change into her skinny jeans. Without her underwear, she dons her stockings, her black boots, her blouse without a bra. She stuffs what she's not wearing in her black purse. Her face tightens, and in a quiet voice she snarls, Forget me, you fucker! Anna, I say. I want to show that I care about her, but I don't insist on pursuing her.
ALONDRA: I am chopping pepperoni, mushroom, and sprinkle shredded mozzarella, garlic, plus a pinch of oregano over the sauce and dough. It is supposed to be a pizza, my first, for my girls and my boyfriend. Incredible right, a thirty-year old woman making a pizza the first time. My mother raised me always cooking everything for me and my brother. I sort of resent the fact she never instilled in me the love for the art of cooking, yet there's still time.
Outside, raindrops are popping on the metal awning and I love the sound. I have just realized through the kitchen window - besides the gray sky - a puddle has formed around my forgotten pink stilettos outside stuck in the meat of the mud. I kicked them off that one night weeks ago, Estéfano and I had returned from a party, and I was tired of walking up high.
I placed the pizza in the oven and remove my yellow and pink apron feeling phony. Gotta cut me some slack. I open the front doors of my house; without an umbrella – I rush to retrieve my high heels before they get ruined. I go down the middle cement path, and as I step in the mud in flip flops, Estéfano has embraced me so that I don't fall in the cloying mess.
"Leave them there. I'll buy new ones," my love said.
We smiled in silence, and he carried me to our room.
The pizza will burn, mi amor, I protested upstairs. I know. He kissed my neck. Alright, just because the girls need to eat. Let's go.
Morning has come, I slide off our cal-king sized bed, and now shuffle through envelopes - bills with poetry and numbers scrawled. It is a brand new day in my City of South Los Crazy Angeles. My desk is next to the wall opposite our bed in the room, where the tree outside seems to be gazing in through sliding doors. The Jacaranda warms my space and enlightens my life in the day, but at night, I must admit I sometimes am frightened by the shadows it casts.
I hold a pen and write standing up, hunched over the white desk, hit by an idea for a poem. Niño, de mi Corazón - ¿quién soy yo sin ti? Mi niño, mi niño, mi niño - casi. Little boy of my heart, who am I without you? My boy, my child, my little boy - almost. I finish scrawling the last word. Estéfano moans and falls back to sleep after sleep talking. Going, I promise. Amor, I'm sorry. I already miss you! See? I tuck my leg between his legs, and kissed his nose. I feel his back, which is far softer than mine. Que quieres, he protests this time. Oh, so that's how it's going to be? He's just hurt from the day before yesterday when I rejected his hand on my thigh.
I am Estefano's princesa, yet we have two more princesses. One is eight, her name Cecilia, named after the Saint, and Estefani is five, and obviously named after her Dad.
2 We Will Live Forever
I think Heaven will be like a first kiss.
Sarah Addison Allen,The Sugar Queen"If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
'Til eternity passes away
Just to spend them with youIf I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then,
Again, I would spend them with you"Jim Croce, "Time in a Bottle"
JACK: I am eavesdropping on Alondra sitting at her desk. Here is what she is thinking as she writes it down on paper, listen: "Find a babysitter for the girls. Get a job. Write poetry. Visit the dentist again. Save money. Make time for reading and painting with the girls again. Need new shoes. A new summer dress. Cute underwear. Hey, why don't I desire Estefano?" Here she stops. My leaves slowly sway, it is twilight, I yawn slowly drifting to sleep, hoping to dream with Alondra.
ALONDRA: I sit at the dining table, and scoot my chair closer to the table; my two girls do the same. Estefani - my five-year-old who is wise beyond her years says, Mommy, I know you and Daddy won't live forever. With ham and eggs in my mouth, I swallow quick and say, Who told you that? Cecilia says we won't know when, but I know some time that you will go away forever. I put my fork down.
Cecilia! Why would you say something like that to your sister?
Cecilia's response is to bolt from the table into the other room.
I follow her and find her hiding in my king-sized bed.
Sorry Mom, I didn't mean to do it. Sorry, Stef.
Stef quietly sniffles. Mommy! She whimpers
Shh..Está bien, está bien Stefi
I'm not going anywhere. I pat her and try to ease her fears. I'm right here, you see?
Look, listen to me: and I kneel in front of Stef holding her, Pápi loves you too, too much. He won't die not until God wants to take him.
God's going to take him...where Mommy?
I pause, and choose to say the following: to heaven. (I couldn’t believe myself, saying all this, when I’m not sure of anything at the moment, least of all what heaven is.)
And what's heaven, Mommy?
It's, let me see how do I explain this, it's a place full of...pretty clouds and rainbows, sun and laughter. We will meet Jesus and our Guardian Angel.
Who is Jesus, Mommy?
You don't remember Jesus, Stef, Cecilia asks.
Jesus is...the Son of God.
Look, Stefi, in this beautiful place called Heaven we will live forever-and-ever-and-ever! Nothing to worry about, see? Nobody's dying." At least not today.
It is evening now and we all lay in bed together.
How did you meet our Pápi? Cecilia asks as she holds her face.
I smile as I reflect back on that old memory.
We fell in love at the bakery. Isn't that sweet?
Oh yes, that's pretty, pretty darn sweet.
That's how I want to meet my boyfriend one day! Little Stefi adds.
I continue to muse, delighting in teasing the girls. He fell in love with me when he tasted some cookies - cookies that I made for him!
That's how I want to make my boyfriend fall in love with me one day, Cecilia giggles.
He fell in love with me, too, because I gave him the best hugs and kisses, I add winking.
They asked me how I felt when I gave him that first hug, and that first kiss.
I considered the question a moment.
Hmmm... I think I felt giggly and had butterflies!
Cecilia's joy shows in her face, That's how I want to feel when I get my first kiss!
Stefi asks, incredulous. You really had real butterflies?
Of course, she doesn't understand the metaphor.
How could I have real butterflies? I respond with a laugh. If I had, though, I'm sure your Pápi would've caught one for me if I had wanted him to.
I climb out of bed, stroll over to the bathroom - where I shed a tear in front of the mirror. I control myself and decide to take my pills.
Do you love our Papi? Cecilia asks.
I nod blinking tears back and say, Yeah.
ALONDRA: Mommy, how was I born? Little Stefi asks. The sweetest days in my entire life were the days you girls were born. Time completely stopped for me - the moments I held each one of you close. Eight years ago, Ceci was born, I had seen her in my dreams crawling, calling me Mommy. Stefi was ten pounds of curiosity, eleven ounces of melodies.
Your Papi sang for both of you, each unique day, he crowned you with a melody. To Ceci, he sang, "Time in a Bottle" in the sweetest voice a father could have. To Stefi he sang, "Isn't She Lovely." He was in love with his babies those moments. Time completely stopped for him. He wept. Then Ceci asked, He was that happy, Mom, Papi cried?
Yes, he did, amor. Your Pápi, he loves you both so, so much. His life is a melody because of you two. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine we'd have the sweetest, most beautiful, and most intelligent girls in all the world. And here you are today. I paused and noticed the shadows beginning to rise on the trunk of the Jacaranda tree outside. Hold on, what time is it, baby? I ask Cecilia, who has a pink watch on.
She looks at it inwardly counting. It's 5:22, Mommy. Pápi should be here!
And so he was. Baby! Estefano runs to meet Stefi's arms, then to Ceci, and then to me. I start to cry.
He looks confused. Qué pasó! What is it?
I respond, collectedly, and breathe. I just told your daughters the story today...the story of how we met, and how they were born. How you sang a melody for each of them, in the hospital.
Estéfano smiles at the memory. It was always my dream to have two little girls, a baby boy, and a beautiful wife. And dreams do come true! He kisses my forehead and adds, I just need my little boy.