My shoulder pops when I rotate it. Also my grandmother is dying again. Last time she almost died her house burned down. She just laughed then and described what a soul looks like. My mother always calls me when death is singing shrill and I come down to see my Noni leak a little more out of her tired body. She is still alive and tries to look beautiful with a plastic tube slid down her throat. But her eyes say something in between I love you all, now please let me leave, &, Oh god, I’m scared. What’s going to happen to me? Some days I can’t remember my name. I named her Noni before I could spell my own name. It was a mispronunciation of the Italian word Nona. She tries to smile pretty. I brush her hair from her forehead and kiss her. She used to drive a school bus for handicapped kids. I could listen to her talk to me for hours. I never even had to say a word. It felt like a real grownup conversation. Now we crowd around the hospital room trying to lift her spirit, either toward heaven or the will to live. Her throat is sore and she can’t say my name now. I can’t tell if she remembers it. They had to resuscitate her yesterday. She was probably moments away. She wakes up and winces and I wince.
My mother is a trooper. She’s paints the cabinets cherry. She paints the cabinets white. She paints the smoke show in my mind. She makes me move the furniture. Everything is a matter of fact built on distraction from the inevitable. She is stronger than I hope to be when I watch her die one day. My older brother is more financially stable than me. I’m better at focusing. I can beat him at arm wrestling. Except I can’t. But I’m taller than him.
In reality, I take much longer this year to respond when my mother texts that Noni is dying again. I don’t buy a bus ticket immediately. I am hiding in New York and tell my girlfriend I’ll go for the funeral. Or I’ll call mom tomorrow. I am just like my father, wanting to believe my presence is more trouble than help. My shoulder pops when I open my internet browser. I’m already worried about arthritis.
Today Brett Kavanaugh’s seat on the Supreme Court was confirmed. Also my grandmother died. I’m not sure which is stranger, life or death. I’m not pro-life. When people die we say they pass away. When I was younger my body passed over the railroad tracks that run through Queens, New York and it was an adventure. Today my body passed under them a few blocks from my apartment and it was mundane. One day my ghost will pass straight through them. I’ll walk through walls whenever I want to scare a two-year old. My grandmother’s ghost would never do that. She was the personification of a hummingbird. There were always hummingbirds sipping sugar water from the feeders she put out around her house on Hummingbird Lane. She had figurines of hummingbirds collecting dust on every piece of furniture she owned and now nobody wants these nicknacks. Tylenol was Tomynol. She said words wrong but I liked hers better. She was the most racially tolerant and progressive of all the old folks in my family. And once when my mom asked her as child what would happen if a white and a black person had a baby, grandma said it’d come come out like a zebra. She was super good at Super Mario. Now there’s a fire behind my face and my scalp is all tingly. I still can’t cry but I feel out of my body early. And that is because I’m staring at her corpse.