After the leaves fell over the courtyard, I saw you coming. Potholes heavy
with bouncing sparrows became heart-throb. Every butterfly whirring, every
puppy pulling skeins of tossed cloth was a blessing. Near hoarfrost I stared at
your photograph; my lips kissed the masculine air. On my patio of dead
roses, through stunned sky, beyond detonated stars, through your tutelary
angels, from a world outside myself, you came toward me. No longer
a famished woman, you came like a bedraggled bee, alive and full of honey.
August 31, 2020
Here he is, unlaced, eyeless, my husband all pus and blistered lips, almost baby-like, veiled in a pale-blue polo shirt, frayed Wranglers, and the brown Sketchers I’d bought him. His hair, a feral chocolate headdress, a womb for him to hide in—I was his womb once.
His voice, pushing through the door, hit like morphine dripping through me, until my heart opened, until I forgot my own name, my own anger, until I would do anything to change him back to himself, that body and soul of his sweet self, as it used to rollick all over me like honey.
I guess that a cacodemon lives inside his marrow. As he always knocks–so caballero, this knock, so savage and desperado, as if he’s measuring the seconds it takes me to stumble to the locked door worries me.
He wants to see me so fervently, as if the moments he stands in the fluorescent hall are the heat and ache he is wrapped in.
This can be beautiful.
But it isn’t. My man blew himself wide open two years ago, to bazooka bebe berry bing; so we live separately, but in the same building. Which makes my husband un hombre triste—a sad man.
My man began to spasm, on his high, like some flightless ostrich finding her eggs among others. My man began to smell like glue and paste and shit. Hear the rasp of his call for more Yahoo, a throat yell like a green frog. He walks right by other crackheads who float right into each other, but not my husband. He’s stepping, for a moment, into a candy store with an old-fashioned fountain and red stools— The gamy kiss of crack began in the spring, in his averted eyes, a pungent and noisome smell oozing out of him.
I hear crackling in his black magic; I hear a swish when he speaks coming from his dry mouth. The old morning of love has become unearthly. He’s a replica, a faker, an imposter, ghostly; he’s still my man, yet an alembic.
Oh, Jose, the aroma of rubber indicates you. From your eyes fall crumbs of dirt, falls time; our world is ruined. Night sips at you; it nips at the blood-blossom pain in your heart. Crack will do that. Morning drains your face to hollows and snowy white.
There he stands, eyes tearing, a hand reaching for my body. The sight of him latches a lock over my body, just as I want to reach out to him. As if I’ve entered some intoxicating darkness, and my hand won’t reach through a veil of mist. I’ve been told that each human goes alone in the darkness, even if there’s nowhere to go or to be. That was why I loved my husband so—he picked me up, under my arms, and threw me right out of the darkness.
As he came in the door, it dawned on me how much he resembled a little boy, or a vessel–a beautiful piece of pottery made only for me. A handsome man, gone lined-paper skinny, his cheekbones sunken like caves–but still beautiful. A man who’d lured me with two dozen lavender roses, two packs of cigarettes, and a sundress, all within the first day of meeting him. My thighs are warm. But my voice is non-existent. Is this what happens when disbelief comes calling? Help me—let me tell you how much I love you—let me tell you: don’t go.
I had no voice.
And maybe I couldn’t speak because my brain died—it’s hard for a woman to believe her man is homeless after watching him diving in freefall, one of those birds who do not alight—my voice may have soothed him—I might’ve told him: eres mi hombre precioso. Your eyes hold the sweetest soul, gone to the vibration of imprisoned crack addiction, and I could still help you because when you found me, my life was no longer delayed; you were such a brave and loving bird. The world stood sturdy, and I bloomed.
I had no voice.
His deer eyes open like maps. He rests his dirty fingers on my breasts, traces the bone there. When he says that he loves me, he wants to say: Don’t let me go. Say something sweet. I know you want to.
Baby, I’m going. To Greenville. I’ll start over; I’ll come for you. I’ll call you when I get there.
He’d be so lonely, he’d call me in an hour of getting there and beg me to send the neighbor who drove him, to bring him home to me. My puppy.
We used to love like animals. We were flower parts, opening quickly, taking our faces and showing them only to each other; shivering muscles of love.
All he said to me: I love you, baby. Don’t forget: I’ll get settled. I’ll send for you.
Then he pulled out a piece of lined paper. Words written in his left-handed script jumped at me. He read from the paper:
It’s the pain inside your beauty.
It’s the shape of your beauty.
It’s the soft silk of your skin that your beauty is in.
Not to worry. This day will be like all days.
My man. My poet. My lover. My giver of dresses and fragrance. My crackhead.
Just as he was about to walk down the hall, he stopped, grabbed my shoulders, and he said:
Just to give me a good vision, baby— do that Sleeping Beauty dance. It calms me.
I had no idea. It’s called Brisé volé. Broken and flying.
Mysterious city moon. My husband goes outside to get air. “I’ll be back in the morning to say good-bye, and to hug you to the sky.” I could’ve begged him not to go. I could’ve explained that he should stay and fight the eviction in court. City night. He bops around the parking lot, unaware I’m watching. Was I evil for not going up to him and hugging him hard to my breasts? Don’t go, please. We love! I only watched. I will always hate myself for that. I could’ve run my fingers through his wild curly hair, wiped his dirty face. I could have gotten lost in his hypnotic eyes. I could’ve swallowed him right up.
A husband who goes gone is a manifestation of sorrow.
Hot sultry city night. Violin moon. I won’t sleep calmly again. Cruel moon.
I watched him walk and walk. I went inside. I am cruel, and I pay.
August 31, 2020 ~ 5:09 p.m.
I’m listening, but not to any words. His breath—gurgling and no words. My mind hurts; I can’t form a thought. I call his name over and over—Jose! I carry muted sounds in my ears—homeless druggies asking for cigarettes, macho men dragging their cars, almost crashing, screeching tires, sirens, a city bus—a guy with a ripped shirt and almost crotchless jeans tries to sneak up on me. Hey chickie baby! My teeth hurt. No words. No Jose. Gurgling.
~~ ~~ ~~
My husband, he’s choking. He may be dying.
What does he look like?
I want to file a missing person’s report.
5’7”. Light-skinned Hispanic. Puerto Rican. Gorgeous chocolate brown hair growing wild. A skimpy heart tattoo on his chest barely covering a large surgical scar. He was wearing a light blue polo shirt, jeans, and brown Sketchers. He had a blue carryall bag. He smokes Newports. He needs medication. Oh, please, please find him. I need him. He needs me; he’s sick, drug sick and he’s schizophrenic.
Yes, highly functioning. Extremely intelligent. Hurry, his breath is about to close. Or it already did.
Forty minutes later: a callback. We can’t find him. We checked the homeless camps. Didn’t see anyone Spanish, and a Spanish would’ve been noticeable.
August 31, 2020 ~ about 7:30 p.m.
The sun stays late, draws afternoon into a new longing for lingering summer, pretty light where it’s a surprise there is light, no reason to go inside, not with the scent of wildflowers growing rough, a kind of pink beneath heaven. Not without my Jose.
As the sun spun selfishly out from the bus stop, a homeless man, snot-covered and gray, stepped on dead pansies, a bird shot down to cement like a dart of dark fate. Night came undulating, scraping. When I paced in front of the bus stop, covered in discarded needles, beer cans, turquoise thongs, I found a row of dimes—twenty of them, and I picked them up. Birds cooed, went missing. A book I’d read said that if your man’s fallen off this earth, and dimes appear, he’s speaking. He’s telling you: don’t cry, baby. I’m gone. I’m still with you.
Fear unlocked slowly, too slowly—my body couldn’t comprehend—slowly, slowly, as if I were being opened and closed—slowly, as if I’d been in a fogged dream. Slowly, as if I were walking through gossamer veils, or that I was a gossamer veil. With a groan rising up from my belly, I cried out at the bus stop; not one soul said one thing.
I remember my mother had no soul. Our perfect peach house stood in a pretty suburban Long Island neighborhood. Roses and porches and other mothers, who were proud of their souls, were the contrast. Don’t get yourself anywhere near a boy, or I’ll kill you. My interest and desire didn’t wane from her threat; my heart bubbled up like a cantaloupe splayed open and naked. Women don’t need wings. That voice.
Then came Jose.
Rapture had rushed through me like languorous therapy; my body encompassed the universe.
Hot were his lips, how hot were his lips, how heavenly was my husband.
All of 2020
There’s never a sighting, not of nightingales, not sweet bones of children, not of Jose.
Does he have a snake tattoo?
No. Could you alert the media—TV and newspapers? It’s been over two months.
Right. I can’t call anymore. I have Covid. I will text.
Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk to you.
A smashed stone angel, with its head almost decapitated, is thrown into the weedy grass on the side of the building where I smoke. I swear I saw Jose’s wild hair. I swear.
The last person he spoke to, besides you, was a known drug dealer. I had one of my detectives go see him—he’s in jail now. He said your husband wanted to buy a car.
The dealer was lying. My husband has no license. He’s homeless! He was choking on the phone!
Maybe he just doesn’t want to talk to you.
He’s never touched his bank account! Not one dime!
~~ ~~ ~~
He never came back.
At first only the yellow light illuminating the courtyard’s flowers catches my eye, then the moon stares, bigger than ten women’s heads. A breeze, or a breath, brushes my face. There is the sweet scent of candied fire—Axe body spray for men, and mint smoke—Newports?
~~ ~~ ~~
I opened the shiny cobalt mirror he’d bought me—because I love you, why else? —and painted my lips Eau Exuberant. I sat on my bed, on the pink flowered sheets, and saw a glut of ants at the edge of my coffee cup. Little chocolate sprinkles scampering, so I sprayed them. One minute alive. One minute dead. A minute before, I’d been drinking my coffee, and they weren’t there; I’d left the cup sitting for only a moment, so I could adjust my head; I’d just put it on.
Sitting on my patio, like a dancer gone knotted marionette, the pieces of my tongue holler; I can and won’t love again. No longer. Take my heart and throw it to the crows; my memory of my husband ties me up inside like an untamed vacuum cleaner cord, or a ready-projectile, in this heavy night eating up all the rhododendron, eating up all limbs.
All that’s moved me on this earth, soul-plunged, came from my husband, a mountain of love before drugs controlled his map. Of his talent to erase my girlhood and make me a new girl late in life; he was flesh and joy, and he de-aged me. He was my skin, and my skin now erupts in rage and sorrow. Day and nighttime cicatrix on my aortal throb, cement in my knees, love letters and poems hidden in the bookcase. I could be a bird now; what would it matter? No need of house or bed–just fly me away in the hands of the void.
A smashed stone angel appears on my terrace.Photo by Honey Yanibel Minaya Cruz on Unsplash