I Happened in September

As much as I wish time stood still sometimes, it is good news when I make it to another September. Even if it means summer  — my favorite season — will start winding down soon.

Some of the most beautiful things begin to happen in September, too. The whole town blows up in flames; shades of orange, yellow, green, brown, and red paint the streets with the beautiful color of autumn’s maple leaves.

If you were born in September, there’s a chance you are magic.

Continue Reading

Broken Bonds

I parked my car by the blue line. The yellow line meant no parking, so I knew better to keep away. I was looking forward to seeing Aunt Marsala for the first time in forever. Before jumping out of the car, I double-checked that all the windows were up. Beep Beep. I locked the car. Aunt Marsala’s neighborhood looked dilapidated as ever. She had been a victim of life circumstances for far too long.

Once at the top of her doorsteps, I rang the bell and waited outside. Fiddling with my keys, rocking back and forth on my heels, moving my head from side to side in a watchful way… I couldn’t trust neighbors I never met. Besides, it was 95 degrees outside. Why am I wearing a long sleeve shirt precisely today? While I was reviewing my fashion choice, a tall bulky man opened up.

“Oh, hey!” I said. We made eye contact for roughly three seconds as he stuck his head out, as if to see who it was, but then his pupils wandered somewhere else in the distance.

“Um, hi,” he said in the coldest way. The only reason that I knew he was talking to me was because I was the only person standing before him. His voice couldn’t sound more apathetic. The man was my cousin Tito.

“Uh, is aunt Marsala home?”

“She’s somewhere inside.” he said, moving to his right side to let me inside. I walked in and went straight to the kitchen.

Not that I ever had a close familial relationship with Tito, but I remembered better times. Now, my presence annoyed him. Perhaps if I had stayed at the same illiterate level as him he would’ve shown me more attention, like he did to all my other cousins. But I guess I was too “refined” for his taste now. I brushed it off. After that awkward encounter, I couldn’t wait to see Aunt Marsala. I knew she would be glad to see me, unlike some people. I haven’t seen her in months!

Aunt Marsala always had some strange qualities to her that I could never figure out, but she was still more welcoming than other members in the family — and she always invited me to stay for lunch or dinner.

I sat at the kitchen table. Inches from me, was Tito, lying across the tan sofa watching TV. Thankfully, there was someone else in the room to make the air less tense, which moment didn’t last long, anyway, as Aunt Marsala appeared through the backdoor. She was holding a bucket and some scissors. Perhaps she was gardening. She looked strong and healthy, not bad for a 68-year-old.

“Amanda!” she said. She gave me a kiss on the cheek and then hugged me with much affection. “How have you been?” I used to visit her frequently in my teen years. As a grownup, I now have too much to do. I also moved out of town, which made visiting harder.

After giving aunt Marsala a big hug, she held me at arm’s length and studied me with palpable curiosity. My ear-to-ear genuine smile anticipated a joke from my favorite aunt, followed by endearing words. Instead, “Oh my god, your face looks like a balloon, you’ve gained weight, right?” she said. “Don’t let yourself go now!”

I could feel a burning sensation rushing from each side of my nose up to my tear duct. I looked away and blinked swiftly to stop myself before my eyes turned red. I was already battling insecurity issues, it was the last thing I needed to hear. It couldn’t have occurred to her that, maybe, the meds had caused my moon face. She knew I was ill.

Though shaky, my smile didn’t break, at least not on the outside. I stood there with no immediate response to her usual indiscretion, thinking of a hundred other things she could’ve said. I imagined she had a lot of better things to say. After all, she hadn’t seen me in two years.

Finally, I thought of something. “I have to go. I was just driving by and stopped to say hello.” She seemed surprised, but without further explanation I kissed her good-bye, and I left.

I could’ve sat down with her, laughing at the silliest things, like the old times. But that would’ve meant sitting through a potential hour of negative remarks because, when I revisited the memories I was holding on to, I realized that this was typical of her. She rarely ever had anything nice to say. I’d romanticized our past.

She was good to me, in her own ways; gratitude, that’s why I kept in touch. Memories of good times we used to spend and hopes that they could be repeated. Quite frankly, it was not the blood. It couldn’t be the blood anymore. We had grown old.

Continue Reading

White Matter

The town was completely white. Cars, trees, power lines…everything was covered in white. I climbed up the couch by the double window and slid the curtains to the side. Kneeling on the seat, I cross my hands on top of each other under my chin and watch the white matter fall from the sky. It doesn’t stop falling.

No different patterns, no colors, nothing but white when I look up and around. The brick houses in my neighborhood are untouched, except for their roofs. Up there, the white matter does stick. The roof on some of the houses have a very thick layer hanging on for dear life, while others only have some flakes scattered all over the edges.

A squeaky sound disrupts my absorption. I turn my head to the house next door to the left and see Mr. Claude, our neighbor, resurfacing from under his garage door with a shovel in hand. He walks about two feet from the garage to where the white matter is accumulated and he starts clearing the driveway. Mr. Claude is wearing a big black and blue coat and the hood almost covers his whole pale face. He doesn’t notice me staring out the window.

I watch in fascination as my neighbor cleans all the walkable spaces around his house, only to be hit by more and more of the same white bits. Mrs. Claude storms out of the house, running after Gregory — Mr. and Mrs. Claude’s only child. My new mom says he’s hyper than me and my two sisters combined. I thought maybe Gregory was in trouble and that’s why Mrs. Claude was chasing him, but she’s just being playful. They start playing with the white matter and now I’m really tempted to touch it.

“Do you want to go outside, Emma?” says a sweet soft voice. My mom is standing behind me in her pajamas, smiling and holding a cup of…I think tea. I nod enthusiastically at her question. “Okay, let’s go bundle up and wake your sisters!” I can hardly contain my excitement.

I’m bundled up and ready, waiting for Annabelle, my oldest sister, to put on her boots before running downstairs hand in hand. I watched Gregory play with the white matter earlier and, like him, I want to roll some of it into a ball. I finally go outside and step on it; finally, the white matter. I grab a handful. It’s flaky and fluffy and…cold! Just like the wind. My eyes are googling it with intense curiosity.

“It’s snow,” says my new mom, a smile on her face. Snow. Of course. It’s been seven months since I came to this country, but I’ve only seen this in one of the movies Annabelle plays for me a bunch of times a day. I really like Manny and Sid, and Annabelle says it keeps me busy while she studies. And, here it is, the same white matter in front of me. My other sister Liz comes out running and grabs my hand.

“Yay, snow day! Come on, Emma, let’s make a snow angel!”

Snow angel? I don’t know what it is, but my mom seems excited. She steps aside and takes her camera out of her pocket. I think it’s going to be a fun day.

© Marcia Capellán

Continue Reading