It's raining in Melbourne; my phone informs me that it'll be raining all day. A sudden vibration, word from my mother, informs me that it's raining in Miami. On my side of the globe, it's currently 8:14 AM, Monday, August 1st, and I meant to organize these particular thoughts into prose during my final hours in Miami -- hours that passed into memory and regret, for the best-laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.
My final day in Miami was the 6th of July but it is the morning of the 5th that haunts me so.
By that time, we had already sold most of our possessions and Kathryn had painstakingly organized the items we were leaving behind in my old room at my parents' house while I worked my final two shifts at J. Wakefield Brewery.
By that time, our former landlord had revealed himself to be a snake, compounding the stress of our move by unscrupulously charging us for the final month of rent (which we paid upon signing the lease a year-and-a-half prior) and by truncating our move out date by two days. Two days in the breadth of a life are droplets of water in the ocean but being robbed of those two days meant Kathryn giving up all her final shifts at her job and leaving money on the table, it meant our plans had gone askew, it meant things (for the both of us) went unsaid and undone. We cancelled plans, we painted through the night, slept an hour or two, painted some more, cleaned and then cleaned some more, all so that the new tenants could move in on the first of the month. We finished at around 6:30 PM on the 30th of June -- after deducting $175 from our security deposit for a "deep cleaning" -- he had the new tenants moving in by 8:00 PM on the same night. We felt cheated, abused, and taken advantage of, but ultimately we were elated to rid ourselves of interacting with that duplicitous slime-monger and proud of how we handled that particular bump in the road.
By that time, my parents and brother had completely outdone themselves in the preparation and execution of a phenomenally over-the-top going away party for us. Those of you that made the time to come say goodbye, feast, and imbibe with us, you know what I'm referencing. For those not in attendance, I've read and taught The Great Gatsby too many times to ever attempt to capture the essence of that affair in words -- I very simply lack the talent, after all, comparison is the thief of joy.
By that time, I had spent the majority of the party bouncing from one familial group to another, from genuine blood relatives to blood of my blood, from my Third Floor Hooligans at G. Holmes Braddock to my Brewery Brethren. As I oscillated from one social group to another, I would occasionally come across my parents and brother and even Kathryn and we'd exchange a brief moment. For Papi, it was probably a rub of his belly and a pressing of my cocito to his (not coquito, the Puerto Rican alcoholic beverage, but the name he had given our rather spherical noggins in my youth). For Mami, it was undoubtedly a kiss on the forehead and avoiding eye contact in an attempt to keep her (and admittedly my) tears at bay. For Turi, my brother, it was a wink and a clink of whatever drink occupied our hands. And for Kathryn, it was a widening of my eyes and a raised eyebrow that both asked and promised, "Give me some time with x, y, and z for soon it will be…just you and me."
By that time, we had said our goodbyes to our guests and laid our heads to rest thinking about the time (and indeed there will be time) we will get to spend as a family at the private tea tasting that Kathryn had arranged for us.
Now. The time has come. It is the morning of July 5th and I'm yanked from my dreams and into my most feared waking nightmare by the sound of the bedroom door exploding open. Before I can register the worried look on my mother's face, my consciousness erupts in wide-eyed disbelief as I mouth and motion with my hands, "How do you expect Kathryn to be comfortable (briefly) living here upon our return if you don't respect our privacy?" My gesticulations and anger subsiding as the moisture produced by my blinking brings clarity and focus to the lines on my mother's face. She doesn't have to finish her sentence, "es tu Papa," before I find myself in their bedroom.
My biggest fear regarding our sojourn in Australia -- that the health of one of my parents will fail while I'm over 10,000 miles away -- manifests its grotesque polycephalic visage on the eve of the trip, their demonic snouts ready to suckle on the sweet nectar that oozes from broken dreams.
Trying not to divulge too much personal information that is not my own, my father was diagnosed with what I refer to as "Best Case Scenario Colon Cancer" in 2012. Best case in the sense that the football-sized tumor was removed without any disturbance to his intestinal track and his body was not subjected to a pyrrhic victory in the form of chemotherapy. It was a major ordeal and he still suffers the physical aftershocks from that cataclysm. One of them being the occasional hospitalization stemming from one complication or another of the initial procedure, medical terms aside, he urinates enough blood to disquiet the most hardcore of gore fanatics.
I have chosen to never know the love a parent has for their child, and whatever love I have to give will fall short and selfish of the love my parents have for me. As they readied themselves for another unfortunate trip to the emergency room, they only thought outwardly; my father shouted, “The show must go on!” to Kathryn while she watched, mortified, as my dad got in the car. And go on it did.
Things were not the only aspect left undone; my psyche had fractured. The last image I have of my parents (aside from the most recent tops of their foreheads as they hysterically navigate FaceTime angles) is a sleep deprived mother, her hair a mess from having slept in those terribly uncomfortable hospital room recliners, and my father — the man whom for better or worse was the example of what to be and not be as a man — stoic in his hospital robe. As Kathryn and her parents waited outside room number 457, I bear-hugged my mother and father. To her credit, my mother kept her composure until the door slowly closed behind me. The rusty creak of the hinges interrupted by a guttural breaking of her personal levees, her emotions pouring out into that most sterile of hospital rooms and crashing upon the fountainhead that is my father. I fought every instinct to turn around, I’m well-read enough to know the perils of looking back —
So I left Miami not having said and done all I wanted to do. I never finished my work on the menu board at the brewery’s taproom, I cancelled scheduled phone calls and plans with those closest to me (hurting those on the other end), I failed to take Kathryn back to the first spot where I, in writing, claimed that “The Bear Loves His Maiden Fair.” The time I thought I’d have with my parents post-going-away-party and pre-cross-country-road-trip to our flight in LAX never came, paralyzed by fear I put my pen down and drowned my creative resolve in self-doubt.
That being said, I have failed to write daily, I have failed to read daily. I’ve consumed instead of creating. The ample time I thought I would have wasn’t unjustly taken from me…I’ve had it but I’ve spent it poorly. I, like most, have chosen to give time to pursuits that are less than and in doing so, have made them paramount. I’ve been hesitant to put these particular thoughts into prose because the acknowledgment of my father’s mortality is an acknowledgment of my own fragile mortal coil. But that’s just another excuse, and if presented with legitimate reasons that obstruct my chosen path, I now plan on powering through — how about you?