I’ve been meaning to write about my uncle. The one that died. The one who was serving three life sentences. The one I visited in Butner, North Carolina last year. I’ve been meaning to write about him but I’ve been waiting for him to come into my dreams. I’ve been waiting for him to tell me stories. He hadn’t until early this morning. After Fajr, after my husband went to work I went back to sleep and dreamt the most vivid dreams. Of my aunts and cousins, of me trying to find clothes to wear so I wouldn’t be naked in the street, of Pakistani women wondering if we were trying to apply to be substitute teachers. We said, no. We didn’t say no, we’re here so we can get permission to see my cousin in jail. We said, no, and they smiled.
My Madrina was happy in this dream. She looked young and wore a wig like she did in the 70s. She was going to work for my cousin, not her daughter, my other aunt’s daughter. She was going to take people’s blood pressure with the same stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer that my mami used during my childhood. It was blue, she was full of smiles. It is close to a year since my cousin has died, my Madrina’s son. Time flies.
In this dream I took my Tía Marilu to an altar, one for San Lazaro. She slipped a note and she cried. There was green all around, candles and food. I stood outside the curtain of the altar and wondered if the note was really to God and not San Lazaro. My Tía Marilu doesn’t have an altar and went to one in a building near the state office where we were trying to get permission to see my cousin in jail. In real life my cousin isn’t in jail. He hasn’t been for a long time. Now he’s married to a woman named, Angela. What’s her name again, I asked him. She’s my angel, he said, she saved me. Angela, I remember it now.
Somewhere in my dream between my Madrina being happy and the Pakistani women wondering if we want to be substitute teachers my mami told me that my uncle died. And I broke down and cried. I cried wearing a trench coat that wasn’t mine because I couldn’t find the clothes I walked into my dream wearing. I cried and woke up realizing that I haven’t written about him yet. Haven’t written about the moment we passed by Butner, North Carolina while on tour in October. My heart felt a pang, my eyes wanted to water but couldn’t. There was gay boy club music playing, my travel companions talking and me in the passenger seat looking out the window remembering visiting my uncle, remembering his laugh, his rough voice, remembering that even though I understand death it still hurts to feel someone pass on.
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I am sitting in a café in a town that has 311 people. I am up north with my husband. He is at work and I am finally working, writing, over a café au lait and a canteen of water. It is quiet here. I no longer sleep with ear plugs, no longer need to wear an eye mask. I sleep. I had been trying to write everyday. Two paragraphs and I would get bored. I found my writing to be so awful that I couldn’t even save it. I tried to find inspiration in the trees, the robins outside, the sounds of the roosters. But I couldn’t. I needed people around me. I used to want a quite place to write, so I could write for hours but it has become difficult and then I am hard on myself for wasting this time. But I am not wasting just learning about myself more, learning about this world and how everything works.
My husband took me to this café last night. A date over tea and hot cocoa. There was music playing and chatter, I needed that. I needed the chatter to fill me. We went home and he played me songs on his guitar. Such a sweet man. Music filled me as much as the chatter. I want to learn how to play an instrument or I need to paint. Like I used to. Paint murals on big walls. Long strokes, bright colors, stories off paper, off blogs, out of my mind. Sometimes I need more to write. Not just a quite place, not just the chatter, colors flowing in notes and brushstrokes.
This mornings I woke up to vivid dreams and words. These words no longer want to be in my head but want to be written. On paper, on this Mac. All of these words and I still haven’t really written about my uncle.
I must do this in private. I want to write more than life under three life sentences. But that is what I remember the most: his years in prison, his years in solitary confinement, his calls every month when he could. He made me smile each time and made me cry even more. I want to write about his heart. His beautiful heart. I want to write about that.