Sweltering in sheets
Night is thirst, betrayal, fear
I pray for the dawn
It’s autumn but the sweat pours off me. I have the odd mix of the air conditioner on low and the adjacent window wide open. I’m hoping for the perfect mix. My bed just doesn’t feel right.
I’m dreading the morning but it’s equal to my desire to remain under the sheet, thermal blanket, and spread. I need some weight on my legs. Otherwise, I might fly away in the night. Maybe enter a dream and never leave. That would be the antithesis of entering a nightmare and not having the choice to leave.
My people in Puerto Rico have done the latter. They can leave if they want, you might say. Should leave. There’s only thirst, rot, and maybe death waiting for them. Some have boarded planes and ships to Florida – that place across the water that is an extension of the island except for everything.
I’m up here in NY. Sending packages. Collecting money. Calling my family and neighbors.
Do you need anything? Anything at all? I’ll send it.
What we need, you can’t send us.
We laugh across the again working landline. Hollow and crackly co-exist like old friends.
My house is okay. No damage. I won’t be there for a long time. I’m not the sort of person who can manage without electricity. I was there last Fall. The cables across the way blew fiery sparks and the copper wires didn’t apologize to the bananas they scorched. The phone calls to the electric company seemed to be ignored. I later found out that they too didn’t have power.
I worried about my Dad who the night before worried about the shiny lights on at his neighbor’s house. They should be off, he said. Go inside, I encouraged. I worried that he wouldn’t pay attention to me. He did. There was that moment that he hesitated. My gut told me that he wouldn’t always listen. It told me to fly him back up to NY with me. I did.
I’ve had many nights drenched in my pouring anxiety. My silver hair matches the fox that steals into my room and wakens me to every odd sound and jingle of the bells that I placed on his doorknob. I’ve listened. Coaxed him into returning to bed. Midnight isn’t safe for wandering when your eighty-six. Go back to bed, Pop. I’ve prayed that the nightmare would end and I’d be released.
My Dad’s in an Assisted Living Facility now. They call him Papa, speak to him in Spanish, and I take him out to eat and we sit together on the Coney Island Boardwalk or at Emmons Bay watching the swans propel their large bodies with tiny black feet. My Dad forgets what he was going to do a second after he sets out to do whatever it was, but he’s okay.
I still wrestle with my sheets at night. Worried. I think of my Dad and how Alzheimer’s quietly slipped into our lives. I think about my house with the balcón and the hammock in the back under the tin roof. I think about my family and all of the others and the sazón and the mofongo and Ketty blasting Tito Rodriguez LPs on Sunday afternoons. I think about the lizards and the dogs and the kids playing basketball under the cancha.
At night, I plan when I will get to BJs to buy more pampers, baby food, and batteries. BJs- where a young teen will laugh at all the Kotex we’ve stored in our cart. I plan when I can do it all again on my way back from visiting my Dad who has no inkling he got out of his island at the nick of time.
I worry, plan, take action, and pray. I repeat as I pull the covers up and then throw them off again. My bed is just not right.