By Robin Dawn Hudechek
You never told us why you moved to your Mexican retreat
with your Mercedes Mini-Van and five Pit Bulls,
the ocean front home where water crashed against the rocks
and sprayed the house in chilling mists.
You would never go swimming there
or invite a woman into your home,
its floors slick with mud and dust.
We were afraid to sit on your leather couch
when you welcomed us there,
with your usual open-handed kindness,
your body already thinned and jaundiced,
an open tequila bottle and an empty glass nearby.
You introduced us to Ensenada’s famous fish tacos, bought
from a stand and eaten quickly, so you could
elbow your way back into the line and eat more,
these pleasures you shared with us, so transitory,
like your novel-in-progress that you outlined over the phone
in a voice crackling like sun-bleached paper.
Forgive us for not hearing, for not coming to see you
even when you told us not to.
After you had passed we found your novel,
a single page in a notebook,
as meticulously written as your own life,
and like your life–unfinished.
Then there was the day at the Marriot in Tijuana
when you looked at your brother, my husband,
and said, “I’m scared,”
the ice cream cone in your hand, untouched.
He worried that your fine room with its broad balcony
would be your final stay. You promised not to jump.
You returned to your cold house with its empty beer bottles
and fruit juice glasses strewn on every counter.
glasses I poured for you, then came to take away
twenty minutes later, when you could no longer hold their fluids.
You wanted all of us to leave you, so you could die alone on the floor
where you had fallen, unable to get up:
“I don’t want to go the hospital! Don’t let them take me.”
Your hand swiped up in anger as a pillow was placed under your head.
You wanted to be alone with your dogs,
Pit Bulls, trained killers, who tenderly lathered your face in kisses,
and never judged the choices you made,
or the manner of your living and dying.
But your brother let the orderlies take you on their stretcher:
This is no longer about you, he said, it’s about them—family–
and the memories you leave.
We were at breakfast in a restaurant when you passed,
alone in that hospital room without your family.
I am sorry we were not there with you to hold your hand.
But I like to think you were smiling on us
while we ate our eggs and tortillas.
I remember the last time I was alone with you, just days before you died.
You were curled in the back seat of our car
when you asked if I could do an energy healing for you. A job for a doctor
or saint or psychic—not me.
You asked if you should kill yourself. You were dying, anyway.
God would understand.
But in that moment, when I had no answers or comfort for you,
when my hands moved doubtfully over your body,
you appeared before me, smiling
and arms outstretched, clothed in brilliant light.
I knew then you would be alright,
that you would be lounging in your favorite chair
with your Pit Bulls all around you, those “vicious” dogs
shot by animal control after you died,
and Cat Dog, that waddling carpet of a cat,
kneading her claws forever in your lap,
in a place shimmering in hues of ocean and sky
and a garden outside your window.
This is just the waiting room, you greet us,
“Sit down, relax,”
as the room fills with those you loved,
so many more than we knew:
“I’ll get the sodas and beers.”