by Eileen R. Tabios
I forgot how you frowned from the other side of a road, impatiently awaiting the emerald that would signal you to erase the gritty space between us.
I forgot journeys to places unnamed by English to discover what is missing in the commonplace around me.
I forgot the subway trains at my end of the diaspora, how they rumbled on their way to kiss non-existent horizons.
I forgot how we shared mangos with grandmother who loved them as we do. In that land that taught no limits to intimacy, mangos are eaten before they ripen, with much salt, and often soaked in vinegar.
I forgot how my mother chastised, “Your grandmother’s home may be meager to Western eyes. But, once, it housed invading generals waving foreign flags.”
I forgot fingertips deliquesced to black velvet from constantly rolling tobacco leaves—the only luxury many farmers could afford.
I forgot the elders whose hides became stained from the excrement of water buffalos spread over surrounding fields during days of absent storms.
I forgot my grandmother, her gum-teethed cronies and other wiry residents of a patient village beaten by the sun.
I forgot my grandmother’s skin aged like rotten bananas.
I forgot the mud in monsoon season always sucked at the ankles, non-discriminating, a placid surface but camouflaging sharply-edged stones, gooooey, gooooey, gooooey and brown as the hide on rotten bananas.
I forgot my grandmother’s house stood solidly on a ground ever shifting, bereft of gutters, dams and other structures to mitigate nature’s tantrums or tears from a gentle rain.
I forgot my tendency to imagine anything to prevent the onset of shame.
I forgot that to return bore no relationship to survival, which instead related to you whose path crossed mine in a new land.
I forgot the country whose scents stubbornly perfume my dreams.
I forgot the young hugging the ground, their damp faces eagerly turning here, eagerly turning there, searching their surroundings for treasures invisible but I also believed existed when I still shared their innocence.
I forgot how gazes can drop like debris.
I forgot moths as the sun disappeared—“the flutter of wings as they teased a dim porch light.”
I also forgot foraging in a supermarket’s “Sales!” bin. I forgot the three coconuts I recovered from the depths of the box which threatened to become their coffin. I forgot I knew: within their hairy, brown and mottled shells, their meat would be sweet and water pure.
I forgot New York City where a neighborhood evaporated from a certain diagnosis: “HIV-Positive.”
I forgot a narrow elevator I shared with John Donne who always reminds, “Every death diminishes me.”
I forgot the fragments which deserve to be in the forefront of my memory.
I forgot there are no guarantees, not even in math where “1 + 1” may not be “2” but, as a visual artist insisted, “1 1” or, as a philosopher insisted, “a turning towards the other.”
I forgot the definition of childhood is ineffable.
I forgot I’d learned to recognize the sound of my bones becoming brittle, and how much I despised the goldfish swimming meekly in its small bowl.
I forgot our hair had whitened.
I forgot grabbing at my fading dreams only to recall a vision of skyscrapers crumbling from the slaps of iron balls.
I forgot the years when I wore uniforms of darkened wool shaped by machines, lined by grey.
I forgot how your eyes always reached for me when I passed the threshold into the home we carefully shared.
It was a different time. I forgot there is always a different time, even within the span of an hour (or less).
I forgot reasons for you to hold my hand as days unfolded.
I forgot one can choose always to face the horizon.
I forgot the horizon is far, is near, is what you wish but always in front of you.
All around the border of that place, the desert was a forever. I forgot how no mountains, no trees, no tomb markers—nor memories perfumed by jasmine—interrupted the horizon.
I forgot how quickly civilization can disappear, as swiftly as the shoreline from an oil spill birthed from a twist of the wrist by a drunk vomiting over the helm.
I forgot the glint from the fang of a wild boar as he lurked behind shadows in a land where it only takes one domino to fall.
I forgot why lovers destroy children to parse the philosophy of separation.
I forgot I knew the back alleys of this neighborhood, where beggars made their beds, whose cats stole their food, which doorways provided for or grabbed the fragile into a hold of cruelty.
I forgot I became a connoisseur of alleys.
© Eileen R. Tabios