Building Bridges

Building Bridges

Friday, April 29, 2011

Yuri's & Janet's extensions to novel - Breath, Eyes, Memory

Breath, Eyes, Memory extension

“Mom, do you smell jasmine?”

The red beans in the pot were being simmered, and I was watching the fish in a grill so it wouldn’t get burned. I glanced outside from the kitchen window and I never realized the bright yellow daffodils were blossoming in front of our house until Brigitte mentioned of by my shoulder.

“That’s daffodils, sweetie. They have looked forward to spring to come for long,” Brigitte put her both hands on the counter and stood on her toes to look outside from the window which was still too high for her.

I kept simmering the beans when Brigitte said, “I have a meeting with Rosaline and I will come home before dark,” I felt her excitement of going for some tea with her best friend.

“May I, please?” she asked me for a permission although she already knew my answer was yes.

“Mwen InmĂ© ou, manma.”

She wrapped my shoulders with her thin and long arms and gave me a kiss on my cheek to say bye.

“Be safe, okay?”

Joseph was outside, playing his saxophone in the warm spring sun. His face was glowing with his eyes closed like he was in love with someone. From the big window in the living room, I saw Brigitte kissed Joseph, and she left with smiles.

“I wish I could be her classmate,” Joseph walked in, smiling and shaking his head. “She used to tell me she would marry me when she was this tall,” his saxophone was still hanging from his neck when Joseph was describing Brigitte’s height with his hand.

“You’re jealous that she doesn’t ask you for a date anymore, non?”

Joseph laughed and told me that that wasn’t what he meant, but I knew, he probably did because I sometimes felt the same. Brigitte would, one day, meet someone, marry, leave home and start her new family.

“Brigitte seems to be enjoying her life with her friends, manma,” I sat in front of a picture of my mother holding baby me. Brigitte once asked me about who the woman was kissing her baby’s round cheek in the picture, and I told her about my mother. “Do you miss your mom?” I did miss her a lot, but instead I told her, “Your grandmother is happy now. When you see a butterfly, that may be her who became free.”

“How’s this papaya?” I left the papaya this morning by the picture so she could have some. “I got this from the market yesterday and we already had one last night. It reminded me of Grandme Ife’s house because we had papayas and mangos for breakfast often.” When I tasted it the night before, my mind began to fill up with my old memories of Mary Dame. That’s how sweet and ripe it was.

The sun was going away to hide behind the buildings, and the night was about to catch the sun. The sky was burning its face as if the sun fell in love with the first star and couldn’t hide her blush. Joseph was in the living room, packing his saxophone in a hard case. He wore a black blazer which I ironed this morning, and he slipped his old handbook with a brown leather cover in his right pocket. The handbook was his 43rd birthday gift from Brigitte. Since then, he had treasured it. There is an old picture of baby Brigitte and me, and also a small birthday card for him from both of us.

“Are you leaving now?”

“I have a gig at a bar called Candlelight near the bay. It will be very exciting because there will be other jazz players there playing, and I am ready to explore and get inspired by them tonight.”

Joseph always had many calls from bars as a live music performer. He normally worked four nights a week including weekends.

“I get a ride tonight, and back home too.”

An old dark blue van honked twice in front of our house. Joseph saw it and raised his hand for quick notice. Joseph gave me a kiss on my right cheek, told me he loved me, and would come back home right after his performance before midnight. “Don’t wait for me,” he winked and his smile melted me.

A bumblebee was flying on the daffodils but it left as I appeared in the garden. There were numbers of yellow daffodils, which first started from a small batch of it. The flowers were seemingly eager to live, enjoy spring and their life. I reached one of them and smelled its sweet soft scent.

The wind of spring felt very warm like a mother’s hug, which I missed tons and also never really got before. It’d been almost fourteen years since Joseph and I first moved here in Providence. There used to be two tall pine trees on the other side of the road. Instead, a new concrete side walk was made. Out side of our house, the peach trees were almost as tall as the small white lantern next to the entrance door. I remembered when I first got them. It was 2 weeks before Brigitte was born. Joseph got them from a nursery where we used to drive by on our way to the hospital. The owner closed his nursery a few years ago, and then it became a wholesale furniture store. I didn't really pay attention to the peach trees but I realized how much they grew without any notice.

I was feeling empty inside, not lonely, but having a very relaxing moment in my front yard. A soft wind touched my skin, and I looked up at the sky.

I decided to climb the ladder, which was leaned by wall for a better view. I sat down on top of the roof and held my boney knees.

“Are you looking at the same sunset, manma? It's majestic,” I wished she was here to share the daffodils and the sunset which burned the whole sky. Another wind blew by my neck and I imagined my mother gently whispered near me, oui, I am right here.
I told her everything about what had been happening in my life such as Brigitte and her school, Joseph, our picnic plan for the following weekend, and also the daffodils blossomed which I honestly wanted her to take some as a souvenir.

“Please do not feel anxious about me, manma. Everything is fine here,” I didn't want her to worry about me.

I heard the phone ring inside the house. Probably Joseph, I thought, because he regularly called me when he got to his work place. I stood up as the sky was about to turn navy blue and began sprinkling stars in the sky. My right ankle caught a piece of roof. I lost my balance, and the next instant, I couldn’t disobey the gravity.
Tak tak-tak-tak...I hear a sound of a chopping knife and wooden cutting board, and I also can smell chicken hot pot from somewhere else. It’s too bright to clearly see things around me. Slowly, I feel a wooden floor, a heat of summer, and humid air.

I see someone cooking outside, in a yellow apron and her hair was knotted in the back of her head. The woman notices my stare. She looks young, her skin has gotten silky chocolate brown color, and her cheekbones shine as she gives me a big smile. That's my mother.

I put my small sandals on, and walk toward her.


My mother hugs me. I smell daffodils outside, I feel her soft chest and she squeezes her cheek on my head and says, “I am right here.”
Janet Medrano
Eng 103
8-10:20 a.m.
April 7, 2011
Extension of Breath, Eyes, and Memory

There isn’t a day that passes by that my mother doesn’t cross my mind. I miss her so much; I sometimes wish I could be up in heaven with her so that she and I could be happy. I never let her know how much she meant to me. The best memories I have of her are when she was my best friend. It’s been two years since she committed suicide. I’m still trying to deal with her death.

My daughter Brigitte is three years old now; she is a beautiful child. She now walks and talks. She is the reason why I wake up happy in the mornings. If it weren’t for her I would probably be up in heaven with my mother. I am still going to therapy; it has helped me a lot. Being able to speak to someone about how my mother tested me and the damaged it caused me physically and mentally opened my mind to being able to forgive her for the unhappiness it has brought me.

Joseph and I are no longer together and are divorced. He was unable to be understanding about the physical and mental damage the weekly tests had done to me. He would want to have sex and I would say I wasn’t ready to take that step and he would walk away and go days without speaking to me. One day when returned home from taking Brigitte to the park I heard noises coming from our bedroom so I went upstairs. I caught him in bed with another woman. They both looked at me with a shocked face and I just closed the door and walked away. I should have screamed and attacked both of them but all I could think was whether it was my fault, and why he had cheated on me. Had the trauma of my mother testing me ruined my marriage? I didn’t want to blame it on my mother for she was no longer alive and she was not the one in bed with that woman. Joseph knew what he was doing was wrong; he knew better.

The woman left our house through the back door; I didn’t even see her face. The only image I had of her was her having sex with my husband on our bed. She sickened me but Joseph sickened me more. He knew why I couldn’t enjoy having sex with him. He knew it was because of the testing my mother did on me. He promised me that as my husband he would be understanding and be patient with me; but instead, he committed infidelity.

I got a full-time job at a clinic; while I work Brigitte stays with a babysitter. The trip I took to Haiti before my mother passed away was the reason why I was able to forgive her. My grandmother told me that the women are in charge of making sure their daughters remain pure until they get married or else they would bring shame to the family, I broke down. I now understood why after telling my mother I liked a boy, the testing began. She wanted to bring no more shame to her family. My grandmother didn’t say but I know a part of her wanted to. I got the feeling that because my mother had been raped it had brought shame to my family especially to my grandmother. She was unable to protect her daughter or her purity. My aunt Atie also, in a way, brought some shame to my grandmother. She never married or had any children. The man she loves married a woman who was beautiful and came from a wealthy family. My grandmother was very thankful to Atie for being there for her but she would have been happier if she knew her daughter had married and had children before she died.

A year after my mother’s suicide my grandmother passed away in her sleep; she was finally in heaven resting in peace with her daughter Martine. Atie was the one who called me to tell me the news. I broke down and started crying; how could my beloved grandmother be gone? I had lost my mother, my marriage had failed, and now my grandmother. I decided I would fly to Haiti for my grandmother’s burial. Since Joseph and I were no longer married I informed my job that I would be gone for two weeks. I packed my things and my daughter as well; I bought our tickets and left to Haiti.

Aunt Atie was so happy to see us; she hugged us so tight that Brigitte and I were struggling to breathe, we went inside the house and we caught up; I told Atie what had happened with Joseph and how I was not happy living in the United States. She asked me why I didn’t stay in Haiti and live with her. She was alone now and I did own my part and my mother’s part of my grandmother’s land. She said I could work and she could watch Brigitte for me. We would both be happy again like old times when you were a child. But now instead of me raising you, you will be the one raising your child. Didn’t take me long to make my decision; I decided that since I had nothing to lose in the United States and more to gain in Haiti that I would stay.

It’s been five years since Brigitte and I moved to Haiti. We are both very happy here with Atie. My daughter is now eight years old; seeing her smile and play with her friends outside tells me I made the right decision for both of us. Atie is sick; we don’t know what she has but she is losing her ability to move and do things on her own. She told me last night that when she dies she wants to be buried next to Grandme Ife and her sister Martine. I told her that if that is her wish I will make it come true. A few weeks passed by and Atie kept getting worse. We went to the doctor and found out she had liver cancer and without any treatment her body organs were shutting down. It was too late to start the treatments; a month later she passed away. She was buried next to Grandme Ife and my mother Martine. It’s now just Brigitte and I; we will continue our lives here in Haiti till the day we die.

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