Requiem for Some Cenizas

Book Cover - Voices from the Other Side of Death

He had told her his ashes would be in love with her, that’s how enduring and eternal his devotion was, but never expected it to be true. 

Words, she had answered, laughing but also a bit sad, you’re so good at words, if only words could make miracles happen, if only death did not conquer all. Let’s content ourselves, that is what she had said, with every moment of love to be squeezed out of the here and now, come here, she had said, come now, she said, forget the ashes you promise, your cenizas enamoradas, forget the forever that is beyond the grave that you promise and kiss these lips of mine, you silly man, mi amor, suck everything you can suck from my body, because that is all there is. Our flesh is already saying good-bye, we grow older with each second that passes, and we must make haste or we will be gone, like your words are already gone, vanished like ashes in the wind. 

Despite her objections and the sweetness that would always follow, he had persisted from time to time with his vow that he would be waiting for her if he died first or seek her out beyond the shore of death if she was to leave before he did. All through their lives he had resurrected those words whenever the occasion allowed them, they had ended up being like a prop that he recurred to like a cane an old man uses to cross the road on his last stumbling legs. And she had ceased to mock him, tolerated their repetition as long as they were not too frequently announced. In effect, she realized that he needed to express that pledge and half-believe it as a consolation against the certainty that they both were bound to die someday and without each other, starless in the permanent night of extinction. 

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She had even smiled at him through the glass partition that sealed her off from the world and from him, she had managed a smile in that isolation ward because she could not squeeze his hand or invite him to suck every cell in her body, to fill herself with him, the here was dying and the now as well, separated because that was the only way for the virus that rampaged inside her not to contaminate him, the man who had visited what was inside her over so many decades and yet had never entirely known what was going on, like now, inside her head.

And that had been the last time he had said that he would be ashes in love, the last time they played that game with words that came and went, a rite of passage rather than a conviction, that moment when she had smiled at his poetic silliness, turned out to be the last time he had spoken of cenizas enamoradas to her because when he returned the next morning, her eyes were closed and only a ventilator kept her breathing, barely up and down, that chest upon which his head had rested so its beat could slip into his beat, barely seeing anything through the glass partition.

No smiles possible on those lips anymore.

Through the next days and nights of vigil she could not respond to that vow and he had therefore lapsed into silence, unable to understand that her lack of an outward reaction did not mean she could not hear what he might say. 

And then she was gone, just like that, no longer now, never again here. She was gone and he refused to comfort himself with that promise of an infinity of love beyond death, it was a lie that could not compensate for her absence, the empty house and the empty bed and the empty kitchen, that black hole in his empty life. She had been right, words do not create miracles and they could not bring her back, his fingers would never touch and tangle hers, that glass partition had been a prelude and a forecast of what awaited them, a preparation of what was already coming for her and would come for him and, eventually, for every mortal under the sun.

And he told himself that no, not even when he scattered her ashes in their favorite forest, not even then, as some were to settle on the ground and some to dust the leaves and some wrap around the trees and some carried away by a breeze that would recall how she ruffled his hair, not even then could he dare to hope that those ashes might be waiting for him, not even then would he want to pronounce those words that she could not hear. He had said them to her by her bedside, on the other side of that glass partition, and in spite of the undeniable fact that she had smiled he could now not doubt that, as she had predicted, they were no more than words when confronted by the impossibility of reaching across that inconsolable divide.

So it was with relief and astonishment that he understood, a few months later, as his own body burnt in the crematorium, it was with gratitude that each small bird of a cell in his body awoke to the truth of what he had foretold, that he was assuredly dead but that the ashes were alive with her memory, he was still falling into her, part of a cosmic dust, he would still be visiting her after the sun exploded and the universe went dark and cold, nothing is ever lost, there was not even a need for his ashes to meet her in the forest where both wife and husband were scattered, he heard his body singing as the flames consumed it, if you not die with love you have not lived, if you do not die of love you have not lived, forever and ever and ever after, amen. 

That is what I imagine he is thinking, my husband, as he watches me dying in this hospital, my eyes closed but my ebbing mind still alive enough to hope that this is what mi amor believes will happen to me, to him, to both of us.

I will soon – we will all soon – find out.

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