The Band

by Angela Kempe

Melissa stood on the lawn of the city garden as the bluesy sound of the rock band welled up through the park in a lazy summer haze. People were lounging in short folding lawn chairs, sipping cheap $7 beer out of plastic cups as the hot sun burned the delicate skin of their pale cheeks. Melissa wanted to stay and listen, but her kids were tugging at her arms. The heat had gotten to them and their patience for the fair had already run out.

“Do you want to play on the playground?” she asked.

Her daughter looked interested, but sweat was beading up on her hairline and she looked more like she needed a nap. Melissa wasn’t ready to admit it yet. Her eight-year-old son, Jerry, would do it for her.

“Let’s go!” he said, tugging at his mother’s arm. “It’s too hot!”

It was decided between the children. Her kids began pulling at her arms incessantly, leaning into their weight with all forty-some pounds of their little bodies.

Melissa stood looking longingly at the band. She remembered her dream of being a musician that had faded long ago. She felt the fat of motherhood gathering sticky sweat between her legs, reminding her that she’d never be a superstar. Melissa pressed her feet into the ground, turned away from her children, and leaned on her own weight to counter their effects.

At that moment, their small hands melted into heavy shackles and the heat formed a rippling wall between herself and her beloved. She turned towards the stage again, and suddenly she was standing in front of a mic with thousands of eager faces looking back at her.  She could still feel her children pulling, straining to bring her back from this new dimension she was lost in.

She could hear the band wailing. The drummer smiled at her and nodded for her to make her entrance. His sticks played a crisp four-four. The bass was repeating that soulful melody just for her. Melissa searched for some memory of the lyrics. She took a breath. Maybe something would come to her. Maybe she could still find the song deep inside. Then, she remembered.

“Summertime…” she sang.

The mic echoed over the crowd. Her children jerked at her and her body crossed briefly back into reality. She tried to stretch her neck forward. She could still see the crowd.

“…And the living is easy.”

Her children’s sweaty hands locked themselves on her wrists. They pulled her back. She stared at them defeated. The stage was gone. All was gone, but she was beyond crying.

“Good voice,” called out someone from the crowd.

Melissa looked over at a man sitting on a lawn chair. He took another sip of beer. His face had turned red from sitting for hours in the sun. He looked at her through his sunglasses.

“Wrong song though,” he criticized and he finished off his beer.

Invisible

by Angela Kempe

 

One warm day vanishes

And a storm brews in the night

Spilling cold rain on all the flowers

Wilting, freezing, rotting at the root

 

The flower of youth is gone

She sits staring out the window

Memories of her life fading

She is vanishing, wrinkled, alone

 

Where did the days go?

Those once lived free and vivid

Like the colors of a rainbow

An apparition in the storm

 

Everything significant is lost

It all loses value in time

And the flower that bloomed on the east side of the hill

Where the river rushes by the quiet meadow

Is invisible

The Cenote

by Angela Kempe

My knee cried as I bent my leg to ascend one more step. I shuttered at a sharp pain on my right ankle as it bared the heavy weight of my body. Standing there, I silently stared up at the stone stairs while a few local children raced ahead of me. As the Yucatan sun blazed down on my lightly sunburned shoulders, I squeezed my eyes shut tightly and inhaled a thick wet breath. This was something I must do.

“Grandma, are you sure you want to do this?”

It was Jenny’s smooth voice standing behind me and it was a rhetorical question. All of the arguments about this had been done and repeated at home. I came to Jenny as a last resort when my daughter threatened to take me that very day to the Saint Mary’s Home for Senior Citizens.

“Cancer is a serious disease, Mother,” my daughter Vanessa had told me. “It’s not just cancer, but stage 4. You should live out what you can with your family. Not go on some vacation or stupid suicide mission!”

I had left a note for her on the kitchen table propped up between the napkins and the salt and pepper shakers. And I hoped that one day she’d understand why I took out the rest of my 401K to purchase the plane tickets and resort reservations. If this was my last trip, I intended to be completely pampered. And if I made it out of the cenote alive, I’d have a lot of money to give away before I returned home.

“Come along, Jenny,” I told her, ascending the steps. “I’m not getting any younger.”

As we climbed the steep stairs, I gazed apprehensively at the deep teal pool. Ik Kil is forty meters deep and no one has ever hit their head on the bottom while diving from the top. It was once used by the Mayans for sacrifices and some believed it was the gate to the afterlife.

“Hola, señora. Creo que eres demasiado viejo para esta salto.”

The man was heavy set, sitting beside the cliff drop. He was wearing a t-shirt and some swimming trunks.

“Sorry. Uh- Lo siento. I don’t speak..”

“Lady, too old!”

“No.”

“Cannot jump. Too high.”

Jenny started arguing with the man. She knew a little Spanish and was speaking it broken and with an audible American accent. I just stared out at the deep sinkhole. It was horrifying to gaze over the ledge. But, everyone at the bottom was so peaceful and perfect. Another woman dove in when she realized we weren’t going to jump. The line started moving again beside us.

My toes buried themselves in the cool soil. The tree roots dangled down over the ledge like thousands of long ropes.

Twenty-six meters. Either do it or don’t, but you’re still going to die.

I turned away from the edge of the cenote. The man looked at me and gave up a satisfied grumble. Jenny was about to turn away when she caught my eyes and knew.

As I fell, I felt a deep contentment. My white hair floated above my ears and a calm smile spread over my face. I pressed my fingers together and rolled my body into a ball. Flipping, flipping. I used to be a professional diver you know. And for that one moment I was again.

 

Dedicated to my mom, who dove into the cenote.