Why won’t he tell me the word?
My son Jose lies in bed, a ghost in stretched white skin, flanked by pills and equipment that don’t even provide the comfort of false hope. Cancer is killing his body but the nightmare’s causing his death. The nightmare, the same nightmare that kept my brother insane, that drove my father to murder, that’s been a blood curse since my ancestors spoke with a gypsy tongue. He won’t sleep; he can’t sleep. All he has to do is tell me the word and the burden will be mine, but my son shows more strength on his deathbed than I have my entire miserable life.
“Oh God, what do we do?” Pamela seems to ask every hour. My wife is not one to accuse but her dark eyes do the job anyway.
My brother Angel sits in the hallway, his face like a foggy morning hiding the world in plain sight. He doesn’t remember the word; he can’t even remember the nightmare. He makes a movement as if to apologize but I signal him away.
It was my idea, all mine. The previous years had been a stream of tragedies: my mother’s death, Angel’s deterioration, Jose’s cancer and coma. My father sat in a jail cell unwilling to retake the burden that should’ve been his. That’s when the idea came to me: my son was going to die anyway, but I could reverse the mistake I made years ago when Angel inherited the nightmare I had avoided out of cowardice.
I never expected Jose’s eyes to open when Angel whispered in his empty ears. I never expected him to carry this weight when death should’ve been enough.
“Don’t worry Dad. It ends with me,” Jose says during his final seconds. And it did.