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The Voice of Death

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There is the scent of death in the air. It is thick, heavy, pungent. The urge to cover my nose is overpowering, and my eyes water.

“Madre, too much incense is bad for you.”

She says nothing, only continues lying face-down on the living room couch. I’m assured she is alive by the slow, half-conscious movement of her shoulders. The room is crowded with debris of unknown origin and torn-up documents. In her hands are old letters, false promises that have faded to yellow.

Father’s not coming home. I wish she would realize that.

I push through the stifling, water-like substance that fills the air, and head to the kitchen. It’s as it was when I left a week ago, and in similar condition to the living room. Pots and pans are strewn about carelessly. I sigh and pick one off the floor. “Would you like something to eat, Madre? A quesadilla, or an empanada?”

“A crêpe.” Her voice sounds like death. “I want chocolate.”

“You need nutrition. I’m not feeding you junk food.” I scan the contents of the fridge. Thankfully, the groceries I bought last week are still intact. “Empanada it is.”

She lets out a scratchy groan, the couch creaking as she sits up. “Be nice to your sickly mother.”

“You’re not sickly, you’re on some sort of high,” I reprimand, beginning to mix. “Put it out.”

“No!”

She cries in anguish, clutching her chest. “I will not! I need it! You have no right to take it away from me!”

“Who’s going to stop me? You?”

She does not answer. She knows that I’m stronger than her. She may not be thinking very much in this state, but she remembers that much.

“We’re in America,” I sigh as the empanada starts to cook. “Father is not returning. Use the fact that we have been blessed to improve this life. Don’t waste it.”

Again, she says nothing. In this state, she doesn’t even comprehend my words. She does not know the definition of America as she once did.

Once the empanada’s finished, I bring it to her. She stares at it. She doesn’t recognize it, the very dish that had once been her specialty. The very dish she had once taught me.

She does not take it. I leave it by her side, where she can reach it, and head for the door. The incense is...

...making me sick.

“Wait.”

The voice of death calls for me, just as anguished as the moment before. “Don’t leave me,” she begs, wailing sorrowfully. “Not again.”

I hesitate. She needs me here. But I must go. Who else will earn money to keep her alive? I have to go to my second job. School will start in a few hours, but I must work. I have to.

I close the door behind me. She bursts into sobs of dulled pain. I resist the urge to cry. I must be strong for her.

If I’m not, who else will be?





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