ROSA • by A. J. Bermudez

My mother-in-law is a riot. Our first time in New York together, she goes to see the landlord about the rapidly fading battery in the automated door lock and comes back with a date. She makes and consumes coffee late into the night, complains in the morning of not having slept well. She is a good sport. She is full of love. Everything she says reverberates with the certainty and force of an accusation. She is infinitely curious.

She has spent her life tamping down words, tamping down thoughts, and now that she’s older –– now that she’s free — it’s as though all the words have broken loose, excitable and confused as freshly released prisoners, wandering about the atrium and squinting at the daylight.

At the theater, where her son is in an off-Broadway play, she sits in her seat for a while after the lights have come back on, crying.

It is not difficult to imagine her knifing someone, but she is, to those she loves, a goddess of tenderness. She is a pool of worry and fear for nothing other than her children. She is survival incarnate.

We have lost people since that summer, but not her. We all are mortal, of course, but it is difficult to imagine anything killing her, inside or out.

The final day in New York, the wind blows ferociously, spewing rain, whipping full cardboard boxes and awnings across 34th Street. By the time she is safely conveyed into the bowels of Penn Station, I am exhausted. The luggage is larger, heavier, more cumbersome than luggage has ever been. She is too small for such luggage, which now, beneath the sickly artificial light of the station, has the feeling not of a simple trip, but of a move. Of packing one’s things and not looking back.

Once she’s gone, after the doors have closed and there’s no more hugging one another to be had, I ascend the impossibly long escalator with the feeling of rising upward from a tomb. I feel guilty for being so light, missing the weight of her bags.

A. J. Bermudez is an award-winning writer and director based in Los Angeles, California. Her work has been featured at the Yale Center for British Art, the LGBT Toronto Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, and in a number of literary publications, including McSweeney’s, The Masters Review, Hobart, Gertrude Press, The Offing, and more. She is a former boxer and EMT, a recipient of the Diverse Voices Award, and currently serves as Artistic Director of The American Playbook.

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