Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Clive Aaron Gill

The day before Mami died in San Juan, Puerto Rico, she whispered, “Gabriela, my beautiful girl, my mattress is for you. Your nana gave it to me.”

At ten years old, I missed Mami terribly. I lit candles in our church, prayed for the soul of Mami and prayed the rosary.

At eighteen, I left my beloved older brother, Luis and my indifferent Papi, and moved to Miami to study psychology at Florida International University. While I was away, Papi married a woman named Valentina. He sent me a photo of them taken on their wedding day. Her tightly curled hair fanned around her head like a dark cloud.

I returned home during my spring break and saw, with eyes of shock and anger, Papi’s wife taking a nap on Mami’s feather mattress. Papi had told her the mattress was his, and she could sleep on it.

Valentina lying on Mami’s mattress was unforgivable. I had to do something. Luis agreed.

When Valentina went shopping, Luis and I removed the mattress from her bed and hid it in the attic. She returned three hours later, carrying a new pair of shoes, and discovered her bed didn’t have a mattress.

 “I know Gabriela is responsible,” she said to my father. “Give her a good beating.”

Papi approached me with a belt, his deep-set brown eyes flashing. I shrank back.

Then Luis ran in front of me. Luis and Papi stood face to face. Papi pulled a knife out of his pocket, opened it and held it in his raised hand. Luis, tall and muscular, stood motionless. Papi slumped his shoulders. He dropped his hand, squirming like a stepped-on earthworm.

Papi’s wife never slept on my mattress again.


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