photo by Alex Lear





Emilio Santiago


I woke up, slowly, or I thought I woke up. Maybe I was still dreaming. Next thing I knew I had quit my job at the factory, and at the office, and on the assembly line and I was sitting on the warm ground with my father fishing in City Park. We both had on freshly washed jeans and old shirts. His had a torn pocket and a hole in the left sleeve, mine had chocolate milk stains on it from that morning when I went to drink the milk and missed my mouth.


My dad was showing me things he never showed me when he was alive, or maybe it was things he showed me but things somehow I was unable to see then even though he tried to show me. I smile as I see myself learning stuff from my dad. I was 13 and I was learning how to smile like a man.


When the sun started going down we walked home. He walked slowly enough that I could keep up without rushing. I was holding the poles and the empty bucket, we had released all the fish we caught. Daddy had said there was no need to take what we didn't need, we had food at home. I asked him why had we come fishing then, and he put his arm around my shoulder, loosely around my shoulders, and kissed me on the nose.


Fully awake now, I look over at you. You are still sleeping. The windows in our room are shaded but the morning light is spread around the edges like the crust on bread. You make a very light whistling sound as you inhale while sleeping. I don't want to turn the TV on. I don't want to see anymore hostages. If I turn the tv on I will become a hostage too. What does your mother think of me now? I am in the middle of my life and there are no bells on my shoulders, no post graduate degrees on my wall.


I can hear the traffic in the street outside. Where do people think they are going? I wish everyday I could go somewhere I've never been before, touch the doors of houses I've never entered, walk in the wash of seas that have never wet me. I start to wake you and ask you the last time we walked along in the park wandering hand in hand through the flock of ducks or when was it I most recently kissed you in public. Over all I'm pretty satisfied with our furniture, it's just the nagging thought that we didn't really need a leather sofa and glass topped coffee table to be happy, but it's just a thought.


I see the shape of you beneath the thin sheet pulled up almost to your shoulders. The radio has come on automatically, and as the jazz filters into the room and into my consciousness I realize it's on WWOZ and someone is on the radio saying that this is a gorgeous Monday, that Mondays are the best days of the week. I look at him queerly. The music is nice.


Suddenly there is this sound, this song that doesn't quite sound like the average song, it sounds so, so, so I don't know, so lonely, no not lonely, so incomplete, unfinished. It sounds like he is in my head, or I mean that music is music that is inside me, and somehow he saw it. Did my father tell him to play this music? And then the track is over. I listen for who the artist is and the DJ calls my name, but I never made any music. I never made the music I wanted to, maybe he is trying to tell me something.


The next song that plays is a ballad in some language I don't recognize but I clearly see myself singing this foreign song on a red tiled patio early in the morning with five freshly cut yellow roses in my hand.


I stand up to listen to the music better. Both my hands are on top of my head with my fingers interlaced. I am nude. You wake up. I can feel you watching me. My eyes are closed.


When the song ends you ask me what am I thinking. I tell you I don't know and you kiss my hand, the hand with which I reached down to touch your thick dark brown hair.


Is this still a dream? No, my fingers are wet where you kissed me. The music is filling our bedroom. Maybe I am supposed to be an artist. Finally I tell you as much of the truth as I am able to understand at this moment, "I was just listening to that music and it made me think about a lot of things I've always wanted to do...."


—kalamu ya salaam