Places, saved and lost

Places, saved and lost

by Joaquin Fernandez

Obviously, you will choose the worst possible day to clean out your mothers house. Fallen mangoes will congregate under her favorite tree, shriveled in the Florida sun, betrayed by the density of their own sweetness. The grass will be tall with secrets and aloe plants will burst boldly from among the ferns, untrimmed and unafraid. On the chain link fence behind you, the lizards practice their side eye as you fumble with keys at the front door. You are literally on their turf.

When you enter your childhood home, the entire house will be holding its breath. The entire house will be waiting in a closet, hiding, guilty, and definitely about to get caught. For the last ten years of her life, your mothers knees betrayed her to osteoporosis and she would move from her bedroom to the living room, holding the wall for balance like a toddler learning to walk. You will hear your mothers familiar creaky shuffle from down the hall and instinctively follow it, dazed by the heat, your heart thumping at the impossible. The air will be drowsy and stale, almost opaque with humidity. At the end of the hall, there’s a thermostat for the air conditioning. At the end of the hall, your mother’s bedroom is waiting for you with the door ajar. At the end of the hall, something is moving. There’s a rustle from her bedroom too loud to be imagined.

The house becomes a museum as you move through it. Younger versions of your mother and father and sister look to you, forever trapped on vacation, at weddings, at Christmases and birthdays, pleading with hopeful eyes. Did you bring any news from the future? When you share a knowing look with yourself at your high school graduation, your lifelong pessimism feels justified. The rustle becomes louder and more real as you approach the thermostat. It’s important to stop for a second with your hand on the air conditioning control box and look up. It’s important to look at the old sepia photograph of your mother as a child in the arms of her mother. It’s important to remember how small she once was.

When you enter her room, the oscillating fan on her desk will feel anticlimactic. Watch it for a moment as it rotates left, then back to you, scanning for signs of life, fluttering the pages of that old Garcia Marquez book your mother loved. The air conditioner will groan with effort and the fan will refresh you, wiping beads of sweat from your forehead and down your cheek. The nub of an old pencil keeps her place in the book. The pages flutter again, motioning you to the words like an old friend. As the heat begins to dissipate around you, you sit at her old chair and go on from where she started.


Top photo cred: Ksenia Makagonov,

Joaquin is a recovering filmmaker, constant wanderer, and Miami native currently evading the sun in Portland, Ore. His work can be found in AFTERMATH and Thought Catalog and he is currently working on his first novel.

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