This morning I dreamt of my cousin who died by hanging himself from a tree in a small grove outside his apartment near the airport. To move so far out of his town, to live alone, we wish over and over that we had heeded the signs that were all there. My uncle says that when he saw him there was a beatific expression on his face. In my dream he was a boy of about six, but the memory is not from a time with him but from a photograph of him at that age. I placed my hand on his back and I could feel him with my palm and it was exactly like my palm on my boy’s back. My sister in law was with me, and she said, “Yes, it’s inevitable.” That he was going to grow up to be the young man who would die by suicide (die of suicide); that we only had this time now. My crying woke me up. (Or, I woke up crying.)
My uncle’s loss is vivid to me now that I have the boy. My son. His son. I remember the back of my uncle’s neck while we carried the coffin. My uncle believes in tradition, in authenticity, to be genuine; we were actually carrying the coffin, it was not for show, and the weight was shocking and I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do it, my shoes even had small heels, but I knew also that I had to. The church rang a bell slowly and I watched his neck and I knew I would remember that this was happening always. My hand was calloused after and I posted an image of it to instagram without explanation.
When my grandmother gave birth to my uncle, her first child, it followed years of trying to get pregnant. It followed a doctor telling her, “Madame, you are categorically barren.” She was “old” for a first child. 35. She had married at 23 because she’d wanted a family and was afraid she was running out of time. The irony, she says, is that she thought he would be a good father. In the hospital the maternity ward was right down the hall from infectious illnesses. She heard the coughing. After the birth (I never asked her for her birth story, not really, and she never told me, though she told me so many other stories) the doctor told her he had given her an extra stitch, “for her husband.” She never told me this. My mother did.
She had a second child, her daughter, my mother, four years later. I never heard anything of this birth story either.