The asshole snaps his fingers and holds up a glass, but I walk right on by him. He whistles trying
to get my attention. Neck and shoulders tight, I face him.
"This is not a kennel and I'm not a dog"
Mean customers tonight. Glowering, he wags his finger at me then points to his empty
glass. His prize family all look up, nobody is squirming, they grin. The over-lipsticked missus
smiles disdainfully. Haughty bitch. Her brood of mongrel kids paw their food, whining
The tension at the pit of my stomach grows as the night drags, it gnaws. Eyes everywhere
I can't sneak a drink. Hurrying through the last of my tables, I trip and break a tray of bar glasses.
The manager looks over at me. He stares to make sure I know it's my third breakage this week.
As I leave, the bartender unobtrusively hands over two bottles of wine. A good friend...she doesn't
look at me when I pay and place the bottles in my backpack. Avoiding the camaraderie and useless
prattle, I head for the elevators. Once in, I hammer the button for the basement garage. It's a long
ride down so I punch two more times, hard. The gnaw, implacable.
In the stifling car, sweating, I fumble to open a bottle. Furious, I check myself from
hurling the wine key against the windshield. Cork pops. Taking long gulps, my body melts into
the car seat. I drink every drop. The settling is sweet; flowing into my blood, pliant and kind.
Waited for this all day.
Straightening, I know what needs to be done. Reversing the car, I leave quickly. It take
20-25 minutes to get home. The buzz comes in 15. The back road is my route, it hides me.
Losing myself, no one watches. The ride home is my time, my space. Rain and wind in my hair,
a full bottle on my lap, I take on the sharp curves. The thrill, the howl of speed is sensuous.
Accelerating, I thrust and joust. Mighty, I am untouchable. I have this down.
The squat, drab house I despise sleeps. Trapped and restless, I'll soothe this nameless
beast, drink to deaden the hurtling impending doom. Pushing away the now empty bottle, in a
stupor, I snarl and hate. Cheek against the cool tile, the floor feels good. Teeth clenched, I swear.
Tomorrow, no drink.
Tomorrow is here.
Shafts of sun rays awaken me. On a vast rock I lie. Sitting up, a valley sprawls before
me with a mysterious sun-kissed maze. It swims in front of me, I know that I dream. From a
distance, I see a maze of arches, doorways and chambers lilt and ripple in the hot hazy day.
How peculiar...some rooms are enclosed, others open up to the sky. Humming, bustling and
alive, it calls me to walk paths and rooms. Cantankerous, I refuse; I want no part of this fable,
this reverie. I sit and contemplate a while. Thirsty, there is nothing to drink. Lying down, I
will myself to sleep in this musing so I may waken when there is drink. Day wanes. Night sky
shades with the luster of stars. A wolfish moon sails bloated clouds and a freeze creeps over my
rock. Still awake, no rim against my lips, I am livid to be parched. And cold. There is no slumber
in this tarnished dream. Sullen, I sigh and stumble for the moonlit maze down in the valley.
Entering an archway strung with lanterns, I lust for a heady drink. Crude with rough-
hewn walls, I enter a warm lair crowded with faceless men and women. They, a joyless huddle,
jostle to line up. No one speaks but there is a fervid wanting. Alluring drumbeats sound in the
background and a fire blazes. Peering around, am curious about this dream. Wanting, I join
the shuffling line. The wait is long and there is a taut, rousing wrath in the air. Still, no one
talks. The sounds of shuffling, drumming and the sizzle of fire fill the lair. The haunt in my belly
grows to a niggling potent hunger. Soon I must be fed. Slake me or I will pound and scatter
them all. A sparkle catches my eye, the end of the line is near. A space opens up by the fire, my
turn. Spellbound, a sleek, gleaming bottle is handed to me. Seductive, it teases, it moans in my
palm. The bottle swells and throbs, it sings. Licking my lips, I inhale the promising pungent, lush
aroma. The rabble behind me grow savage with want, they shove, but I stand rooted. As I tilt
the bottle to swill, a piercing cry rings. Startled, I drop the bottle. Shattering glass burst at my
feet, nicking my skin. Plum juice of wine and blood trickle down my legs and soaks into the arid,
earth. No, no. The spill wounds.
Frantic Wanters, oblivious to the cry, push me aside to take their turn. Choking down my
loss, I lay down my ragged thirst and step over jagged glass. Leaving, I search for who cries.
Someone needs me.
Finding myself in a long corridor, I shield my eyes from garish fluorescent lights that
pulse and flicker. Smell of fever and forgotten bodies pervades the air. Wheelchairs of wizened
men and women litter the corridor. Listless and wasting, the aged curl into themselves as they
wait for an end. No cries here, I look around to leave. An ominous cloaked figure at the end of
the hall, crouches, guarding a door blackened with soot and rising plumes of smoke. Something,
someone hidden behind the door waits for me. Uneasy, I hang back. This is but a dream, I tell
myself. Go, heed the bidding. As I near the sinister figure, it looks at me, I blanch. It's riveting
slits of eyes are a menacing grey, they are ghastly cold. Insolent and forbidding, it blocks the
door to its reap. It gloats. Hands, blistered and dripping with pus, grips the knob. Gagging at its
caustic and putrid fumes, I shove the fiend aside and kick down the sooted door.
Living swiftly steals out of the austere room of a shrunken, pale man. A voracious gloom
sinks around my Father, it yearns for his dying. His tremulous eyes are chasms of fear, he fights
to live. Not ready to be taken, he clings, but he is drained. His labored breaths rattle, the grim
cadence chills. Bending over him, I murmur...
"I am here, I am with you."
Across the room, in the shadows, my Mother watches forlornly from her bed. Helping
her, I bring her to my Father's bedside. His last hour diminishes as our tears fall on his hands.
Embracing him, she feels the crush of his torment. Voice quavering, she lets him go...
"Go my love. We will see each other again."
Her soothing words quiet his terror, dolorous breaths ease. The rise of his chest slow and
his soul whispers out, grateful, serene. There is no silence more profound than the silence that
follows a last breath. In his sacred moment, we helped him depart the living. Turning to Mother
to comfort her, blackness comes over me.
Grieving, I am standing alone in a cemetery, watching clods of dirt fall on Father's
casket. The morbid sounds echo, woeful and final. There is no solace, he is gone. Remembering
days gone, I meander around the tombstones, saddened. A ruffling wind carries to me a baby's
hoarse cry. Back to the labyrinth, I hasten. Who cries? Why?
A rusty gate ahead creaks open, it leads me to a dingy room. There is no baby here, cries
elude me. Blighted walls and a peeling ceiling close me in. Lighting, murky and dull, bathes
the room. Off to the side is a torn musty divan and an unmade bed with shabby sheets. Sitting
on the sofa is Mother, mourning. Her despondent fragile frame looks out of a glassless window
watching torrential rain and streaks of lightning. Turning around she lights up at the sight of
me, her face moist, glistening with rain. Thankful for the company, she smiles. Her hours alone
are long and lonely with only fading memories to console her. Why is my mother in this dismal
place? Distressed, I start to take her away.
"No, I stay here. Your father will come for me"
I abide. We sit. We reminisce. We laugh. What she forgets, I tell her. Tenderly, I tend
to her. Oiling her skin, she sighs, content. Soaking in my touch, I rub her back and knead her
sore knees. Brushing her hair and changing her clothes, I ask for childhood stories. She had no
childhood. She had war, poverty and she hid. Listening to her, I forget my thirst. Hours glide by,
easy and mellow, gentle rhythm cradling us. Her eyes grow heavy, she drifts. Pulling a blanket
around her, I touch a withered face. Her fierce spirit dims; this warrior leaves me soon. Lips
touching her forehead, I cherish her,
"I am here. I am with you"
An infant cry.
Mother, I have to go. Looking back, the delicate face of Mother recedes, her wistful smile
longing for Father and for rest. She waits to die.
Spotting an archway festooned with balloons and puppets, I go in. The cries must be
coming from here. In the nursery, vivid in vibrant colors, a lively and joyful baby plays. His
face, round and radiant, is enchanting. Giddy, elated, I laugh. The boy has arrived. Oh, he is
gorgeous, this Grandson. Arms outstretched, he reaches for me. Picking him up, we dance to a
merry nursery rhyme. We twirl, blithe and carefree as he gurgles, giggles and shines.
"Grandson, I am with you"
Music stops. My steps falter. Something has changed for Baby grows quiet. Placing his
small soft hand on my face he looks at me sadly...his gaze hypnotic and somber. As I watch him,
the familiar sound of an infant crying reaches us, it is near. My eyes widen. It is not you who I
heard cry? His eyes well. No, he seems to say. Go to Him.
Running through the endless maze, the plaintive wails are louder. Knees burning and
heart racing, I am confused, I don't understand. It can't be you, it's too soon. You are not
supposed to be here; not due for 4 more months. Foreboding and fright thickens and darkens,
it saps me. Sickened, I search for you. Coming to an abrupt end, I barge through wide doors.
Panting, I am standing in a hospital. A sign, NICU. Gasping, I heave to catch my breath.
Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
You are in the center of the room. Dread hangs in the air, palpable, it drenches. Life and
Death silently blares at you. Doctors and nurses move around you in a blur, no one will look at
me. Flashes, beeps and alarms ring shrill. But above the din, I feel the reach of your muffled sob:
"Come to me."
I near you, your miniscule form lost in the swaddle of wires and machines. Your raw skin,
a scalded red, lies stark against brilliant white blankets. Your heart barely beats and you can't
breathe. My heart sinks. Your face crumples in agony, eyes bruised and closed. Frail, fraught
with weariness, you hold on. The pain is staggering, it sears through you. They pump and
puncture you, keeping you alive. Arching your tiny body, you wheeze, strangling for dwindling
air. In my fearful stillness, my eyes scald and spill with desperate tears. Breathe, I plead. Live,
I beg. I take every breath with you. You belong to us. We need you. Without you, how will we go
Time stops. Death hovers.
Dawn sweetly comes. Grace enters; she comes to you, Grandson. Sweeping by me, her
trailing tendrils touch me. Lumen tingles and dances on my skin. Turning up my face in rapture,
her dew wets me. Rising, I watch you open your arms to Grace. She gathers force and turns to
the marvel of you.
"She is here, she is with you."
You soar, the wonder of you.
Through the halls, gates, rooms and arches of this strange maze, I wander. Will I
awaken? Where does the trail end? Caressing the walls, they feel sublimely smooth. Gardens
spring up as my feet touches the ground. Flowers bloom. Grass sways, richly green. High up,
above the maze walls, trees tower, dappled sunlight streaming through the leaves. This is a new
land, I rejoice.
But the trail ends. The wretched lair opening yawns, it engulfs me. The gnaw rummages.
I Weaken for this is what I know. Joining the line of wary Wanters, I wait my turn. Shuffling
forward, bodies press against me, but sorrowfully I think of family. Others can visit you Father.
Mother, many can sit with you as you wait for him. Grandsons, your parents are always with
The sparkle, the fire, my turn is upon me. The bottle is placed in my hands, sumptuous
and enticing, my faithful love. Trembling, I ache to drink. Tipping my love, I empty the bottle.
Watching silky juice spill to the ground shakes me. Can I live?
The Wanters leave, shunned. The fire is dead, a mound of ashes. Walls crumble, the cave
turns into rubble. I stand, unmarred. Walking away from the ruin, I leave behind a wasteland of
broken bottles. Wending through the maze, peace blankets the land.
-My father, Santiago Balleza passed away in 2010. Preparing him to die with dignity deepened
my soul. He suffered much throughout his life. I still ask God, why? I long to see him again.
-My fierce, warrior mother, Angeles Colinares, declines and continues to wait for my father to
come for her. Watching her wait and yearn teaches me much about devotion. I cannot imagine
life without her.
-The first baby, my grandson, Liam Noah Thompson just turned 1 year. Laughter, there is no
-My second grandson, 23 weeker, "Mighty" Jax Connor Thompson lives. He thrives; he has the
heart of a lion. Gratitude abounds.
-In October 2014, I will be 20 years sober. My heart is open, I am humbled.
-My heart beats... for this family.
-Not sure I will wake up from this dream, seems to me my maze of unfinished business is real.