Monday, April 18, 2011

The Skirt

I am trying out this new group called the Red Dress.  It is a creative writing group and each week you get a prompt.  This week is to describe a memory  of something ( a certain color, I can't say which one,)  without actually using the colors word.   See if you get it. :)

The blazing silk made it's way down my legs, it's fluid crimson trickling in the contrail of my gate.  The bias cut skirt dared to play a game of peek a boo with my black leather boots.  I picked up the pace, my parched skin longed for any shade to quench the toasted apples of my cheeks. Gravel crunched under the weight of my soul and shoe.  Beneath the tent ahead, loved ones convened, pointlessly fanning themselves as if to ward off the scorching afternoon sun.   I joined them and we stood as one being, fighting a loosing battle against the vampiric heat that drew the moisture from our skin before it ever had the chance to escape as droplets through our burning foreheads, necks and hairlines. 

Over a dozen long stem roses stood sublime and motionless in a vase adjacent to the shiny black casket.  The only movement was the intermittent breeze generated by the uncomfortable twisting and fanning of sweltering bodies gathered together to say good by.  I worried momentarily about the older folks coming to pay their last respects to my grandfather.  The sun was brutal, not affording us even one moment to grieve.  There was no grace given, not even the gossamer skin of the aged was spared.  Out of concern and respect I took my place standing off to the side of the tent to make way for the generation ahead of me.  Together we created a procession of time waiting for our turn,  younger, older, dead.  

There was no grass in this historic cemetery, and the trees were a native desert variety that offered little hope or comfort.  The pea gravel was bone colored and reflected itself in the sun, creating a glare that even the best RayBan's couldn't withstand.  Dusty hispanic relics embellished the mounds of their deceased residents.  Chihuahua statues, white crosses, the Virgin Mary and brightly colored silk flowers marked their lives in the festive Mexican tradition.  

In this cemetery each family was responsible for providing a memorial or head stone for their loved ones.  There were no rules, as evident to the eclectic tokens placed on top, next to and around the graves.  Our family had chosen a slab of veined, emerald marble that was once a mismeasured counter top for a hotel in Vegas.  It had been sitting in my garage for over ten  years, a yard sale find for 30 dollars.  I had hoped that one day it would be a coffee table in my living room, but in the end it was probably always meant to mark my grandfather's grave.  

Grandpa Jo was born in Mexico, his English was broken and covered in a thick, spicy, Hispanic glaze, even after years of living in Arizona.  He loved to eat cactus and dance the cumbia with pretty ladies.  He knew strange things like how to boil coyote bones to cure arthritis.  He ate and grew peppers and aloe plants and loved to garden.  He was daring and brash at times, especially if he had a few cervezas.  He would have loved my blood stained lipstick that screamed at my skirt's inappropriate, hue.  In life Grandpa didn't shy away from color or style.  I smiled to myself as I recalled the little dash of silky Tabasco he himself often sported, tucked in the front pocket of his suit jacket.  He would have thought I looked festive in such a deep, saucy, shade of amour and I can only imagine that he would have approved of my attire, proud that I stood out, a brazen statement against the stoic black suits and dresses. 

As the funeral began I was handed a rose, held at my side it's color fused with the soft, silk creases of my skirt.  I wanted to dance like we  used to when I was a child.  I wanted him to snatch the rose from my hand and clench it between his teeth like he did in life when he tried to be macho and daring in a humorous way.  If he could see me he would have laughed that crusty, barrel laugh beneath his gray handle bar mustache and called me mija!  We would have danced and my waiting, lifeless skirt would have caught fire, twirling with Grandpa Jo.

I realize after reading this, it is slightly flat and devoid of real emotion.  To be honest I think that is how I felt that day.  I wasn't as close to my grandfather as I wanted to be for different reasons.  I remember him fondly and I miss him, but there was a distance there.  I think I can see this in how I portrayed his funeral.


  1. this was fantastic. I loved your descriptions of Grandpa Joe,these in particular: "his English was broken and covered in a thick, spicy, Hispanic glaze", "I recalled the little dash of silky Tabasco he himself often sported, tucked in the front pocket of his suit jacket", and "He would have loved my blood stained lipstick that screamed at my skirt's inappropriate hue". Your style is fantastic, and filled with pride in your heritage through Grandpa Joe too.

  2. thanks so much Jenna!! your comments mean a lot to me!

  3. I'm also new to Red Dress Club this week.
    Some of this memory was written so beautifully. I loved the reflection on how the grave marker came to be. That was genius. Your description of Grandpa Jo was also fantastic. I could hear his speech in my head.
    I do think you were trying a little too hard with the adjectives: vampiric? That got a little distracting.
    I didn't find the post void of emotion--maybe not as close as a favorite granddaughter, but you still voiced what he was like and what your relationship with him was like--especially the last paragraph.

  4. oh I liked this very much, I wouldn't call it lifeless, it was full of emotion: even the ones that were neutral and sad.

    I saw your skirt, there next to the black fo the casket, the color of it being almost heathen to the occasion, a PASSIONATE color on a day of loss.

    You said it with beautiful words, that last sentence, about your skirt catching fire...WOW.

  5. If I may offer just a bit of concrit, I think you'd get more of the emotion you sought with less attempt at conveying the color. There are times when, reading through this, I get confused in your words, for example "vampiric heat."

    Such good memories of your Grandpa Joe are in here, though. He seemed like a lively man.

  6. thanks guys!!! Miranda I totally agree, it was so helpful to really think about it, I did get lost in the translation of color. I live in Arizona, it literally feels like the heat is sucking the life from you, all the flowers wither and you feel as though you are in an oven, but maybe the word vampiric was too goth especially since i dont even know if it is areal word! just came out. thanks for the encouragement and critique

  7. I liked the descriptions of Grandpa Joe. He definitely sounded like quite a character!

    And I liked this line from the funeral description: Together we created a procession of time waiting for our turn, younger, older, dead.

    I also loved the idea of the last line, with your skirt catching fire.

    One thing that was distracting to me were the grammatical errors: it's when it should've been its in the first sentence; "good by" instead of goodbye.

  8. I really love your descriptions about the cemetery. Beautifully written.