When I was younger, sometime around middle school, I went through that phase most girls go where they sort of try to embrace mysticism. Quartzes are worn for their powers, movies about witches are watched with awe, and dreams are given meaning. Dream dictionaries gave definition to the most common symbolism, and they were so commonplace that teen magazines also got in on the action. I read and read, and I remember finding it fascinating that death in a dream didn’t mean death in real life. The only thing in a dream that meant death in our world were teeth falling out. I read that in so many different sources. I’d never dreamed of this, but it’s one of those facts that once it enters your head it doesn’t leave. As I grew older I stopped believing in the abstract and intangible and saw dreams for what they were, specially since they became mirrored images of my life. There was no looking further than that. I dreamed only what I felt.
Two nights ago I dreamed my teeth were falling out. I’d never had this dream before. I had several dreams that night, one of them that reflected how much I missed and needed my dad, then later one involving high school and me feeling rejected and vulnerable after my teeth started falling out. I woke up and immediately remembered the ominous warning of my youth; death. I was about to send a tweet about it then remembered that my grandfather was about to have surgery and had some veins blocked. “Maybe I shouldn’t post this” I thought. Maybe my family would see it and worry needlessly. I wrote the following “Dreaming about most of my teeth falling off was extra disturbing by how real it felt.” I figured if I let whoever read it know I wasn’t freaked out by the meaning but by the sensation itself would shift focus away from the creepiness. My sister texted me “They say teeth falling out means death. The last time I dreamed about that Aunt X kicked the bucket.” I replied something along the lines of cussing her out and joking that she was the one responsible. No more thought was given, there was no need. It was Friday, I had a doble shift at work and Grandpa’s surgery would be fine. And it was.
Last night we bought movie tickets for a show today at 1:55. We sleep notoriously late on weekends so I grabbed my phone hoping it wasn’t too late. I see it’s around 11:00am and that I have two text messages from my sister from less than an hour before. I open them and the texts say as follows:
Text 1- “Christian was killed and Carlos is in the hospital.”
Text 2- “Your dream came true.”
Christhian Emil and Carlos Armando are my first cousins. They are 21 and 22 respectively, although now I have to use past tense for one of them. Christhian was 21 and he’ll never be older than that. Their older sister, Sylmari, has been a part of my life since I can remember, she’s like my younger sister, the one that fits in the middle between my sister and me in age and size since we were tiny. Now she lost one of her brothers and has another one’s life at risk. I walk out of the room and tell my husband what happened. He tells me I have to call her. I call my younger sister and ask her about it and she tells me that our mom, dad, and her are on their way to their house. My husband tells me I have to call Sylmari. “Yeah, I will” I tell him and start looking for pictures of my cousins on Facebook. “Stop procrastinating.” “You’re putting it off.” He keeps telling me to call her until I tell him. I can’t call her. There’s nothing I can say. Nothing I do, no words will help her, nothing will take away her pain. He tells me she needs to know we’re here for her, and I know he’s right, but I physically can’t. So he takes my phone and calls her on speaker so I can hear her. She answers almost immediately and he does all the talking. He asks if she’s okay, if she has money for a plane ticket home, if she needs anything. She answers everything with a shaky voice that threatens to break on every word and I sit by, looking at my phone’s screen, nothing coming out of my mouth, nothing to even indicate I’m in the vicinity. I hear my husband tell her we love her and I finally utter “I’m here. I don’t know what to tell you except I love you. We love you.” She thanks me. I’m too shocked to tell him this at the moment, and for hours he think I’m not happy about it, but I am eternally grateful for him doing that.
People start tagging my cousin on photos of her dead brother, collages with his name and smiling face and the words “Rest In Peace” plastered over them. Facebook is being filled with his name and picture. The day goes by and information reaches me at the end of the day. The facts are too painful and lengthy to discuss. My heart breaks for my aunt and father, and the siblings he left behind. I see a news report on the shooting and the reporter makes the police lieutenant mention that they had criminal charges. I know this to be true, but it makes me angry. I know whoever saw that only saw that they lived in the projects and had criminal records. “They had it coming” they’ll think. They won’t ever know that they were quiet, shy, and sweet. They’ll never know that they always treated their elders with love and respect, and that every time they said goodbye to my dad they kissed him on the cheek. My dad cleaned away the blood they left on the ground this morning and I’m too far away to hug him. All I catch are bits and pieces, stories that trigger my migraines and make me want to go to bed. It probably means something that even though he died at 21, when I think about Christhian, my brain forms a much younger picture of him. In my head he’s always around 12 years old. Maybe because his face never really changed since he was in the 7th grade, or maybe because in spite of everything, he still sounded like a little kid, someone you desperately wanted to protect.