I had a thing for the sky, especially today with its layers of pink, orange, and blue streaking upward and out from the sinking sun.
I stood behind the front screen door of my home in Sinajana, watching the sky with music playing in my head. Or was it playing on a stereo somewhere? I couldn’t tell. But it didn’t matter since my focus was on the sky and the many stories under its watch. To people who think nothing of it, the sky does nothing but tell time and look pretty, and that is true. But to me, the sky is also the ultimate witness of stories.
“Nice day today, huh?” a familiar voice said. I turned to see a face I hadn’t seen in a while, not since his burial five years ago. My dad’s. But somehow, instead of shock at seeing my deceased father, I felt calm, like it was any typical day. As if my dad had never left.
I stepped out and pulled up a chair beside him. He had an opened beer in his hand as he breathed in and out, stretching and smiling. Healthy.
“Yeah, it’s beautiful,” I answered. My dad handed me a beer as the sun continued to sink.
“How’s your day, son?” he asked me, like he always did when he was alive.
“It’s good. It’s great actually. Mia’s mom is going crazy with the wedding planning, and it’s driving her crazy. But she calmed down. And we all had a good rehearsal night.”
“Yeah? Your brothers were there?”
“Of course. I wouldn’t get married without them there.”
I opened my beer can, but found myself staring at it, wondering if I should even drink it. I don’t like beer. A special occasion was the only thing worth putting in the effort to tolerate that bitter taste. And this didn’t feel like a special occasion—just any other day when he was alive. But something was telling me to drink, and it wasn’t peer pressure.
The bottom of chair legs scraping against the concrete floor of the garage sounded. Once I looked up, I saw Uncle Dun sitting next to Dad, grabbing a beer from the small cooler between them.
“Big Man,” Uncle Dun greeted me.
“Uncle Dun,” I said back, smiling before I bowed my head to amen him, the usual greeting of the young ones to the elders of the Chamorros. He pinched my nose and I yanked back, laughing before my eyes flitted to the sun disappearing in the sky. For one second, I appreciated it. The next had me wishing that I had more time with Dad after the last sunrise we’d watched together.
I shook off the thoughts when I realized I was wasting time sulking about something I couldn’t change.
“You in love, son?” Dad asked me, breaking me out from my thoughts.
It was a question I hadn’t expected to hear him ever ask. But it was also a question that triggered a grin on my face that I couldn’t shake away if I tried.
“I am. You would have liked her.”
“He knows. He’s been watching over you and your brothers like a crazy man,” Uncle Dun said. Dad rolled his eyes and hit him in the chest. But he turned back to me, our eyes meeting. “She’s a good one, son. I’m glad you found her.”
He held his beer can up for a toast and cheered, “Here’s to Veo and Mia!”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said before toasting him. I tipped my can to hit Dad’s then Uncle Dun’s and took a long sip of beer. As I did, I heard the words Dad used as a farewell, a good-bye without ever saying good-bye. And once I heard it, I didn’t have enough time to blink.
I woke up to the sound of the alarm. For a second, I found myself feeling light and content. But once my realization kicked in, the feeling disappeared. It was all in my mind.
A dream, I thought. It was all a dream.
“Ahh man! I love this song! And I’ll love you! I’ll love you when the full moon’s out!” my younger brother Matthew sang. He continued singing as Dominic, my other little brother, fixed my tuxedo by the large mirror. Matthew was a year younger than I was, and Dominic was the baby, two years younger than me.
Streaks of sunlight beamed through the windows that were poorly covered by the sheer, white curtains that danced as the breeze blew in. The melodies of the island song sounded from outside. It must be blasting where the speakers were since this room was the farthest from the wedding site.
“Whenever I hear this song, I think of Kayla, man. Our first date. I took her out to eat. Then we slow danced on the beach under the moonlight,” Matthew said. He swept the room with his arms as if he were dancing with his partner.
“He drank a few already,” said Dominic.
“Yeah, I figured,” I chuckled, watching Matthew spin around in the air.
“Is this you guys’ song too?” Matthew asked me as Dominic turned me to fix the back of my tux.
I shook my head and told him, “No. This song is too sappy.”
“Ahh. . . it’s funny how songs can trigger memories, huh?” Matthew said. The idea flew past my head with thoughts on how anyone could like this song.
“Trigger memories?” Dominic asked.
“Like how when I hear this song, I think of Kayla even though she isn’t here yet. She isn’t in this room. I don’t see her here, and yet I think of her because I heard a song that we danced to before.”
He had already lost Dominic’s attention. I could tell by the rolling of his eyes as he continued patting me down. It felt like forever to fix a tux.
But a song. A memory. A simple tune to bring back a moment in the past. “Huh. You’re right,” I said. “Sometimes, those memories don’t even have the songs playing. It was a moment we somehow assigned a song to.”
Matthew squinted, raising a brow. The classic look of confusion.
“Like,” I tried to bring up the best explanation I could think of. “You can associate a time in your life with a song even if that song wasn’t playing in that moment.”
I could tell that I was losing him fast. “A sad song can make you think of a sad moment, like a break-up. Even if you never listened to it while you were trying to get over the girl.”
“Oh, because of the lyrics,” Matthew tried to reason it out. But everyone usually paid attention to the lyrics of a song. Growing up, I saw how people regarded the voice of a song as the major role of music. Not the tunes or notes or rhythm. Those were seen as background noises to the voice, but I knew better.
"It can also be because of the organization of the sounds.”
Matthew shrugged it off and plopped himself down on the couch in front of the TV where we had been playing video games for the past two hours. It was official. I’d lost him.
I turned to Dominic, hoping that he caught the last bits of the conversation so I could talk about it more. But the busy look on his face already said that he hadn’t been listening the whole time.
I cocked my head back, rolling my eyes at the ceiling. Ai Adai. But it was okay. I’d just tell Mia when I got the chance.
Dominic finally finished fixing my tux.
I sat down beside Matthew who had his hands on a controller, playing Mortal Kombat 11. I would have played with him, but as soon as I sat down, my mind raced off to other things. I stared at the screen, but my attention was elsewhere. I wasn’t nervous like people told me I’d be. This “cold feet” crap didn’t work on me. I loved Mia. We both thought of weddings as this unnecessarily big celebration of love. But it was an unnecessarily big celebration of love that she wanted her dad to be a part of. And with his memory deteriorating, it had to be now. Mia would regret not having a wedding if it was only her mom walking her down the aisle.
I felt good about it, avoiding a regret, but something else was bothering me. Did I forget something? I considered the possibilities as I sorted through everything I could think of. But then I remembered last night’s dream. I hadn’t forgotten anything or anyone. It just felt incomplete because Dad and Uncle Dun were invited. They just couldn’t come.
A squeak came from the direction of the door. It was Mom, standing in the doorway. She was a simple woman. She didn’t dress up for many events, but she’d dressed up for today. Before anything came out of my mouth, my arms were already around her, locking her in an embrace. “Thanks for coming, Mom.”
“Of course, my Veo. I wouldn’t miss it for bingo night.”
My chest felt heavy as I struggled to free her, but eventually, I did. She placed her hands on my cheeks with that proud mom smile. “Oh, my boy! You are getting married!”
I chuckled. “Yeah. I guess I am.”
“And here you are. The least likely to get married among your brothers, because you didn’t like all that serious stuff. Maybe you’ll change your mind about kids and actually have one.”
Again, I chuckled. Having kids was a topic for another day, so it wasn’t worth discussing now.
“Well! I just wanted to see you before I sat down,” she said as she turned for the door. But then she spun back around to face me as she searched through her purse. “Oh! I almost forgot. I brought you something.” She pulled out something small and flat—a CD inside a white paper casing. Looking through the opening, I saw someone’s handwriting on the top.
“Daniel’s CD,” I read.
“It’s so you don’t forget who is also here today,” Mom said with a glowing face that triggered my own smile.
I hadn’t forgotten.
Changing the subject, Mom pointed out how much she was looking forward to the crab at the reception. She giggled. “And now, my boys, I’m going to find a seat.”
I told her to enjoy the day as she left, leaving a pleasant aura in the room. It was going to be a good day.
“That’s Mom,” I muttered. The smile on my face wouldn’t go away—it was because she was a part of this day. That was one of the effects of losing a parent. I started thinking of life without the other one like it was going to happen tomorrow, if not today. Today of all days though, I couldn’t be more grateful that she was here.
“What did Mom give you?” Dominic asked. Matthew jumped off the couch and grabbed the CD, which I snatched back fast.
“A CD?” Matthew asked when I pulled it out of the paper casing. I checked for scratches.
“Dad’s CD,” Dominic said once he read Dad’s handwriting on the top.
I scanned the room, finding an old stereo beside the large mirror Dominic and I had been standing in front of. I plugged it in to find that it still worked and put the disc on as my brothers stood in place. As the CD disappeared into the stereo, I realized what we were about to do.
The first song began playing, a tune I knew our dad loved. As it continued to play, so did my memories, locked into each song.