"Methinks the human method of expression by sound of tongue is very elementary, & ought to be substituted for some ingenious invention which should be able to give vent to at least six coherent sentences at once."--Virginia Woolf
"In Spain, the dead are more alive than the dead of any other country in the world."--Federico García Lorca
Figuring out how she spoke best and most meaningfully to me also helped me to understand how she spoke to others, and to my grandfather in particular. Though he died before I was born, there was not a conversation at any family gathering in which he did not present himself, and forcefully.
That was a great trick, and I was always amazed. How could someone dead be so present? But the answer was simple, and real. He spoke through all the mouths in my grandmother's house: someone would say this about him, someone would say that. It may not have been much, but someone would always say something. And so there he was.
The best thing I found out was how my grandparents kissed, and that they never stopped, even after he was gone. This was his best trick, even better than getting into the middle of every conversation.
I will let him talk once more. It was the both of them, and everybody they left, who still surprise me. If my first language was whatever got me dinner, my next true language was what I learned after dinner. What people said that I heard, and what people said that I saw. These were two clear and different things. Again, whether I realized it or not at the time, recognizing this kind of connection was what fed me as much as anything I ate: dinner, after all, was just dinner, and filled me for the night. Other things filled me for life.
Teodoro Luna's Two Kisses
Mr. Teodoro Luna in his later years had taken to kissing
Not so much with his lips as with his brows.
This is not to say he put his forehead
Against her mouth--
Rather, he would lift his eyebrows, once, quickly:
Not so vigorously he might be confused with the villain
Famous in the theaters, but not so little as to be thought
A slight movement, one of accident. This way
He kissed her
Often and quietly, across tables and through doorways,
Sometimes in photographs, and so through the years themselves.
This was his passion, that only she might see. The chance
He might feel some movement on her lips
(from Teodoro Luna's Two Kisses (W.W. Norton: New York,
1990). ©1990 by Alberto Ríos)