AirBnB secures our latest lodging attempt, Sandra’s seaside apartment at Mirador del Mar, a high-rise complex between Viña del Mar and Concon, a destination we reach while the town still sleeps, shops locked shut and vacant at 7:30 en la mañana.
The colectivo grumpily grants us passage for the equivalent of 70¢, a minivan acting as group taxi, officially shuttling Chileans up and down the coast for pennies, an idea worth stealing for public transportationless cities like Houston with massive sprawl and massive populations unable to afford the cars necessary for going A to B.
All but ejected from the colectivo, we enter the Mirador del Mar tower eager to discover our home-away-from-home, at least, for a few days, a little engagement present to ourselves, a seaside retreat to contrast weeks of rough-and-tumble mountain living. Up the elevator we go, all the way to the fifteenth floor, número 1506, and–that’s funny, it must be a wrap-around–Graham breeches the threshold to reveal a totally cute one-bedroom apartment with all the modern conveniences.
That is, all but our oceanfront views and wifi, two perks we anticipate, visions of clinking champagne glasses while overlooking the Pacific, possibly even squeezing in a Skype chat or planning our visit here at our leisure.
But, no, it’s not meant to be.
Sandra’s description, we find, misleads for it is the building that features these amenities, not her flat, and AirBnB is helpful and conciliatory, but, sorry, sir, we simply cannot offer more than a partial refund of an exorbitant rate for disillusionment.
Oh, we’ll, it’s not like this is shitty, on the contrary, it’s quite a nice place, akin to my parent’s pad in Miami, so we make due and camp out in the level four wifi zone–nevermind that it’s in the garage–and get word that my grandmother is most definitely on her deathbed, the news of which deflates me and us, my enthusiasm for exploring squashed, laundry and groceries a more soothing prospect.
Lucky for us, the exercise room faces the sea, so we peddle our way into sunset, the high of elevated blood rate and sweat transporting me to a different plane, one where I commune with my grandmother and meet her soul somewhere in the nether region of my mind’s eye, knowing death knocks at her door, and she comes to me in the guise of her youthful self, innocence restored, the mask of hardship and disappointment not yet etched upon her face, and like this, we connect in the breathless space of grief.
Real or imagined, I care not, but it is a moment I cherish, a psychic release, her role coming to an end in the here and now, with the eternal knowledge that this separation, although painful, is only temporary, for we are souls bound.
Oh, what a sad day, to be so far away, relief, at least, to have some semblance of intimacy and privacy as my grandmother smooths away her final days, terminating her experience her on her terms, in her way, fiercely independent to the very end, struggling through the final filaments that cord her to her children, this lifetime, these memories, snapping them as she readies herself for the ultimate surrender, tired to the core from the battle of life in isolation.
How beautiful the sunset, such a cliché symbol, one made that much more poignant when illuminated by the shadow of my love, my future husband, our wedding date drawing near, a time my grandmother forecasts years ago as her departure date from this world.