0.0 This is the essence. This is the thing.
0.1 There is no way to do this except through. There is no way to start this without starting first: you cannot know how to run these miles if you have not run—there is no imagining your toenails falling off after purchasing ill-fitting running shoes, your feet sliding from left to right instead of being snug in their vessels. There is no way to translate the work of your grandfather without translating: looking up words you do not know (& you do not know most of them,) without trying to make sense of vowels buttressing up against themselves in ways you would’ve never imagined; how each mark can shift meaning. This is how all great stories begin: a declaration of not knowing how to do any of this, of misjudgment of the task at hand, with a prologue that spills out longer than any road ahead. I don’t know how to do any of this, & yet here I am imagining everything being completed: salt on my skin, skin separating from itself, skin burned, each word beautiful, each word both yours & mine, a lovely thing. Wow, look at that you would say & you would be amazed by the volume of something, how I watched you be amazed by the earth even on the days before you had a reason to be struck by the world.
0.2 My grandfather ran marathons. I was too young to remember this, but I knew the moments after: his daily runs in the Veteran’s Park near my grandparents’ house in Central New Jersey. He would return soaking wet: neon hat with the brim turned up toward the sky, tank top hanging off his gold shoulders. He would stand over the sink in his kitchen & drink water faster than I’ve ever seen anyone do it—one tip of the glass to the ceiling & it was gone. There’s a chance that most of it splashed down his chest & through his tanktop. The tumblers at my grandmother’s house were heavier than the one in my own: the bottoms had perfect little bubbles blown in the glass. The water here tasted different than the water at home. My mother told me that the water was harder here: more metallic. I imagine ice cubes stuck in the pipes: thousands of them. When my grandfather turned the faucet, steam would push the water through, melting the cubes into something he could toss through his teeth, run down his chin.
0.3 We called him Avi: the Catalan word for grandfather. The Catalan word for grandmother is àvia, but my grandmother thought it sounded ugly—too tacked on, too in debt to the masculine—an extra letter, an afterthought for someone who is anything but. We call her Oma, which is German; a nod to her own grandmother & her guttural maiden name of Herberg, the innkeeper. When I would spend the night at my grandparents’ house, the sheets would be ironed—edges could cut fingers, they could draw blood. In a frame above the bed, a photograph of me as a child. I am at a restaurant: my arm sticking to a laminated menu on the table. I would ask my mother where this photograph was taken. She would say at a restaurant. Which one I would ask—I have never eaten here—I could not begin to tell you what was on the menu. I would ask where are you? And she would say that she did not know. Why would you leave me alone? I would ask. Someone had to have taken the picture. Someone steadied their hand, made sure there were no thumbs in the photo, made sure that no ghosts would appear.
0.4 When you are young it is hard to imagine your parents as people: they have had names long before you called them yours. You learn their names through your grandparents: they call them son, ijo, Edward instead of father. My mother, even today, will grab me by the arm & tell small children that I am her baby boy: they will stare wild-eyed & confused: how can someone so large be someone’s child? Once, I told a little girl that I was waiting for my mother: she asked me if I meant wife. At some point she told me, we become too old to have parents. A language descended from another language is called a daughter language. The whiskers on my face mean it is time for me to let go.
0.5 Above a couch where I would fall asleep on long nights of grownups talking hung a photograph of my grandfather running on the Brooklyn Bridge. In front of him, someone running faster. Behind him, someone slower. Where are you? I would ask, & he would point to the right of the pack: a baldhead facing forward. Here I am, he would say. I believed him because he believed it was him: he was there, he ran over the Brooklyn Bridge on that day. There is no reason it could be anyone else but him.
0.6 My cousin & I sat on that couch & watched basketball together. We would scream at the players—we would make grand declarations of our favorites. Our grandfather told us to be quiet, but we would not listen. Avi returned from the kitchen, a glass of water in each hand. He proceeded to pour the water on our heads: this is how you will learn. Our clothes were soaked—our homework ruined. My grandmother told him that he cannot do these things; that the punishment does not fit the crime. We were being loud, he said. The water was not cold, he said.
0.7 19,734 runners ran the New York Marathon in 1986. The Brooklyn Bridge is 1.13 miles long. There are 138 heads in that photograph: all moving forward over the East River. There is a 0.7% chance that my grandfather is in that photograph. I choose to believe that there is no way to prove that it is not him: to believe that something is true is easier to believe that something is not true.
0.8 The first word in my grandfathers’ book is Justificacio: justification.
0.9 There is no way through this except through: to put one word in front of the other in hopes of something beautiful showing itself—a type of magic that can only be seen in bridges & how they somehow manage to keep themselves upright, how they prevent us all from tumbling into the river. The word for river is riu. The words for I’m sorry are ho siento. My body is not ready for any of this & I am sorry. I have used the wrong accent mark: heavy-footed when I should’ve been soft. Instead, what I can give to you, is trying to find letters that make sense when placed together—black glyphs on aged paper that look something like remembering. I will look for you, as I always have. I will believe that you are here. I will find you floating above the water.