Like I washed up on a beach. The sand in my hair was like termites on my driftwood-soft head. Waterlogged and unreal. If you burnt me, I would become smoke like the Northern Lights, green and cosmic.
I pushed into the sand and rose into some cobra pose. My head lolled back and forth, and my eyes saw only coast, a tree line evolving some yards away. My matted, black hair fell in front of my face and slapped salty spray in my mouth, agape.
Agape, not agape.
Some massive nausea churned in my body as I found the strength to rise. I steadied in the sand, heels plunged in the soft earth, and placed a hand on my stomach. Silverfish nesting in my belly danced as I applied pressure.
A torn calendar of a shirt rocked on my body in the late afternoon wind. Little lobsters of pink and yellow, like lemonade, decorated my shorts. The shirt billowed, and the shorts were too tight.
I walked away from the water and toward the distant sound of music, horns, and drums. I thought of my Abuela. She had been on welfare, raising three sons. Then she became a lawyer. Then she became a judge. I felt like I could figure this out if she could surmount all of that.
The ocean waved goodbye to me in the nostalgic way that salt water taffy brings me back to the beach towns of Oregon. Optimistic, but so, so sad.
Trees loomed over my sand-coated body like denizens in a tribal army, a council deciding if I might go free or stay forever. Odd peels and husks littered the non-path. Sand turned to dirt. Nausea turned to dread.
Horns and drums banged louder with each step. A jungle cat cried some desperate shriek, and I think I did, too. I felt grateful to be far enough away to shriek in privacy.
The tropical coverage got denser as I fumbled deeper inside. I wanted to join the band. Nothing could stop me now, no jungle cats or frightening trees or the objectification of my voluptuous lower half by the too tight shorts. The stakes were high, I decided.
Washing up on a beach can do that. It can rock me to my cemented core, fracking away the little paint chips I’d layered on for however long since the last shipwreck.
Were dogs barking? It could have been seals. Elephant seals become enormous, like briny titans, murmuring below before their gigantic selves explode through the surface to dominate again.
No, I guess it was just the music. It was a long time ago. I placed my beaten up foot in front of the other beaten up foot, treading between coconut crab shells and decomposed stuff.
Darkness descended like a violent weed—vacant, then totally present. I was deposited in whatever place. The music died, hooting and crying from the citizens filling the null. I found a round me-sized notch at the base of a tree and slid down to create a me-sized haunt. The jungle cat, maybe a leopard, yowled near me again. I thought I would cry.
I thought about my Abuela. If she could figure this out, then I could get out of these trees. I could move to the next side, where I decided the stakes were higher than the trees. That same place I was finding; that same place I was forging myself a blade. Were all of the women in my family like this?Confident, smart?
No. They told me that was just an idea. A projection on a whipping sheet on a brown Washington afternoon. What the women in my family excelled at was molding surviving into thriving. White rice and ground beef turned their boys into nurturers. The homes of one bed for three people made gentleness out of chaos. The time their husbands spent in jail made them captains of their voyages. It destroyed the forever nascent passenger inside.
I thought the cold night away until it was tropical morning. Flowers opened toward me as the jungle cat stalked along the coast, searching for the body of some black haired jester.
Soft at first, then all at once, the music came to life. In the day, my dread went away like kites on the wind, and I looked forward. Coconuts and mangoes rained.
The tree line’s inverse became clear as I peered through a tiny gap between thick trees. I saw men in hats, women in suits, and a great ensemble of tall, zodiac creatures and caricatures. They wept, but not because it was over. They wept because the music goes on slowly and surely despite the nausea. Despite the dread.