Sister dirty cheap upon a wood floor; ants heap coffee grounds to dig a hole down the center: a fiddle-player without a bow, a pianist out of keys. Climb, “Oh my little sister!” And sing a song of reason, beauty, blue.
Weak music drips upon a wood table; fingers clucking electric letters to drill a bigger hole: a spider with only four legs, a wingless wasp still stings.
Cry, my sister. Write tears with an old-fashioned feather. Dribble, dabble, lay your breast upon the table; quibble, scribble with bruised knees hard-pressed into the floor. I’ll drink a cup, then spit and laugh and listen as you beg for reason, beauty.
Sister drew a forest so thick, I can find neither footsteps nor socks. But no line drawn will ever mean more than my drowned, mournful defeat. Pin pretty blue butterflies; type neat black-ink labels. We dream of wings, strings, quiet seaside coffee shops, and gulls scream, “Hallelujah!”
I wish we were here together, you knew a beetle from a drum, that written words could sing.
Sister slams soft into a wood door, snaps sweet as cookies crumble. All the ants gather: it’s time to collect your purse, leave your key on the table. I march to the crickets’ beat as the Queen rots on a shelf. Light a fire, “Oh, my sister!”
We tell lies to tell truth. Let me first tell you the truth. The greatest year of anyone’s life arrives at age 19. I anticipated 19 throughout high school then treasured it many years after. I wrote poetry, loved heedlessly, lived shamelessly. At 19, one thrusts themselves into the world with pith and lightning, with newfound freedom to explore and grasp the world, yet unladen by the shackles of adulthood.
At 19, I began to grasp mortality. My winter birthday followed the fall of my great grandmother’s death. It wasn’t the first death I’d known, but it was the first to capture the passage of time, the end of an era; my mother’s family fractured with my great grandmother’s passing. I mourned the loss of history and knew life would continue, irrevocably altered.
I also journeyed the furthest I’d ever been from home. I flew to San Francisco to meet an older man with whom (I thought) I’d fallen in love. Alas, I arrived and did not live happily ever after; in fact, I didn’t even get naked with the guy. But I did stumble upon a Hare Krishna Parade in Golden Gate Park, watch the very first episode of South Park while sitting on Bob’s couch (yes, his name was Bob)—and also suffered such an intense loneliness and desire for another that I felt as if I’d conjured a ghost from his third floor bay windows.
When I returned from the West Coast, with months of 19 yet to enjoy, I remembered the bean Harmony Rae had given me the summer before. I’d never really forgotten; I’d simply been unsure what to do with it. But when I returned to Ohio, full of disappointment, I knew the bean must hold some secret! I began carrying it in my pocket and sleeping with it under my pillow. On moonlit nights, I would gaze obsessively into the bean’s uncanny sheen, its reflective texture reminiscent of both the veins of flesh and fissures of a gem. All my dreams of love, all youthful aspirations, creative verve, and my deepest, darkest, subconscious wickedness bombarded the bean with intense curiosity and desire.
But years then passed. I thought less and less about the bean. It didn’t changed, though I did. I took it with me after I graduated college, and as I moved from state to state. I kept it—never anything more than a bean—with other keepsakes, sometimes on display with my knickknacks, but more and more often, I stored it in a box.
When Harmony called almost fifteen years later, I had completely forgotten about the bean, so buried it had become with the material remnants of history we squirrel away, only to remember when we go digging again.
Sunday, February 26th, I stood naked in a large dark hotel room, at the JW Marriott Ihilani Ko Olina Resort in Oahu. I’d just arrived on the island that morning, spent the day with a cousin and her husband who live in Honolulu, visited Kailua beach, then traveled across the island to check into my hotel as dark clouds began to downpour. The heavy rain was rare but welcome here. For me, it eased the transition from Portland winter to tropical island warmth.
I opened the sliding balcony shudders which spanned the length of my room, then the balcony doors. The comfortably humid air somehow explained my decision to disrobe. Behind me were two queen sized beds, an office desk, entertainment center, armchair, then spacious separate bathroom: altogether, larger than my studio apartment in Southeast Portland. I had arranged my few humble belongings and hung dress shirts on one side of the double closet to prepare myself for the week. Tomorrow would begin three days of business meetings, obligatory dinners, and late night schmoozing over cocktails.
My balcony overlooked the Pacific Ocean to the left, facing northwest. To the right, due north, I could hear but not see the theatrics of a luau through a thick of tress. Drums and a loudspeaker gave me the impression of a tourist trap where fat white people ate and drank to excess while they gawked at performers of mixed ethnicity mimicking traditions not necessarily their own.
From my sixth story room, I felt distant from the world below, new to me but less than exotic. After one becomes accustomed to travel, few sights and spectacles offer otherness, especially attractions groomed for tourists and business conferences. I heightened my appreciation for the moment by beholding my nakedness in a too large room, then gazing into the evening sky. The sun had set. Over ocean waves, I found Jupiter then Venus. Last night, the two aligned with Mercury (hidden below the horizon) and now waited to form a triangle with the crescent moon.
Just then, as if responding to the promise of planetary alignment, a tiny blue butterfly flit from the darkness beyond my balcony to float only a few feet in front of me. How and why had a butterfly flown to this height? It hung there, as if to catch my attention, then faltered to return to the ponds filled with black starfish below.
I obeyed what felt like a beckoning, put on clothes, and left my room to find my way to the resort grounds below. Disoriented at first, it took me a moment—passing an outdoor pool and restaurant patio—to find the landscaped pond I’d seen from above. I looked up to where I believed my room to be, then all around in search of a butterfly.