Fall clothes the city in a mist of character, a thick mist containing dense clouds of memories that hover above each person who walks in the early evening, rides in the rain soaked streets, or sits inside on a Saturday morning, wishing it was still summer but not denying(more) the inevitable. (less)
She opened her eyes to the center of the back of his head where the white blond hair spiraled, short in the back, mussed in the front. She reached around his hips which were sharp but led to a rock hard stomach that made her smile.
(more) She had never touched silky athletic material so close to her naked body. His shorts were on, the waist band thick and bunched. She ran her fingers down rippling arms to a large hand wearing two fat, cold rings.
Turning over, she put on her maroon sleep dress which lay next to big white sneakers that looked like they'd never been worn. She got dressed in three or four layers of knit and looped the pile of necklaces that hung from her bedside lamp around her head. Her head ached.
When the necklaces jingled he stirred, and rose onto his elbows.
"I have to go to school," she said quickly.
"I'll drive you," he said, and without stalling, swung his legs masterfully out of bed and into a standing position. She stopped pulling on her boots to look up at him, his head almost touching her low ceiling, his clothes hanging clean on his body. She touched her messy red hair and the holes in her fishbone tights.
In the parking lot a bright yellow Corvette, its geometry accentuated with dew, beeped twice. He opened a door for her. She hesitated, looking around for her neighbors.
He let the car idle, turning towards her and putting his hand on her knee. His eyes were jewel turquoise, the unnaturally deep kind reserved for oceans.
"Good morning, baby," he said and then lurched into reverse and onto the street, turning up the stereo and rolling down his window.
She looked into her lap, smiling at herself. (less)
He was looking at the ground. At the grass pushing at the edge of the sidewalk. At the toes of his sneakers which were damp from walking across the park.
His eyes as they approached each other stayed easily on other things. She looked straight at him. She(more) looked for his long eyelashes under the shadow of his forehead which spilled over with curly hair.
Whatever had been inside of her before she crossed the street to walk toward him turned molten. She was usually shy, and had no idea what she would say to him if he caught her eye, but she dared him to. She touched her stomach and reminder herself that she had his number and could call, but this seemed so purposeful.
She knew he was absent minded from the way he threw his arm over her that night, cuddling into her back but never face to face.
As he passed her he looked straight ahead, seeming not to notice anything around him. The green of spring overwhelms the imagination, she thought, but knew this was a weak excuse. (less)
My mom and I are putting together salads from little baggies of nuts, greens and dried fruit at the kitchen counter when my sister Sam comes and sits down. She carries a pink purse, but no bowl for her own salad. Mom and I both look up at her(more) expectantly, for she seems to be holding her breath.
"Mom, did you have sex before you were married?" she says.
Mom's eyes get wide, forcing themselves to be pleasant and her lips purse into a tight smile. "Well," she says, "your dad and I got married when I was two months pregnant with your sister."
"So you got married because you were pregnant?"
"Well, not exactly," she pauses, the conversation launching into something entirely unromantic. "There are some benefits to being married..."
My sister's face becomes harder and annoyed. She's been making this face lately when mom and I drink gin and tonics on the porch, or if I come home in the morning while she's eating breakfast. She tugs on her ponytail and neurotically smooths out the little hairs.
"Benefits like stability?" she asks. Before mom answers she starts again, "I just don't think that's its OK to, you know, have sex before marriage. I am worried about Han." She won't look at me, just looked down at the Hollister decal on her shirt and applies more shiny lip balm. "My friends at youth group ask me about my family, and I don't know what to say."
I want to laugh, or tell her she'll grow out of it and that she has food in her braces.
Mom takes a deep breath, "you could tell them your sister is incredibly smart. And your family loving."
"It's not enough," Sam says quickly. Mom looks at her salad. Is this teenage rebellion?
I discovered this morning, that if you are the priest of a small, coastal Mexican village, you are woken up on the morn of your birthday by an entire marching band, complete with strong bass and multiple french horns. And that this festive hullabaloo will continue for one hour,(more) but finish before the sun even comes up.
Thus I found myself lying in bed at six a.m., knowing sleep was utterly impossible. Feliz cumpleaños, Padre. I never decided whether it was more disruptive than it was hilarious and endearing of the culture. I did decide that the music was incredibly danceable, yet that I would stay in bed, and let my mind wander to the beat.
My half-waking, half-dancing brain set upon the usual questioning, the path I usually take towards sleep. I will return to my boyfriend in one week, after which we will spend a month gallivanting around the Southwestern United States, most likely entirely in love. Then, we will spend one month together at home, waking up late, eating too many brunches out, and talking late into the night. I will be gathering my life and saying goodbyes to go abroad for one year, not knowing when I will be back in that town or in that room with him, staying up late to talk about nothing.
So what do you do when you know you will part and your eyes and hearts will likely take other routes, but not just yet? Do you leave things unsaid, or say everything and admit that you have no idea what your future holds?
When I woke up for the second time this morning, the sun was up too, and the birds. My head rested comfortably on these questions, those not to be answered just yet. (less)
"So they both have the same name. Ren and Wren. That's how they met. A friend introduced them in middle school because of their names," I say. I lean forward in my rocking chair to take the bottle of whiskey that Mina pushed in my direction.
(more) "Hold up. They have the same name?? And that name?" Mina rocks on the edge of the porch, one arm holding onto the post, as if she were on a boat dock, her feet playing in the water.
"Yessss. That's how this story started. That's how they met. That makes it less random." I haven't seen Mina for over a year. We had lots of pixelated Skype chats where she'd hold up her Spanish nanny-child and his funny faces would stay glued on my screen as she continued talking. We like to drink and talk about people, like this, people we met when we were apart.
"Anyways," I say, "they have been dating for years, and have the little text fights to prove it. They're both so fiery. She's super beautiful, with long black hair, and when she visits him she doesn't bring clothes. Just wears his huge overalls and Carharts. He's like a redneck from LA. She's spunky and sexy, but parties hard and always wakes up with bruises. Like my sister. His parents are artists, but he loves guns and baseball. And drives a beat-up Ford Explorer. Don't know how it happened. I guess he spends a lot of time with his family in Oregon. He says they fish a lot," I laugh, pushing the whiskey back down the planks toward Mina. "And kill rattle snakes."
"I like them," said Mina, laying her head back on the porch and looking up at me. "And I like listening to you. Go on." (less)
My older sister walks onto the porch right before dinner and sits down next to me. I am already picking at the fruit salad, the juice of the watermelons on my face. My mom tosses some rounded squares of cantaloupe on my plate next to the circle of dark(more) blueberries I made, and tells me to not pick things out. I flick some black seeds over the railing and touch my sticky fingers to my sister's knee under the table.
She swats at my hand and looks at me. I am pleased she sat next to me, because she usually sits by her boyfriend Aaron, but I haven't seen him in a while.
"What were you doing today?" I say.
"I went to the pool, with Cole," she says, spooning fruit onto her plate. She starts picking out her blueberries for me.
"With Cole?" I say. "Oooo. Why?" Cole is her old boyfriend. A "summer boyfriend." He is tan and really nice and always makes her CD's that we listen to in the car.
"To hang out, put our toes in the water, you know," she says. I don't know. It is almost thunderstormy outside and she never goes to the pool any more. I then notice these red marks around her lips, like the pink juice drying around mine.
"Whats on your face?" I ask her.
"What do you mean," she say and touches her cheeks. "Is it ice cream? I did have a bite of ice cream when I walked through the kitchen."
"No. Its red but not from food," I say and touch around her lips and chin. She flinches at my sticky fingers.
"It's rough," I say. At this she smiles a little smile.
"Ohhh," she says, looking away from me, "it's stubble marks. Oops."
When you walk up the stairs from the office, which sits in the earth-cooled basement of their house, you see her legs stretched up on the porch railing, her back and head flat on a cushion, her body a sharp right triangle. Her head is near your feet as(more) she greets you, ignoring the whining moans of her partner coming from the back room of her house in thick Spanish.
You never see them together. You see her in passing, and you'll have long talks. She is warm, but seems closed, however much she tells you about her family or her past. You bond because she also grew up in rural Oregon, and she smiles with more energy when you talk about specific places or the differences between Oregon rain and Jalisco rain.
She is so much younger than him that when you met you thought she was a foreign boarder in his home, but they moved here together. You see him in passing, and he is quick to question your observations, whether it be about the weather or American politics. He pushes an uncomfortable sliver of philosophy and argument into every encounter.
Her biceps are thin where yours bulk up. You see worry in her body. When she says she doesn't have the money to leave Mexico and visit home but once a year, when tourism is down, you hear isolation and lack of control. But when you walk by on their porch, and she offers you a frozen, raw, coconut-coated ball cookie, and he pipes in about this batch versus the last, and their attempts to perfect it, you see something new. But what?
You bite into the sweet ice and remind yourself that it is what it is, and that it is not yours, it is theirs. (less)
They sit at a table by the beach playing cards. They all wear pastel-colored hats and have a bottle of tequila and a bottle of Sprite on their table, both plastic. It is a restaurant table, and remains of a dinner are pushed to the edge of the table,(more) where a fourth person might sit. I wonder if they are on vacation.
We are far out in the water when she asks me what I think about the word "bicultural." Two cultures coexisting in one place. They do just that, is my first though. But "bicultural" seems so pleasant, so equal. It doesn't carry with it a panoramic shot of the layers that I can see from the water.
We've been pushed out to the fishing buoy without noticing and my view is widened. A thin layer of sand, a scattering of palapa roofs and single story concrete homes. Then the green hills freckled by immense homes, the kinds with many shapes attached, sharp shapes like cut gems, all of different colors. Here, I see one culture, and then another, startlingly clean, high above it.
We are in Chalo's kitchen, talking as she plays with the flan knife and watches her daughter pour herself nutty chocolate liquor into a mug. The heat blows around in the room. A white girl with tight curly hair walks in, and they talk about laundry and Chalo lends her a big pot for herbs. The girl introduces herself and invites us to a party for someone at a gringo bar. The girl talks to Chala in comfortable Spanish. She smiles a lot.
But we probably won't go drink with her at the bar. We can't decide about "bicultural." We never seem to venture too far into either side, if there are sides. (less)
Digital charm turns to digital harm as it warps the space between their two square tables, centered in two separate rooms, hundreds of miles apart.
It began when he saw her four years ago, one hand on her countertop the other bent behind her back playing with th(more)e ends of her hair. He walked through the door, his hand in the smaller hand of another girl, and saw much more than expected, a levitating confidence that gave him confidence when he was single again three months later.
Then, the charm began to reverberate through the airways of email, brightening both their separate spaces with curiosity. They put effort into this charm, making new space, forging the shared ground on which a new relationship can grow, unbounded by reality or time. She could never remember to send him the mixtapes she told him she would send, but that didn't stop them from becoming more, so much more, when they finally ended up in the same place, at the same time, once again.
They created a real space, an incredibly special space. The digital charm not longer works its wonders, no longer seeming to collapse time and space. She sits at her new table, looking out through rounded windows lined with chalky bricks at greenery spraying up before her house, and thinks how much sharper these lines feel than those which outline his form and mind for her.
Before, she loved the digital looseness that blew him around like the trees in her yard, whose leaves make a sound like soft rain. Now, she wants skin not poetry. She can make poetry on her own, now. (less)
I've had many experiences like this, since coming to Mexico to teach six weeks ago: conversation becomes an unawkward triangle, vacillating between English and Spanish, picking people up and letting them drop to the side for a time.
(more) After a pleasantly flat evening swim, Nancy and I stop at the house on the corner which I know only because outside a yellow dog often digs deep, wide holes to lay in when the heat becomes unbearable. The earth cools him. After introductions and greetings in Spanish, Nancy begins talking to Dean, who is visiting the house, in English: two Canadians who both speak Spanish but need to discuss work for a moment. I am left to chat with the man of the house on the corner, in my teetering Spanish, which can almost fully comprehend his occupational stories of coconut gathering. I imagine his body, old and copper colored, creased with lines around his neck and eyes and below his knee caps, scaling a palm tree with a machete.
Easier than this is watching and smiling and connecting as his shirtless little boy offers me the piece of coconut flesh he has been chewing on dropping in the dust occasionally. When I politely decline he begins to walk away, marching right down the street, his shorts bagging at the waist.
His sister comes from behind, scooping him up in her arms, extending him lengthwise in a fashion similar to the way my aunt shows her hairless show cats. I expect him to roll right off her arms as she tips back and forth, letting his feet weigh and then his head. I watch his long hair wisp the dirt and his teeth clench tight the hard white fruit. When she sets him down, he returns to his father's side.
"Any day now, any fucking day now," my boyfriend said as he stood at our kitchen window watching the cars line up, static and frustrated, in the street.
I'd told him many times before, as I set myself up at my desk in the morning, that the bridg(more)e could have collapsed if they hadn't started fixing it. God, my heart used to pound driving over it, knowing it should have been replaced in '95. It was the oldest something-something bridge in the country, I'd heard once. This city loves their bridge facts.
But as he tightened the lid of his coffee and propped his bike through the door, he'd mumble about construction in Oregon, how they draw it out for economic stimulus, how they should be providing us with earplugs or therapy. "I'm gonna start hearing brakes screeching in my sleep," he said.
It had been a long time, but sitting at my desk, positioning ads for a tiny knitting company in Milwaukee, I looked out at the people in the cars, applying makeup, cleaning their consuls with one of those little air sprayers, talking on the phone with their head bent against the window.
By now the flaggers had calmed down. The woman on the opposite sidewalk from our house had to be around thirty, with tattoos on her forearms, snaking up into her orange sleeves.
I liked her because she seemed just as amused as I was. Chaos had always made me giggle. Her gestures at the cars coming from the side streets were overstated like she was doing one of those fluid martial arts. And when the traffic would move regularly she would look at me between the moving cars, and I would go onto the steps to smoke. (less)
We knew better than to start printing then, with imperfect cuts that lacked energy or focus. We were drinking, though, in the art building after dark, and instead of becoming furious artists, we just cut until our hands hurt, and then printed the linoleum sheet sloppily. The prints ended(more) up light in places, blotchy in others, with cut marks streaking across what we meant to be white space.
You wanted to make a turkey, because you liked those vintage hunting posters with the autumnal feathers, but I thought that was dumb, so I made a print of my favorite building, reaching up into a sky past the tips of too-small trees. We printed them on the same sheet of paper, though, with our initials underneath.
Last Saturday morning my daughter went through a box of my work from college, and she put the large page with our pictures sitting side-by-side in spotty black ink on the coffee table. My husband looked up from his bowl of cereal because she didn't say anything about the pictures, didn't read a line or comment on the disjointed notes I took. She left it on the tabletop and moved on to the next paper in the box.
My husband turned to me. "Whose DK?" he said.
"David," I said, "my ex from senior year." And I didn't want to tell him anything else, didn't want to joke about past relationships or youth or bad taste or bad art. I wanted to not feel the need to tell him that we didn't care about the reckless cut marks and the blotted white space.
"Why don't they float off?" she asked me, sitting on my sister's front steps, the shallow dish of an ashtray cushioned in her hand like a crystal ball.
I wanted to say, "Mirabelle, that is gross." Her lips, pouting with alcohol, were getting way to close to the(more) grime, as she blew into the dish.
"Its wet," I said instead. I had to remind myself that though I had lost their wrecklessness, I was gross in other ways, scraping the cracks of my apartment clean with a q-tip after long days at work.
"Yeah," she said smiling at me, "yeah, that must be it." Then she took to wiping it clean with a cigarette butt. It actually helped. "Would you pour just a tiny bit of your beer in here?" She asked me, holding up the dish.
"Um, sure," I said, carefully tipping a few drops in.
"No, silly, more than that," she said.
I poured in more, and a sea of gray glitter floated to the surface. Mira stopped and looked at me, in awe, now not wanting to touch it.
"You should dump it now, and then we can fill it again," I said, invested in the cleansing.
She rocked her whole body nodding and tossed the beer and ash into the flower bed with gusto. It was remarkably clean.
"You could use a leaf to scrape the rest," I said.
At this she giggled. "Dude, I have a kleenex." Her eyes got wide.
I started laughing, too. "Yes!" I said, as my sister was coming out the front door to hover over me. .......