I have never seen more rain. A strong ephemeral wind blows. The boats bounce vigorously. The drops and drips fall down at first a drizzle and then a cacophony. Thoughts try to take shape but escape half-formed beneath it all. People bike in bathing suits with naked feet and wet chests. Through puddles. Into soggy worlds. Juniper weeps.
I am a flower of night. I run into the rain and disappear at a retro cafe. I sit down. I think about how water is a lover. How It loathes loneliness. How it falls and rises and seeps and pouts and pours and runs and rushes, because all it wants is synthesis. I love water.
I open my book. I read. A man sits down in front of me. I am confused. He sailed away two days ago for the Tuamotus. Why is he here?
He made it 60 NM, then his starter went out, and he didn’t want to risk approaching without his engine.
I said “Did the old hammer trick not work?”
He laughed, “Nope.”
The hammer- tap tap tap- while cranking, became my best friend once, but machines can only get you so far. Water can take you a lot further. Around the world if you want it to.
I said, “Is it just me, or is there always something to repair on a sailboat? I mean, I feel like I get one thing solid and something else becomes liquid.”
He said, “Cruising is just going from one paradise to the next in order to repair things.”
That’s it! Cruisers are hermit crabs who play in the ocean so hard they bust their shells open. I wish we could line up along the sand and exchange one shell for another, like they do. I would like to try on an iridescent pink shell with brown polka dots that’s spiral shaped.
My shell still leaks. Starboard side, bow stanchion. The lover runs down her cabin wall from the bolts and running light cables. The deck is now glassed and the fittings are gooped good, so I don’t know how the lover finds it’s way in.
I like puzzles. Don’t you?
I have another puzzle to solve, my insects. So I call Franco. He is the harbor master here and a walking comedy show piled on top of administrative duties. I never know what side of him I will get. He might make me laugh, he might make me move my boat… again.
I tell him that my natural roach remedies appear to have failed me. That I have found eggs on every inch and crevice of my fridge. I ask if he knows anybody who knows somebody, who can help this body, because there are simply some things that I do not want to do on my own. I tell him, I need troops. I need weapons. I need friends, or friends of friends, or at the very least to borrow somebodies pet gecko. I tell him the situation is foul. Franco says, “Yes, but this is the life. They exist. And so do we. And forever we must fight them.”
Franco sends his son, who brings along a friend, who is not just any friend, but a man who speaks six languages, is a lomi lomi master, and in the Guinness book of world records for dead weight lifting 683 pounds! He’s a soft mountain and his name means Strange Bird, but he tells me to call him Jonathan.
Strange Bird and I buy rubber gloves but none of them fit his tree hands. We go to town on the fridge anyway. He pulls up a pile of the eggs on a rag. He smells them, he touches them, he looks at them with one eye open, then says, “These aren’t roach eggs, these are maggots.” We both make faces as if we have smelled something rancid. He then pulls out a 3 month old, block of forgotten cheese that was the incubator for all my little friends. I faint without falling.
If anybody ever asks you if I have children, tell them I have millions. Millions of insect children. Tell them some fly, some crawl, some bite. Tell them- she just couldn’t help herself, once she got to the tropics, she just started popping them out left and right. Bloop. Bloop. Bloop. Tell them you’ve never seen such a site.
It took hours for us to murder my children. Strange Bird taught me words from the Marquesas Islands along the way. Of all the languages he knows, this one is his favorite. None of the words are spoken, they are all sung. How beautiful, is that? I wish all languages were songs. Then again, would we want to sing, if we sang instead of spoke? Like, would there be a desire for song if everything was already a song?
Another friend from the Marquesas told me that the French forbid him to sing his language of song. If they heard him sing it in school he was forced to pick 50 mimosa pudica plants from the garden. Those shy and shrinking plants have deep pink flower puffs and thorns and they make you bleed. The leaves also fold together with the slightest touch.
I am no botanist, but from what I can find, this plant has toxins that can damage a cow, but it is also medicinal and has antibacterial, antidepressant and aphrodisiac properties.
All I know for certain is how the plant wounded me. I got scraped by many on my way to a waterfall. I felt stinging followed by itchiness. Days later I have an infection on my left foot, which is my good foot. It’s the foot that never worked well to begin, so bones were sliced and Gore-Tex was added to replace ligaments. Now I walk with a beautiful fire burning in that foot, which also has two webbed toes that make a heart shape when I bend them. You can see why I prefer my fire-heart-foot to the normal foot. So much charm. But it is now infected by the mimosa and I have found no aphrodisiac effects from it.
I think the mimosa plant is the opposite of the lover, water. It wants to live only among itself. It wants to multiply and spread and destroy anything that is not it. It wants to hurt you and heal you all at the same time, which is very confusing! I think it is the colonialists of the plant kingdom.
My friend’s hands bled and burned after picking the plant, but he never stopped singing his people’s song. He knew that his tongue was a powerful thing. For the tongue is one’s magic wand. In unison, tongues can shake the earth and gather gods in the sky. To silence a tongue causes cultural extinction, which in turn, destroys the human spirit. They say that every 14 days a language dies. We only have 6,500 languages left on earth. So how many spirits will be broken by the end of this century?
Today, on Thanksgiving, I wish all the people of the world were like water, wet with love for lives different from their own.
And now for a piece of fiction……
Cherry stood on the side of a red dirt road. She was 20 miles east of the “Welcome to Sweet Home Alabama” sign and the furthest west she’s ever been from the Poarch Creek Indian Reservation.
Everything she had, she had on, and dirt was on everything; her face, dress, coat, dreams, colored beads and moccasins. With her left-hand she had her thumb out, and with the right, she was applying a fresh coat of purple lipstick. She got the lipstick for the name, “Black Honey Pirate,” not the color. She smacked her lips and put the stick back into her rucksack, next to her fishbone and her banjo and her eagle feather.
The day did drip and drag and now, the hot pink sun did drop- towards the horizon- surrounded by sundogs. Cherry heard an owl hoot and the thought of death squeezed her until she shook. She stared into the circular rainbow and said to the sky, “Thank you Creator God, for the crystals and the clouds and the colors of heaven. And please Creator God, don’t forget about me, your little tumbleweed that is cold out here and lookin’ for a nice wind to blow away in. Please Creator God, don’t leave me here with the cold dust and the dark dark and the yellow eyes.”
She exhaled and her breath hung heavy with fog and folktales. As soon as her breath dissipated, a 1980 baby blue Ford pickup truck pulled up.
“Which way you headin’?” the driver asked. He was a man of the cloth, but he wore a cowboy hat on top and snaked-skin boots on bottom. He was chewing hard on a piece of gum and a crucifix dangled aglow from his review mirror.
Cherry looked up at the sky in total confusion.
The priest said “Hello, ain’t you got ears?” He blew his gum into a bubble and let it pop loud and strong.
Cherry kept looking up and said, “Yeah, I’m headed to California, where its warm and the sunsets are slow.”
The Priest said, “Hop in, I can take ya as far as New Mexico.” Cherry hesitated.
“Come on, trains leavin’, can ya two-step, can ya turtle, can ya tornado,” the priest said.
Cherry threw her suitcase in the back and slid into the cab of the truck. The priest smelled like a pack of wet wolves. She sat as close to the window as she could.
“Buckle up,” He said. She put on her seatbelt.
“I’m Reverend Turner Tucker the III of The Church of Cowboy. And you are?” He smiled and a syndrome fell out of it. His words felt like rocks in her ears and made Cherry’s chest flutter in a bad way, like there was a bunch of butterflies trapped inside and trying to escape. She knew then, that he came from nothing good, and nothing good came from him.
Cherry said, “My name’s Cherry Fire Heart.” She wanted him to fear her, “They named me that ‘cause I’ve caught snakes and I’ve caught fire and my heart beats to a frequency of infrequency.” Then she asked, “And what made you become a reverend?”
The new moon rose orange between their words.
Turner slapped his free hand on the dash three times. Dust rose as he said, “Why does anybody do anything? Because they want something more. I became a reverend ‘cause I was tryin’ to wring out all the wrong in me. Tryin’ to turn this sinner into a saint. But the way I see it now, nobodies a saint, not even saints. At the root of all of us is good and evil and we’re all just trying to get by. Some of us beg, some of us steal, and some of us borrow. I guess your people know all about that.”
Cherry didn’t say anything. The window next to her steamed up and she drew an eagle on it with her finger. She thought about how all white men are the same kind of rough-edged devils hiding behind snow-colored skin.
Without looking at him she said, “If you turn away from the light, then a lot of things can break even a strong spirit.”
They crossed the state line into Mississippi and she felt empty and thirsty, not fat and full like she thought she would.
Turner said, “I think the devil is the path of least resistance. Say, you’re a young little thing, ain’t ya gonna miss your family when you’re all the way out west with nobody to talk to.”
Cherry said, “You can’t miss nothin’ if there’s nothin’ left to miss.” She regretted saying it, it made her weak.
Turner pulled a silver flask out of his pocket and took a swig. “You want some moonshine, made it myself?”
Cherry kept her eyes on her little eagle. “No thank ya. Can we stop at that gas station up the way, I need to tinkle.”
Turner pulled over at the Loves gas station, he took a knife out of his boot and held it to Cherry’s face, “If you don’t come out, I’ll come in there and get ya. You ain’t much to look at, but somethin’s better than nothin, and seein’ as nobodies gonna miss ya, I’ve decided to keep you around a while,”
Cherry grabbed her rucksack and walked into the gas station. Her tears fell and the lights of the store scattered into stars. When the man working behind the counter saw Cherry, he moved his hand over his mouth and said, “wa- wa- wa- wa-wa.”
She tuned him out and focused on the radio announcer, “A man dressed as a priest is suspected of armed robbery in Alabama. Police believe he is in a 1980s baby blue Ford pickup truck and heading west.”
Cherry went into the bathroom. She felt like the whole universe fell on top of her head; Saturn with all its rings, the Milky Way, meteors, big moons, Mercury. She was scared and sinking. Descending into a deep blue. She pissed her pants. She fidgeted, wet, trying to figure out what to do. She looked in the mirror and reflected back to her was a great, great, great ancestor in the form of a black bear.
The bear said, “Go brave child to battle. Even a rabbit can fool a coyote. I give you the strength of the mountain and the grace of the violet meadows.”
“But I have no weapon!” Cherry said.
“You need no stone, no arrow, no bullet, no gun. Use your brain, your fishbone and your banjo.”
The bear disappeared. Cherry splashed water onto her face, braided her black hair, and stuck the eagle feather on top. Then she took her “Black Honey Pirate” lipstick and drew a purple line straight across her face. She walked out of the bathroom, stole a twinkie, and shoved the fishbone inside of it.
As she returned to the truck she chanted soft, “Oh great expanse of the blue sky, See me roaming here, Again on the warpath, lonely. I trust in you, protect me!”
Cherry opened the truck door, “I got ya somethin’ sweet,’” she handed Turner the Twinkie.
Turner sucked it down like frog eating a fly. He started to choke and held his hand to his throat, trying to cough the sharp fishbone out.
Cherry chanted strong now, “Again on the warpath, lonely.”
She took out her banjo and beat Turner over the head with it. When the banjo broke, she used its strings to strangle all the air out of him. And when he was dead, she said to his body, “May you come back to this earth as a single blade of grass, that gets shit on by cows in the spring and freezes to death in the winter.”
Cherry dumped Turner’s flesh and blood and spirit at the gas station and drove west towards California.