Disturbing the Spirits

Down to Maria with her shining red guitar, ash somehow on the back of her right shoulder, her messy ponytail and no-nonsense sweats. Isa practices break-dance moves she learned in Europe in the tiny, walled-in yard. I wrestle with thread, cannot see the eye of the needle anymore, shreds of pink fabric in my hands like bunches of blossoms. I tell stories to people who aren’t there. I feed on thin air.

Admiring a huge harvest moon, sharp relief of gold and black, with the taxi driver in whose custody you have placed your body, what is near and far transmutes, shifts in jars and rows. White dust comes in storms. Dogs lick your fingers. You try to be patient with yourself. You will realize there are some things you never did do.

I will look out the dining room window and be stabbed by pain remembered by what I do not see there in the dark, silver branches etched on a blue porcelain bowl, myself ice skating alone although I do not know how to skate. In the Andes it is too thin-aired even to think of ice, or of heavy heat. In a violet room above the crowded plaza, sounds easing through wooden shutters, Wyatt brushes my hair back, gasping, and looks for my eyes as though he might weep or break. Thank you, is the first thing he says, in a whisper, and I am stunned at the profound grace of his bravery, breaking where he could be seen.

On the roof with a jolt you realize how close the clouds are. Admiring a huge harvest moon, sharp relief of gold and black, with the taxi driver in whose custody you have placed your body, what is near and far transmutes, shifts in jars and rows. White dust comes in storms. Dogs lick your fingers. You try to be patient with yourself. You will realize there are some things you never did do.

Morning holds us like bread, and from my vantage point on the trolley this sunny city day, I cannot see exactly how we’re suspended, rocking, across the bridge. I understand now something my mother said on a road trip up the coast of California. We were waving back and forth under colossal redwoods, my hands full of drive-thru chicken fajita, and she said that a car is an interesting thing in which to travel since it’s a vessel that goes through the land instead of over it like a plane, a capsule hurtling through surroundings without really participating in them. On the trolley our bodies are like a bunch of trees, packed tightly, arm branches reaching for the metal bar. We all sway in the wind of the trolley coming to a halt.

In the dark our minibus dips down suddenly and an Elton John song comes on. I turn to Maria and tell her this song is on the first cassette tape I ever bought. I was nine years old, and in Isla Vista with my mother. It was the same day she noticed that my right foot turns out when I walk. We ate Chinese food on benches painted deep red.

Pale moon fingernails in the shower that kept turning cold, green shower curtain cocoon encircling in the corner, barley soup, a picture of Angelina Jolie on Maria’s wall, Maria the drummer and chef, Isa the younger, eighteen years old, just back from a year in Switzerland, in a skirt and jacket, clearly wanting to practice her English and play hostess. Maria produces a carrot pipe. No one who did not grow up on ranches as I did ever understood before why I would suggest an apple when rolling papers were not to be found, and here is an old kitty purring on my lap and an absent Diva. What does my mother do? asks Isa, blowing out smoke. She directs a library, she writes, and she is a radical leftist.

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