We sit in silence, the garble of the television the only thing coming between us. I don’t know why I turned it on; the cacophony is messy, indecipherable, and no good to our sensitive ears. Besides, how much do I want to somber my already somber mind with events of a future so bleak that finding any hope is like digging in a haystack for that silver needle.
That damn silver needle. It is there, waiting patiently for us to pick it up. The fire burns, the flames growing brighter and longer, especially around Portland. I flinch. Portland. I had forgotten all about it.
I turn off the television and grab my bag full of crumpled postcards. ” Let’s see if there is anything good to eat downstairs,” I say.
Portland. I heard Wanderlust talking about moving there and for a moment my heart leaped in excitement. It was a gorgeous city right on the water, the fall bringing cool, wet temperatures the caressed the skin in all the right places. Bridges sprouted over the rivers which led to luscious green trees sprinkled among the buildings and coffee shops.
The coffee shops. How many did we stop by? The Twins needed their fill of coffee, despite having a game in less than four hours and they were already on their fifth cup.
“I dug too far,” I whisper as soft as a mouse, yet their sharp ears can pick up the slightest sound.
“What?” they ask.
“I dug too far and stumbled upon something that should not have been found. I should have left it alone, but the shovel tore through something hard and now it is leaking,” I clutch my chest, the sharp thorns prickling my heart. It hurts, it hurts too much to think about, yet it cannot go back into its drawer. The cabinet is open, the files are flying out and I must catch them in order to put them back and only them will the pain subside. Except the pain never goes away. It will come back, as it always does.
“Here, sit down,” they guide me over to a booth. Then they fetch a glass of water from the fountain, and I consume it in one gulp. Just when I thought I was over the pain, I found a new layer that needed to be explored, its complexities unraveled.
“You need to write this down,” I say between breaths.
Around and around I go Spinning in circles, the world No more than a blurry haze Around and around I go Until my hand finally slips away From the man with the horns And the woman with the mottled Face oozing and oozing Yet I cannot look away Despite how much I want to I was twelve when they First came and asked me to Dance And sway and stay With those willing to play And listen as I told them my Fears my Desires my Hopes and lamentations When no one else would So I danced and danced Spinning around and around Never noticing the dark cloud They kept pulling me closer towards Around and around I slowly step And walk towards the clouds Floating in a sky shinning brightly Of blues and golds, purples and pinks While they wait behind wondering If I'll come back to dance Like I always do I was sixteen when they came And asked me if I wanted to dance With the only ones who could take My pain away So I took their hands and together We went around and around Spinning in circles until the world was Blurry And I could not see the bottle of pills I was pouring down my throat Around and around how often I went And yet I look back and see Their hands waiting for me To take one last dance I do not go back Not this time For behind the clouds floating In a sky of blues and golds Purples and pinks Is a beautiful dream I want more than anything else To dance with instead.
It is funny how quickly I fell in love with Portland but just as quickly to have forgotten that love, abandoning it like a broken down car which no longer can provide what I want. It was one of the earlier trips that broke me from the chains that tethered me to one place and one place only. Previously, I only traveled with family or with someone who made the decisions for me. Yes, this was I trip where I didn’t make the decision: it was a necessity warranted by the demands of playing a division one sport. However, it was a trip which facilitated my desire to travel, to push past the boundaries formed by fear and uncertainty and go anywhere.
I forgot my love for Portland. I forgot because it was consumed by ugliness. This would be the last trip I took before something, another disaster, another storm which came unexpectedly, flying beneath the radar, would irrevocably shatter what I was trying to rebuild.
“People may try to tell you to get over it. But no matter how many years go by, it is hard to get rid of something that had no resolution, especially for a brain that needs time to comprehend and even then cannot fully dissect the meaning without an explanation. I know how you and I work; we need explanation for things that are not explained and we need to just do and not think about the things that are over explained. We need patience. But I learned-and its the hardest lesson we learn from the most because through the hard way does anything have a chance on sticking- that people are not always going to give you want you need, let alone what you want.”
I thought I traveled the trail to Oregon with friends. Like the game, I was wrong and I didn’t see the snake bites and broken axle, I didn’t prepare myself with enough bullets to protect and provide food for myself. Blindly, I believed in the masks that appeared to me.
The Twins weren’t bad. In fact, before my last game I ever knew I explored the city with them. Everyone was breaking up into groups and I didn’t know where to go. The Twins had the warmest and kindest masks, and I have always had this inexplicable pull towards older people. As a child, I hung around with Bloody Mary, a girl three years older than me who one day stopped speaking to me because I didn’t attend a party she held. I never understood why she stopped speaking. Then there was Curly Sue’s older brother Thaddeus Maximus who I spent nearly every waking moment following like a awkward puppy, playing Nintendo and inadvertently making Curly Sue envious. So I gravitated towards the Twins, and they were nice. It was nice.
The memories of the city have disappeared; my enthusiasm for photography preserved what little evidence there was that I was there. But the snippets are marred by the bad which decided to dance with the good. After our game, I was not allow to return to the bus until I showered with the team in the communal showers beneath the bleachers. I did not want to expose my body and see my teammates expose theirs, for I knew they would tease and criticize how I took care of my body and that made my cheeks flare hot. The embarrassment was too great, so I showered with my undergarments on, my eyes clamped shut. I could hear the snickers.
You have five minutes to pull yourself together and get inside! I do not want to see you crying! You will not cry! The nightmare becomes a reality and I can see it as clearly as I see water.
I shake, rocking my body back and forth inside the booth.
“What happened?” they ask with their eyes instead of their voice because they are too afraid to poke and prod a sleeping bear. But I see it linger as they nibble on a stale bagel, and they look away, staring at the icicle dangling from the roof instead.
I want to go back to the good, I want to cling to it as the storm threatens to swipe it away. I spent the few hours I had exploring the streets of Portland with the older girls, stopping to get a closer inspection inside the Oregon football stadium, a beautiful piece of architecture that had us nearly drooling. Not too far away was the Nike Headquarters, and through them the Oregon football team received a new uniform every game, or what seemed like it. The privilege granted to athletes is surreal; a halo shrouds them, making them forget about those who will never get the chance to have access to glorious opportunities.
“So why would you throw away such an opportunity?” the question is real, and this time it is me who does not wish to answer. ” You get to live the dream and become an all star athlete. Isn’t that what you always wanted?”
My laughter is mirthless, hollow and empty. ” It wasn’t a dream, kid. Or if it was, it was the wrong kind of dream. Dreams can change, and sometimes the better ones are hidden behind a stormy cloud. And you have to wait for the storm to pass to see it.”
“Did you wait for it?”
“No. My ship just happened to have made it through to the other side, not without some damage. And although I have spent years repairing the damage, I can still see where the mast splintered apart, where the once shiny floorboards were ripped apart, replaced with something different, more sturdy. Mold grows over some areas, and I ruthlessly cleanse them over and over. Because even though I healed, the damage remains, a ghost that haunts during moments of weakness. And in those moments, I do not always know what to do.”
But I must remember to be grateful. I must remember I would not have had the opportunity to see a place I would not have otherwise seen. I must remember the small ounces of happiness swirling among the lack of understanding: the laughter with the Twins instead of the punishment of not wearing the proper outfit out to a restaurant, something my disabled brain did not understand and no one would explain, and the cool, gentle air floating off the water that served as a backdrop of the game instead of being left out of the group photo, an issue that was only a deal because of the isolation I was given in the previous months. One day, I must go back. I did not truly appreciate Oregon because it became lost, and I want to love it again, dispel the regret and animosity. Unlike some other places, Oregon did not deserve to be lost and forgotten, discarded onto a pile of trash to be incinerated.
They run across the sand Sweating, laughing, singing Every day They run, run, run Racing to see who will Make it to the stand As far away as the moon As the stars, as the sea And it is always him Reaching that tall stand first If only because those strong hands Lift him High, high, high Towards the birds soaring in The blue sky They run across the sand Sweating, laughing, singing Every day They run, run, run Even when the thunder booms Behind them They still race Their arms pumping and their Hearts pounding To the stand that is waiting for them " No more, no more, I have to go," He tells the boy waiting To run across the sand Like they always do "One more, one more Before you go" the boy cries Begging those strong arms Not to leave Not to stop lifting him High into the blue sky Which now turns grey As the thunder booms Again and again They run across the sand One last time Still sweating and laughing But no longer singing As there was no longer anything To sing about When he finally left And the boy watches his shadow Wondering if he'll ever Come back
” Are you going to eat anything” they ask sullenly. I shake my head and turn away, taking my turn to stare out the window at the snowy grey sky. A thin fog wraps itself around anything it can touch.
” So what now?” they persist with their questions, ever the inquisitor. I know if I snap, they will clamp their jaw shut, and it will not budge again until someone gets the audacity to pry it open.
Quietly, just above a whisper, I tell them: ” I think I’ve said too much. You should go.”
“Go? What do you mean go?”
” Take what you have and go back to your own time. Go. I don’t want to say too much.” I know I already have, but is it enough to change their course? Or is their course already shifted?