Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cherry Cheers

It is raining in Seattle. A phenomenon for me. A routine for the locals.

Yesterday we saw the pink and white clouds of cherry blossoms floating along the lanes of University campus. Spring is yet to break. Young faces with full cheeks, different headwear and heavy backpacks marched pass me with determined steps. The glory of all this youth, color and energy makes me want to weep. The flowers fall like tears, without direction, without purpose, without a wall. The sky is watercolor blue and clear. But unless you take a photo, you see nothing but their delicate stamens, the soft pink curves rounding their edges like stylized smiles.

The blossoms have become smaller each year. We remember how it used to flood the campus. Our guide tells us.

His hair is a thin white layer of snow shielding his smoothing head underneath, reminiscent of the vista of mount Rainer we see in the distance. A contrast against his heavy black shoes which he drags in a shuffling walk, as if too tired to lift anymore. So pale is mount Rainer's delicate snow caps against the bright sky that we fail to capture it on camera. Our eyes work better to spot it, and the middle aged lady in pink parka tiptoeing to smell the delicate blossoms. The arch of her toe is as innocent as the swooping branch, dipped low to reach the tip of her nose.

The purpose of the trip is unclear. But it's good to be out somewhere one experiences spring, rather than blink and miss it. It feels a privilege to step onto that frail cusp where warm front pushes and attempts to tug away the cold snow, the wet rain and the dark coats. But it takes a few back and forth that lasts weeks, months, not hours. Umbrellas bloom under this invisible line marking the tug-of-war, as rain makes a resurgent call to claim the early onset of short skirts, bare necks and lashes catching pedals rather than its dusty drops. The struggle is real, and I no longer see fluttering hemlines with flowery prints today. But I enjoy the teetering back and forth. Back home the battle is won without ever being fought. The perpetuity of sunshine a mausoleum against the sorrow bleakness of winter, the swift retreats of spring.  The weight of all that sunshine can bear down on you like "a hot iron," or an insistent mother-in-law who overstays her welcome, busy-bodying around the house to tell you what towels to use in the guest bathroom, what herbs to stir into that marinara sauce.

Today I shall return to the university campus for another little picnic consisting of nothing more than fallen pedals mixed into a tepid cup of coffee, an eyeful of strangers whose lives are a bit less determined and perhaps more full of struggles than mine. I see what I want to see, and smile on their behalf, even when they are not.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

3BT: Rain or Shine

1. Rain

Seven days of non-stop rain gives me an excuse to use the fireplace, my thick blanket and hot coco powder in danger of approaching expiration. Bunny hops around on the new wood floor. She slips and slides when she thinks the boy is chasing her but purrs when she is finally caught. When I pet her, she leaves behind threads of silky white hair that pops against the antique wood finish like traces of spring snow. I take my time cleaning it up.

2. Shine

We stretch achy muscles and hit the beach when the sun finally returns. The water takes on shades of aqua, unbroken by summer crowds. Surf is small, just right for not-so-brave hearts like mine and those nearby. The water has a way of waking you like a piercing splash of blue light across the dark. You inhale until it hurts. Then some more. Under the surface of tugging waves is the sound of silence.

3. Songs

The songs you once loved but no longer listens to makes you smile and cry. You make enough food for an army and share it with friends who don't mind seeing you ragged with choppy hair and old clothes. In the morning you go for a jog along the horizon, taking photos with the lens of your lashes when morning light paints the world in cotton candy pinks and blues. The rusty old swing sings when childish feet kicked it high, an old song of squeaky screws fighting to hold all the pieces together.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Fiction: Bones

The new puppy begs for a name with his droopy eyes, long lashes that cover half of his face and a pale cream coat stamped with a pattern that resembles...lips.

But the boy doesn't think so. He too has dark brown eyes that drop at the corners and long lashes that cast shadows halfway down to his cheeks. His lips are full, puckered while thinking.

"They look like milk bones. Puppies like bones. That's why he is bones."

He tilts his head and knocks a dimpled finger against an imaginary chalk board, mimicking the teachers he has observed so carefully, so quietly at kindergarten. The boy speaks so rarely that his father is always surprised to hear it--thoughtfully constructed sentences, an adult vocabulary rather than baby talk.

At the moment the puppy is worn out from a surgery to remove a cyst from his belly. The boy has brought him water, kneeling to push the ceramic bowl under Bones' chin. He patted Bones' head. The puppy whimpers and licks the boy's hand.

"Dinner time, Austin!" His father unties an apron from his waist and pats the boy on his shoulder.

Austin slides his hands around Bones' belly and attempts to carry him. They are on the small patio extending from the two bedroom apartment. A streak of twilight livens the auburn in the boy's hair. His father squints to see the blue in his eyes.

"No puppy, just you at the table." He says gently.
Austin looks up, eyes glassy.
"It's pizza bagel," James says. "But no puppy."

 Austin follows James inside. The phone rings. It's the hospital. Austin's mother Gina is scheduled for surgery tomorrow. The surgeon wants to assure the family they are in good hands. The nurse reminds them of the schedule. They can come and pick her up at 11am. Gina will be rolled into surgery at 8am.

Dinner is still warm. Two pizza bagels dressed with ham and tomato and cheese: Romano, Parmigiano and cheddar. Austin picks off bits of red stained bagel flesh and leaves them on his plate. James knows he hates tomato but he leaves it on anyway but ignores his attempts to take it off. When he stands to clean up, Austin's plate looks like the affect of a post surgery tray, littered with soggy red tissues.

He drains the last of his wine and leaves the dishes in the sink.

* * *

The next day, Austin can't find his shoes until 7:45. They rush out but misses saying goodbye to Gina before they roll her inside. The waiting room is warm and comfortable with plush chairs and thick carpeting. Austin lies down in Jame's lap and props his feet up against the chair legs to watch Monsters Inc. on TV.  James dozes off when the sunlight pours through the bay window and his breakfast of pastry and tea settles soothingly in his stomach.

"Mr. Greenwall..."

James wakes to see the surgeon standing before him, tall like an alpine spruce, accentuated by his green scrubs.

"Can I see her now? How is she?" The surgeon's flat eyes and pressed lips spell out news James doesn't want to read. He presses forward with questions he wants to ask, questions that assumes another outcome.

"The surgery... she experienced a cardiac arrest after an hour. We are very sorry."

James let the words float over him as if they are debris in a neglected pool.


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