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Monday, January 26, 2009


They meet: two fragile, ungainly strangers who have in common complexions that are pale. One is tall and rail-thin, almost ephemeral. The other is big-boned and fills up her allotted space. When these strangers meet, they look hard and long into each others’ eyes – one set hazel and the other green – searching for whatever it is that they have recognized in each other. They are familiar. There is an ancestral knowledge that calls them to each other.

The ephemeral one speaks and offers this:

We were members once of the same tribe in your land. We stood tall, side by side, and were warriors. We painted our dark faces with bright colors and wore our black hair in long, thick braids. We danced and whooped and fought and were free.

Her blood sister speaks and offers this:

We were not pale and frail of spirit as we are now. We were strong and forceful and knew our purpose. We knew the land and wind, the rains and night skies. We were well-loved, full of certainty and joyful.

The strangers shake hands and separate, yet they will call to each other and be drawn together again and again, as lightening strikes and opens the earth, while storms rage and seas swell, then recede. Sometimes they will call to each other across a small divide, or wave as they hurriedly cross paths. Other times they will hold each other lightly, or hug tightly, and bend their heads together in whispered confidence. Time passes, and although the strangers, now friends, remain pale, they remember the tribal bond, and long to recover their lost, dark skin.


Se encuentran: dos desconocidas frágiles y desgarbadas que tienen en común su tez pálida. Una es alta y delgada como un palo, casi efímera. La otra es fornida y rellena el espacio que le toca. Cuando estas dos extrañas se conocen se miran detenidamente a los ojos –unos de color miel y los otros verdes- buscando aquello que han reconocido. Son familiares. Hay un conocimiento ancestral que llama a una y a otra.

La efímera habla y ofrece lo siguiente:

Una vez fuimos miembros de la misma tribu en tu tierra. De pie manteníamos la vigilia juntas y fuimos guerreras. Nos pintamos nuestros oscuros rostros con flamantes colorines y llevamos nuestro pelo largo en trenzas espesas y negras. Bailamos y soltamos alaridos y luchamos y fuimos libres.

Su hermana de sangre habla y ofrece lo siguiente:

No fuimos pálidas y débiles de espíritu como ahora. Fuimos fuertes y contundentes y supimos cuál era nuestro destino. Conocimos la tierra y el viento, las lluvias y los cielos nocturnos. Fuimos bien amadas, llenas de certeza y rebosantes de alegría.

Las desconocidas se dan la mano y se separan, aunque se invocarán y se reclamarán una y otra vez, mientras caen relámpagos que abren la tierra, cuando hacen estragos las tormentas y los mares azotan, para luego retroceder. Algunas veces se darán voces a través de un pequeño escollo, o se saludarán al cruzarse de prisa sus caminos. Otras veces se darán unos abrazos fugaces, o se agarrarán con fuerza, y juntarán sus frentes en confidencias susurradas. El tiempo pasa, y aunque estas desconocidas, ahora amigas, siguen siendo pálidas, se acuerdan de sus lazos tribales y sueñan con recuperar la perdida piel oscura.

Para Helena

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Driving the car to the airport in the predawn non-light with Dad at my side saying how nice it was to be here, I tick off the check list of things not done, primary of which is the talk we always have.
Dad says, “we never got around to the heart-to-heart we always seem to have” and I say, “that’s what I was just thinking”.
I say, “I never got to grill you about financial planning and tax shelters” and Dad says, “I would like to help out with Zaida’s college”.

It’s a short ride at this time of the morning, even going the speed limit. I need to drop him off so we don’t have to shlep his bag, but I tell him to wait while I park.
Dad says, “don’t park, go home and go back to sleep,” which is what I said I’d do when I told him not to call a cab.
I say, “I’m not going to go back to sleep, I’ll just be a minute, wait for me at the check-in line”

I restart the car and have to turn my headlights on while a couple unloading a suitcase from a trunk in front of me hugs and then kisses, and a taxi passing by makes me wait. Finally I can pull out and cross the lanes to reach the parking lot, but even at this ungodly hour of morning dark, I have to park in the outreaches of the lot and walk through the cold January airport wind. I don’t like the feeling of walking by myself. I woke up nervous this morning, with a funny stomach and clenching my teeth. Now I warily listen to heels and wheels tapping behind me, then turn to see an executive, a salesman, a short, balding middle-aged man in a suit and oversized briefcase as another mirror image of him crosses to my right. It looks like a pre-crime scene and I push away a shudder, cross on the crosswalk and enter the safe, peopled, well-lit terminal building.

Dad says, “are these shops duty free?” we could shop together.
I say, “no, those are upstairs past customs”
I say, “need a book?” as we shuffle past the newsstand.
Dad says, “maybe a magazine” but there are none we want.
Dad says, “should we go have a coffee?”
I say, “you’d just as soon get up there, wouldn’t you? You have about a half hour, not much time really”
Dad says, “you’re right, I like to beat the lines, anyway”

I watch him through the cattle-driving barriers, knowing he never turns around anyway. When he passes through the screens I turn and head down the stairs, pause to look at Botero’s horse, then walk back the way I came, searching for a parking payment machine and wondering why I feel so oddly sad. If there is one thing I am used to, it is good-byes.

That same crime-scene feeling accompanies me back to my far-away car, but I pay for the parking in utter, comforting solitude and cross no one on the way to my spot. The car starts up perfectly, I pull out and crawl toward the exit, aware that other drivers are already sleepily anxious. The second I’m on the outside of the parking lot, my eyes well up with tears. I wonder at this building, unexpected sadness, ready to pull out any number of justifications, but over the short, uneventful drive home in the same non-light of early morning, I discover that I have felt protected by my Dad, safe from harm and unburdened by the loneliness of responsibility. Now I must put that weak, weepy child back in her box and I tell her, “soon it will be gone for good”. I’m steering home to the people I am protecting, unburdening and keeping safe from harm, but while I steer I allow what is usually contained to blur a bit my vision and soak my cheeks. I can wipe them before I get home.

14 January 2009
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