Black Buzz of memories.
It’s only been a few days since that dark moon, but I feel the pain in her leaving, see the slivered waxing crescent like an intrusion.
The human mind has place cells, particular cells that hold and carry the memories of specific places like the folds in an accordion’s bellows, deep upon deep, layer upon layer.
Around the motorcycle shop, people slept while we passed a fatty. In those days, the summer nights were full of grease and booze and drugs and motors – trying to look tough.
My mind was on fire. Like as not I was out of place again. From the moment I’d dropped my mad scientist garb as a geeky grade schooler, taken on and beaten down the bullies, turned to a unsuccessful path of juvenile delinquency, I’d never felt myself. I’d never quite lost my love for libraries over fighting, or lawbreaking, or my joy in the laboratory over figuring out who was holding a gun. It was simply what I had to do. Every day. Step into greasy jeans.
Reci was no different. My sister Reci, Clarice to be specific, moved to the pressures of the world that forced her down, used her up, and spat her out. Decades latter, she’d write me from prison, or on parole, text me how bad the Seahawks were.
She a cheesehead, me the hawk.
Yellow and black patterns across the sky.
Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
Me longing to be anonymous dark, blend in. Her sensing the sun, running towards the morning, beautiful.
In the end, where another beginning wrapped around to launch us, I chose education, endured seven day work weeks and poverty to achieve my engineering degree. To this day, my bank account still reflects that. A friend told me I live the financial life of a sex worker or an artist – either way a freelancer, no matter how stable my work environment. Nothing gets left on the table, nothing is wasted. She would trade cigarettes and prescription drugs, I’d find myself looking in the cupboard for some left over canned meal after spending hundreds of dollars on helicopter rides.
Reci chose motherhood. Her son, so stubborn and strong would amaze us all. His bad arm never stopped him from stepping up, and in. His heart found love. Aren’t these the fights we all have, no matter where we start?
Reci had been one of two sisters who married into one of two rival motorcycle gangs while I moved on into college. That night in the motorcycle shop was one of my last summers of hanging around, peeling off the last exoskeleton of the world we’d been born into. That night was a night I might have ended up in jail, but didn’t.
She called me decades later, I could hear her breath wavering on the line even before she spoke.
“He’s gone.” She said, before breaking down.
Robert, her only son, had been riding with his girlfriend. He’d turned onto a highway, been run down by a semi. That moment, like so many moments that define us, are simply markers of our flights, place cells in time. And it would be the first of two climbs I did up Bear Butte, to pray, in the past few years. One for him, and then, one for her.
I don’t remember my college graduation. But I remember walking the streets, living there with my sister, as a child. I remember being given shelter by a black family, the water of a sudden warm summer night shower running between my toes on the blacktop, while we walked through darkness.
I’ve been the lucky one. I laugh, love, carry on and play with my friends and my toys. But we two -no, there were ten of us- siblings in orbits and flights that would not let us go from the gravity seeming to hold us down. Is this too dark a hive? We were, are, the workers. Like worker bees, waiting, sleeping …
Appearing like slackers, never rising too far. We never had a starting point, nothing that would direct us away from poverty and the mechanics of stacked decks and nighttime streets that held nothing. But we are only waiting. We seemingly underaccomplishing lessers …
Waiting for a dark night, to step out, unfold these maps of selfs in the codes of our genes, where the markers turn on and off. And in those turnings around the places we walked, we’ll let the world turn us on, alive and singing, dark and light, gone and still here.
And we’ll wake up the world of morning streets and paths and doors and bridges, the places of all our dreams, where children walk and wait for the protection and nourishment of the wise.