Whats up, everybody? Yeah, I know: this picture is from Disney’s Pocahontas, but hey, it works. I enjoy writing fiction, and studied it a lot while doing my undergrad at Sacramento State University. I was that close to getting my creative writing minor, but had to drop it by default because of a lack of one measly class… (P.S. this piece was influenced heavily by the Magical Realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez).
Anyways, listen to this link before or after reading to enhance the experience!
Echoes of my family (May 24th, 2016)
Rivers on the mountainside remind me of the times I swam underneath the sky in my sleep. Once, when I awoke, I saw a bird. It had iridescent green-gold wings that sparkled when they flapped. I recollect now the sight of the bird craning its neck skyward and beginning to cry—and it was so very shiny and beautiful and delicate that I teared up. Recollecting my mother, who looked like this bird, which now flew by, flapping its wings, sprinkling gold and green and red dust which made my furniture shiny too—my mother would look at a man and he wouldn’t know it, but later after he would recall her too, little by little falling in love with the image of her eyes whose color he could not remember.
She sang to me as a child, and I wish that the bird I had seen had uttered a cry, so I could reconcile my dead mother’s voice with that spiritual vision.
I went to the river once, and bathed in its icy currents. My feet burned with cold, and my knees shook and wobbled, but, seeing a cabin of marble on the other side, I persevered. My clothes soaked as I struggled to cross, swimming and gulping pure and terrible ice-water.
Then I saw an angelic woman in all-white garb, sheets billowing behind her, and she walked on top of the river. My heart throbbed with jealousy—I wanted to walk on the water too. I wanted to be able to skirt across many currents of time and fly across the red cliffs like birds. I wanted so badly to be like the woman.
She glanced at me while she walked by on the water. My head was barely above the surface and my arms flailed, raw with cold. All that was in my eyes was envy. She pitied my eyes. She slowed and hovered there, standing like an angel about to fall. Like a mother entreating a child.
But then I reached the shore. The riverbank was muddy and turgid. When the angel stepped onto the ground, the muddy soil became soft and fertile as the skin of her bare feet touched it, and little dandelions and bright orange poppies spontaneously grew from the now fertile earth.
Then the sun came out and smiled with its light. Dappled reflections rang and the echoes of my father came to me in the form of a tiger. The creature stared at me, looked into my eyes. Entreating me to stare back. The angel had seen the marble house, then saw the tiger and went to it. She tamed the wild beast with a touch of her silver-gold, luminescent hand on its head. It purred like a house cat and its razor-sharp teeth shrank. Its fur receded and its stripes rearranged themselves, changed color.
The angel kept petting it while I looked on, panting like a dog and dripping wet, my hands on my knees. I closed my eyes briefly. When I opened them, my father completed his transformation and was now a naked man. Albeit he was still hairy and had orange and black streaks on his legs and chest, he was there.
The angel, who was my mother in spirit form, turned towards me and smiled a smile so warm, I could actually feel the heat of it on my chest, and it dried my body. She leaned down and picked up some earth, blew on it, then placed it on my father—who was a spirit animal just moments ago—he took it from his head and put it on the ground. I stood there, transfixed.
I saw, right then and there, a little sapling grow, which finally grew into a tall mango tree, which bore red and gold and green fruit the size of my head.
My mother said, “Come, young man, try the fruit.”
“My father smiled from the left side of his mouth, before the rest of it followed, and I felt the heat of two suns burn away the rest of the icy drops of water that had clung to my now warm skin. The glow was tremendous.
“Yes. Even though it is red, it still has a pure core of translucent meat to sustain a growing boy like you.”
And then my mother, the angel, laughed, and I felt at that moment something more potent than mere heat: I saw the whole terrain transform into Spring spontaneously in front of my eyes. Peacocks appeared suddenly out of nowhere, unfolded their plumage and screamed with animalistic joy. All manner of wildflowers sprouted and blossomed on the ground before me. I watched the river run freer, and finches tweeted and flew past it while fish jumped.
It was difficult to describe the sensation that overwhelmed my body, however. Though I believe, as I recollect that day, that it was the most wonderful, strange, stark feeling that I have felt before or since. It was more than the transigent pull of love, more lasting than the memory of an orchestra playing Mahler symphonies. Love itself was embodied in this wave of energy.
When they laughed together, it was music more in harmony than any angel chorus in the sky that could be possibly imagined by abbots of any religion. The call and response of the tones coming from their throats spilled into my ears and into my soul, washing it clean a thousand times over.
I doubled over and wept.
My tears fell. They watered the wild flowers beneath my feet. My father walked over to me and I looked up and cried harder.
He tousled my hair, which was now dry and frizzy, saying, “My boy! Do not fear. It is only the wind, a transitive thing, only a passion of nature that will pass in time.” Then I spoke, my voice cracking a little, “Is that you, Dad?”
He grew forlorn and his voice dropped, “No, son. Only a shadow of the man you once knew. Even death is temporary, you know. This is the wisdom that you and all of mankind must learn. Without this wisdom, we will grow miserly, and the whole human race will eventually crumble and fall.”
The spirit of my mother perked up from where she stood, a ring of wildflowers blooming ferociously about her feet, swaying in the mild breeze. She leaned towards me sadly, then at the spirit of my father, plaintively looking at him.
He looked at her briefly, then looked at me and told me to rise. I did. He gave me a small book with pages that were blank. He told me to go into the marble house, where I would meet Permanence.
“If you want to know and see what permanence really is, you must go there and see it for yourself.” He smiled, his eyes sad, and pointed towards the pale house of polished stone, which glowed in the brilliant sunshine.
My mother said then: “If you learn one thing, son, learn to love solitude in its purest form. You will know happiness.”
In an impulsive move, I opened my arms and tried to hug the spirit of my mother, desiring to touch her and smell her warm breath. But at that instant, she disappeared from the world of the tangible, slowly melting away, her image growing lighter and lighter, until nothing remained.
My father’s body was replaced by the tiger once more, whose fangs grew large, his purr rumbling full of affection. I reached out to touch his fur, but he took off in a second.
I made my way towards the marble house. I reflect now, over a cup of coffee at the local café across the street, that people know me, though I don’t talk to them much. I look out the windows and see clouds made of down pillows and a sky so brilliantly azure that it almost blinds me. So I know, even now, that that day was the same day that I felt my mother’s and father’s energy surge into me, teaching me what bliss is, what permanence really is.
The sage that I found in the marble house looked like a hominid from prehistoric times. He knew exactly why I was there, what I had come there for. When I walked into the house, I smelled a freshness that only a room untouched by sinful hands could retain. It was a relic of a house. The sunlight came in from a hole in the ceiling and was dappled a thousand times in a regular pattern of shade and light from a lattice-work of marble windows on the east side of the house.
This sage turned to me. His face was so strange, almost ape-like, with huge cheekbones, a tall head and a large jaw and brow-ridge.
He flared his nostrils a little. I stood there, dumbfounded, mainly because of his strange appearance. He said in a calm baritone drone, like water sloshing in a great drum, “Greetings. Do you have something to tell me?”
I tell him I did not know. He took my arm and led me to an alter room, where another sage sat on a pedestal, carved out of marble. This was my ancestor, he told me, and he chuckled contently. After a small talk, I presented him the blank book. He took it and laughed a husky laugh that gave me chills and warmed me up at the same time.
He said in his resplendent voice that the book was blank because it defies the Sutras of Permanence. “If I were you,” he said, “I would cast the book into the river.”
He said the only wisdom you can have has already been thought and recorded throughout time. One only had to study it.
I became angry. My anger started slowly, building little by little while he showed me his house. It was very unlike the sensation of warmth that I felt when my mother and father laughed—it felt like my limbs and fingers were on fire. The incendiary sensation spread through my body like a cancer, the growth of it like branches of parasites, which cling to my nerve-endings. Why though? Why did I feel this way?
I lift up my coffee and peer through the window, seeing thousands and thousands of people pass by every hour on the street. The city teems with so much life, yet as I drink my coffee, I wonder if they really live.
I have no right to say. I am, after all, a stranger in their eyes. I am as impermanent as they are, as they ever will be. People of every race and ethnicity get on and off the bus every five minutes, yet no one even talks to each other. They know they will die someday.
I think that a piece of the puzzle is missing. That something is missing from people’s hearts that one can only retrieve through dreaming. Yet, students at the universities get only a few hours of sleep sometimes. They have no time for dreams. The blank pages that a man has is filled with wisdom. It needs only to be recorded, retrieved and then recorded again. That sage had reached the age of reason, and as old as he was, he will stay in that marble structure forever and ever, never to die, always, and permanently,