As you box up and purge your earthly possessions, you slowly remove the house's soul. But this house in the rainforest has known many souls. The spirit we cradled here is just another ghost breezing through. Built in 1953, this wood paneled, Japanese farmhouse stood here before the US had 50 stars on her flag. Generations of sun-kissed kids tracked beach sand into every room under the watchful eyes of the house geckos. Tradewinds from the sea carry floral scents of the jungle. The Pacific ocean greets you at every window. Parrots squawk across wild, blue skies. The ghosts are gentle here.
"Change is perpetual" shrugs my wife tossing another bag of memories into the dump pile.
Hmm. I have heard that one before. My wife is smarter than me but I am taller. I pull down a box from our old life and go through it. Inside are forgotten scraps from yet another life. Yearbooks, academic transcripts and tax statements from the 20th century. I purge. Then my fist closes upon a matchbox. Inside is a small seashell. I remove it from the box and hold the shell in my hand. As my fingers clasp it, my ghosts embrace me. I smile and let them in my mind.
Bare feet slapping over mud. Moving across winding, coastal paths to the stained streets of civilization. The throaty, belch of poison announces the beast. She skips lightly up rubber steps of Muni. A recycled pass fools the bored driver and Dev plops into a seat. The steely hum of the caterpillar crawling over wet asphalt is so city soothing. She rides. From the belly of the beast, familiar neighborhoods roll by. She exits the the bus in the Mission District.
A red plastic bag, inflated like a cartoon octopus slaps down the street. Silly cephlapod. A hair-whipping burst of energy explodes between two buildings. The octopus whirls upwards into the vortex. The red speck tumbles across the blue face of the sky. Her old guardian, always watching out for her. Up the street, she sees the Hernandez family. They live in the Victorian next to her friends. She waves and calls out politely, "Buenos días!"
They nod politely and the males tip cowboy hats. A child in her elegant, Sunday church dress shrieks, "Devika!"
"Que hermosa!" responds Dev solemnly as the child's mother smiles.
"Buenos días, Devika" nods the mother.
What a lovely place, she thinks as the stately procession passes.
All the signs here are Spanish. Yummy food scents embrace her like lost family. She can feel the glow of souls in the century old houses that line the street. If she closes her eyes, she can feel her friend's auras. And the metal gate is open! The drunks forgot to lock it last night so no screaming from the street. Up the stairs like an octopus climbing the sky...
"Knock knock my lovelies!" sings Dev bursting into the house through the unlocked door.
And there they are. Fused auras, woven from starlight. Arm in arm, the Lovers melt into a couch while their TV glows like cancer. A spoon hangs motionless in Khadja's hand. Her mouth is slightly open as milk drips back into the bowl on her lap. Two cops on TV scream like frenzied baboons as they tackle a tiny woman. Khadj's boyfriend breaks free from the hypnotic violence and points his cigarette at her.
"There she is!" he smiles broadly with shiny, pin-point pupil eyes. "What up Dev?"
Dev twirls and bows theatrically. "Nada mucho."
His voice awakens Khadja from her TV trance. But like a startled cat, Khadj doesn't acknowledge the interruption. Casually, she enjoys her spoonful of cereal. Still chewing, she plucks the cigarette from her boyfriend and takes a long drag. The ember twinkles in the gloom like tomorrow's star. Now Khadja turns her head to greet Dev with a lazy, feline smile.
"Shalom, Khadja" nods Dev.
"Want some Grapenuts?"
Mizar and Alcor
It's Sunday before noon. We're up early and I'm not thinking about tomorrow. Tomorrow is a day of school and washing dishes in the University cafeteria to defer student loan payments...Ok. So I lied. I did just think of it. My mind always races over the damn details. People like Jason and Kym take life as it comes. They shrug off shit like going to jail or totaling cars while I worry myself to explosive, diarrhea over chemistry lab quizzes or being $50 shy of rent. But fuck it. It's a beautiful morning.
Some sleepy sex, cigarettes and silly Spanish conversations in bed. Then bong hits for motivation. Kym brews Sumatra coffee for energy and I prep the foil. Dragons be here. Then some soul soothing cuddling with the most beautiful woman in San Francisco. The TV makes familiar sounds. But when I limp down the hall to take a piss, I wonder, 'What the fuck happened last night?'
"Kym!" I demand while digging a chunk of amber glass from my palm and flicking it into a corner, "Why am I limping? What's up with my hands?"
Kym is still half asleep in her Iggy Pop t-shirt. She sleeps on her side so her pink hair points west. She shrugs as TV cops kick down a door screaming.
"Mmm" she licks her lips, rubs her eyes and yawns loudly like a bear. She looks up at me, "I know what happened to your leg, but not your hands."
"Ok. What happened to my leg?" I ask.
"We fell down" says Kym snatching the cigarette I had behind my ear.
My black leather jacket is draped over the the couch arm. I dig around the pockets until I find a lighter and ignite the cigarette. "We? WE fell down?"
"Yeah. You were giving me a piggyback ride. I think you jumped out the door at the Lexington. You fell when I covered your eyes."
I watch her exhale smoke. It drifts lazily across beams of sunlight that spear through the smiley face some bastard burned into the curtains with a cigarette. Oh yeah. Kym thinks it's funny to blind me when I carry her on my back. Usually down stairs or when I'm running.
The Lexington makes sense. I remember that part. Every blue moon, Kym and I get paychecks on the same day. Rather than save for tomorrow or honor past debts, we go bar hopping. The Lex is nearby and we usually end up there for last call. I vaguely remember we were doing shots without using our hands...oh and dumping cocktails into a pitcher of beer for the chugging contest. Blondie's 'Heart of Glass' is still stuck in my skull with fuzzy memories of Kym dancing wildly in a crowd of women. There was laughter, sloppy kisses and a lot of screaming. The usual.
"Kym!" She is spellbound in the light of TV. "KHADJA! Did you give me a lap dance?"
Kym looks over at me, tilts her head side to side and shrugs. "Maybe. Probably. I was pretty wasted."
Kym's "lap dances" are not traditional lap dances. She simply shrieks, launches herself into the air and tries to land in my lap. If I see it coming, I can usually catch her. If not, she knocks us out of the chair and onto the floor. Last night, I think we hit a table on the way down.
"Yeah. Fucking lap dance. Sorry" yawns Kym stretching her arms into the air. She smacks her dry lips a couple times and arches an eyebrow at me, "I think Kira-Mae threw us out."
Kira-Mae is the harshly, beautiful bartender from Ireland. The saddest, darkest eyes ever. She has a crush on Kym and hits on her shamelessly. She openly loathes me. But to be fair, The Lex is a lesbian bar. Not much lipstick lesbian action either. Mostly butch biker women and gothic, Chicano ladies in flannel.
I stretch my knee. Same fucked up one as usual. I'm pretty sure it hurts but we are loved by the god. This tar is heavy and all consuming. Did I just nod out? Kym was snuggled against me. I held her as she chased the dragon and stopped her from doing a header into the coffee table. I took away her smoke so she didn't light herself on fire. Yet now, Kym is slurping a bowl of Grapenuts cereal...hmmm. Slices of the morning are missing. I am smoking a cigarette. Who lit it?
A teeny-tiny fist pounds the door. Not a heavy cop fist.
"Knock knock my lovelies!"
A burst of light as the smell of rain invades our cigarette smoke atmosphere. I look over at the open door.
"Want some Grapenuts?"
"No thanks. Where's Jase?" asks Dev peering down the hall as she plops down on the couch next to Khadja.
"Still asleep. With Autumn" says Kym rolling her last night, party smeared mascara eyes dramatically. "They were screwing earlier because we could hear Oasis. How he keeps it hard with that shit playing is beyond me. Girlfriend has no taste."
"Now Iggy", exclaims Kym holding up her t-shirt and exposing her strange panties that feature a cartoon hippopotamus opening it's mouth on her crotch, "is good fucking music."
"Or the Red Hot Chili Peppers" adds Dev.
"Hell, even The Smiths is sexier if you're all Brit-pop, whiny sad" claims Kym holding the back of her hand to her forehead and striking a tragically, depressed pose.
"Morrissey? The weirdest music I ever did it to was John Denver" says Dev. "I kept thinking about Kermit the Frog."
"Oh and get this!" giggles Kym. "She was making those doggy noises again! Like that little fucking yappy dog you just wanna kick! Yip! Yip! Yip!"
"Arf! Arf! Arf!" barks Dev.
Khadj's boyfriend silently regards them with thin-lipped, lemon contempt before returning to TV violence. The cops bellow unintelligible commands before pepper-spraying a cowering, old man in a trailer park.
"Yeah, Jase could totally do better but what-eh-ver" says Khadja going back to her cereal. With her mouth full of cereal, she points the spoon at Dev and garbles "Mebe cose she's weird in bed."
"Like finger in the butt weird?" snickers Dev covering her mouth.
"Alright, alright!" gripes the boyfriend standing up. "It's too early for this shit. I need some toast."
"Too early for what? Sex? You sure seemed to be having fun earlier" says Khadja as milk dribbles down her chin. She opens her mouth suggestively, winks and makes obscene gestures with her hips.
"Wow Kym. Thank you for that. Whatever that was" he says burying his head in the refrigerator.
"Aww...are you shy Lover?" asks Dev. "We're just joking about fucking. Everyone with luck fucks. It's good for you!"
"It's just weird to talk about my roommate. You know. Like that."
"What?" snorts Kym. "Jase was the one that told us about the sneaky finger up the butt. Scared the hell out of him."
"He was very surprised" agrees Dev. "Until then, he thought it was just a 3-piece set."
Mizar and Alcor
As usual, things are becoming odd since Dev's arrival. But she loads us green bud and hash bong hits. The living room bong is a glass monstrosity dubbed Das Bismarck. This is not a personal bong. Das Bismarck is a tribal bong. The bowl holds more than a gram easily. Dev packs balls of hash between layers of fragrant bud coated with purple crystals. When the herb ignites the hash, there is massive smoke.
"Holy shit!" I croak while wheeze-coughing so hard it feels like someone just twisted my testicles. I feel like a lung collapsing while I spew unholy amounts of smoke across the room.
"Babe! Hit me while it's smokin" demands Kym reaching for the bong as I choke.
"Here Lover" says Dev handing me her Snapple.
I take a long pull and gulp down liquid to coat my throat. Then I taste it. I look over at Dev who is silently regarding me with one of her twisted, secret smiles.
"Yuck! What kind of Snapple is this?" I demand while cringing at the taste.
"Electric" smirks Dev.
Great. Now the day will get weird. Or weirder. What's next?, I wonder.
"Did you tell him?" asks Dev looking at Kym.
"Totally" winces Kym in a throaty growl as smoke pours out her nostrils and mouth. "Right babe? Your set to go to the movies with Devika yeah?"
"Do what now?" I ask confused.
"That thing I told you last night. Remember?"
"No. No I don't Kym. And frankly, I doubt you remember it either."
"Are you calling me a liar?" challenges Kym narrowing her eyes at me. "We were both hammered babe. You don't remember and maybe I don't either. But I told you!"
Jumping Jesus fucking Christ on a pogo stick. I shake my head and look up at the geometrically divided ceiling of our house. Math. Beautiful math. Pure logic that is accountable...then I get an idea to make Kym mad. I gaze into her malevolent stare and innocently ask, "Ok yeah. Sure. The movie. What movie did you say?"
The silence is rude but so is Kym. We're fucked up but she instantly processes what I just did. Cold, blue eyes focus into comets portending doom while I smile broadly like the village idiot. But Dev is used to us and interrupts our fun.
"Heavy Metal" pipes in Dev handing me the bong. "At your school. I want to see the matinee at 2:00."
"Yeah Heavy Metal" huffs Kym. "I'd go but have work. You can get Dev a cheap ticket with your student ID."
Kym smiles at me with her eyes and I lift an eyebrow my back. Most of our conversations do not actually contain words.
"Sure" I say. "I think I saw that in high school. Kinda boring right?"
Kym fakes a yawn and winks at me.
"It's not boring! And I saw that you bitch!" yells Dev.
"Ok. Ok. I'll go" I shrug. "Better than doing word problems in physics that are due like tomorrow morning..."
Khadja should be off soon. We're waiting for her outside the Ferry building while the wind dances gleefully across the sea. Lover stares. He chain smokes and paces. Always in a hurry to go nowhere. Though it's cold, he gave me his leather jacket which smells like Khadj's perfume and cigarettes. The jacket is so big, it's like sitting in a leather teepee with my head poking out.
"You're right man" he says ignoring the wind's cosmic display. "Watching that movie stoned is lame! Boring. You gotta drink mushroom tea and do coke. Lots of coke! That was fucking crazy Dev! Fucking Loc-Nar is here on Earth. I can feel it!"
"We must always guard ourselves against Loc-Nar" agrees Dev. She tilts her head sideways to let the helpful wind caress the dreadlocks out of her face.
"Man, where's Kym?" questions Lover again. "She should be off by now. I bet Lorenzo is late. Lazy fucker. I need to get home, get a burrito and start the damn word problems. Freakin' shifted intervals and-"
"Rush, rush rush little ant" admonishes Dev. "The city has gotten to you! Already you're moving on to your next task without enjoying this beautiful view!"
"Dev" he says spreading his hands out, " I get it. But I'm not like you. I can't relax until I finish what I have to do."
"But are you ever finished Lover? Isn't there always another to do?"
Lover looks up at her sky guardian and shrugs. "Yeah...I guess so."
"It's ok. We're all wired differently. The meat puppets we make dance are strange creatures, but let me ask you something. Did you have a good day?"
She watches Lover think about his day. The whole day from waking next to love to this glorious moment.
"Yeah" he finally admits. "It's been a good day. A damn good day."
"I'm gonna give it to you. Forever. Give me your finger" demands Dev as she unfolds the blade of a wicked looking, drop-point knife.
"Jesus" he says looking around nervously while tourists wander by. "How come you and Kym always carry around knives?"
"Don't know Lover. Why don't you?" shrugs Dev slicing the tip of his finger open.
"Oh boohoo, that didn't hurt. Much. Now where'd I put that thing?" mumbles Dev digging around in her bag. "There you are!" She pulls out an acorn-sized seashell that called out to her during an ocean quest.
With practiced ease, Dev slices her finger open and drips blood into the shell. Then she squeezes Lover's finger and lets one, two, three drops fall into the gift from the goddess. All things good, sad and beautiful come in threes. She holds the shell to her lips and speaks softly to it. When it grows warm, she hands it to him.
"There. Keep this. Whenever you need a reminder on how to enjoy one day of your brief and glorious time, just hold it. Got it?"
"Yup" he shrugs as he tilts the shell upside down expecting blood to drip out. Nothing. He looks inside. Empty.
The ghosts whisper excitedly inside my head while a fishing boat glides across the sea. Ok, I get it. I inhale the essence of the house into the eternal chambers of my soul. The kindness of a home that always welcomes our return. The magic of children leaving you notes for work telling you how many whales they saw. Our lazy house cats becoming nocturnal predators beneath a full moon that illuminates the sea. The simple joys of sunset dinners at home with your family. The sound of crickets and tree frogs. The peaceful feeling of being inside during torrential rain storms pounding the tin roof loud enough to drown the TV...I get it.
I carefully place the shell in back in the matchbox and toss it on my surfboard. The save pile.
I carefully place the shell in back in the matchbox and toss it on my surfboard. The save pile.