Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Lost (Reno, 1993)

We sit at a blackjack table in Reno. I am not a gambler but here I am anyway, and now I await each hand from the dealer. Pasek is looking at his nine and seven as intently as if he were looking at his prize rooster flashing his sharpened spur around his neighbor's chicken at a cockfight in Banyualit. A cacophony of electronic noise buzzes and pops around us from the slot machines.

Across from us a woman with a bright face and red lips sits with a bucket between her thighs, filled with $20,000 of black chips. She keeps putting more and more on the table. My limit was $100 but Pasek has been back and back to the ATM. I get nervous about wasting money, but am secretly thrilled to be profligate, at least until Pasek gets up to go to the ATM the second time.

But I say nothing and try to beat the dealer. Pasek's face shines and shines as he studies his cards and his muscles bulge from his bent forearms and I remember him holding the rooster's neck, examining his claws before he puts the spur on. Before the sacrifice.

Pasek's face shines and shines until all our cash is gone.

We go out from the brightness into the black night. We don't bother to say anything. I turn the key.

We drive and drive through the desert, away from the lights of Reno, back to San Francisco. No matter how fast we go, a sense of loss rides with us through the dark night.

Then we stop. We pull over by the side of the empty road to piss under the glowing moon, under the stars that pierce burning holes in the black sky. We wet a circle in the dust. The sky hangs over us and we just stand there, containing our shadows, in the wideness of the desert.

Like we are nothing.

I had another little sister,
he tells me suddenly.

The road winds around past where we stand.

I forget about the money and how long it will take the checks to clear next week.

The bright-faced woman reaches between her thighs for more and more chips. I ask the dealer for a another hit to get as close as I can to twenty-one. Pasek's hands hold a fan of cards.

In Banyualit he feeds his prize cock cooked beef with his fingers. The fight is about to begin. He cradles the bird in his lap
as he smooths its feathers. His forearms embrace and then release his rooster to let determination, cruelty, and fate take over. All the men are squatting and sway back and forth in sympathy as their roosters spar and leap. It is cruel and bloody, but I put down money the first time he takes me to a cockfight, because I want to please him.

And I want to see what will happen. Win or lose. Life or death.

Outside of Reno, I take his wrist, his sleek forearm whose muscles are suddenly not apparent, and he angles half his body into mine.

I took care of her while my mother was harvesting rice. She was two and I put her on my handlebars in front of me. I was so proud of her. We rode all around the village on the muddy path to tell my neighbors about tonight's wayang kulit. We rode and rode. I told them all to come watch the shadow puppets, and she balanced on my handlebars.

If you go around to the back of the stage, the flat leather puppets are painted in bright colors. But if you look at the screen, they are just shadows flitting in the dim coconut oil light to tell us the same stories again and again. White monkeys, feuding cousins, irate kings, our thoughts.

The moon shines on us. Our faces half-moons, one side dark.

We were riding and riding and then she fell. My tire hit a rock and she flew.

If I speed and speed through these dark desert rocks, is there anything I can prevent?

She flew and was flying and became part of the air.

His head bends into my shoulder, here on the road outside of Reno, and I let him fall into me.

I wanted to catch her. My arms tried to catch her.

My arms, my arms reach for air, for nothing, there's nothing there to hold. For a moment, we teeter in darkness, all shadows. And then in the dark I find him, wrap around him.

I want to drive so fast that I am on the muddy path in Bhuana Sari, I am there at that moment to catch her as she tumbles over his handlebars, to catch her so she doesn't hit her head and fall into a fever and then become his littlesisterwhodied on this dry roadside not far from the casinos. In the three years I have known him he has not once mentioned her.

His little sister named Latoya, water.


Blogger telfair said...

I always look forward to your posts, like a handful of beautiful puzzle pieces in different textures and colors. Every post brings me a little closer to seeing you more clearly.

1:58 PM  
Blogger joyfish said...

Thanks, telfair. Good to hear from you and I'll have to visit soon!

4:12 PM  

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