Thursday, June 21, 2007

Protection (Oakland, 2007)

It's my fortieth birthday and I wake up on the floor of a loft above a hundred giant stone Buddhas with hands folded in their laps. There are little scratching noises from behind the wall. Mice don't bother me.

The toilet only flushes with a bucket of water poured down it, and the bucket sits in the shower. There is no hot water, so I am quick to wash my face, armpits, and crotch. I am glad I am sharing my birthday with Buddhas that have crossed an ocean in a huge container. I can feel what they looked like all lined up at the shops on the way to the Ngurah Rai airport. The store floor is a labyrinth and navigating it requires turning and twisting and feeling with your feet and letting your eyes rest on the stone heads and the dark carved panels on the wall. You have to feel like you know where to put your feet, and just go.

We climb the steep steps. It is dark and I am a little scared to fall. Up there we forget the statues' presence. The bathroom floor is wet but the mattress is dry. I bought speakers for $9.99 at Walgreens so we plug in a CD player and a tiny red light burns through the darkness.

Songs of every genre, surprising and perfect, just keep playing.

We pretend to like each other's music until we just do. We prevent nothing, not the mice, not the songs we've never heard before, nothing. Nothing. The mice and the songs come and go and come. We can hear every scratch. We say yes and yes.

There are so many ways to be safe, I think. I can't imagine being safer than this, forty and my face in his hair, not knowing what will happen next. His hair smells good. There are shouts outside on the street. I don't hear them. I just listen and listen to his music until I like it, and I let it flow into me.

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