By Aruni Wijesinghe
Graveyard Lakes, 1993
It is her second backpacking trip ever. It’s a long drive to the trailhead outside of Mono Hot Springs. They stop at the general store to buy fishing supplies; under the glass counter, Panther Martin lures glint like jewels. There is a bear head mounted over the register, the bear the owner had to shoot when it ambled in the front door.
He bought the ring at Shen’s Gallery in Santa Cruz, selecting it from case of estate jewelry, the Art Deco setting slightly worn.
She poses in a meadow of tall grass for a photo. She squints into the sun, her body small in the camera viewfinder. She is framed in pine trees. The peaks behind her are capped with snow, even this late into August.
The ring waits, undisturbed, at the bottom of his pack. Buried under Sierra cups and extra wool socks, he carries the weight of the future wrapped in a red cotton bandana.
The Hush of Books
Your roommates and my roommates are always home. We never have an apartment to ourselves. We have been friends for three years, but the romance is new. Dewy. Sweaty.
Powell Library looks like it would be better placed in medieval Spain rather than on a sunny quadrangle in Westwood. There is something holy about the place, like it should be populated by monks and scribes and not students in cut-off jeans, Birkenstocks and ratty college sweatshirts. The stone floors are cool. The vaulted ceiling echoes our stifled laughter.
You lead me into the stacks under the pretext of searching for a criticism of Pygmalion for a paper I am supposed to be writing for next week’s Bernard Shaw seminar. I trail my fingers across the shelves, searching for 822.912. I feel your hand on the crest of my hip, just inside the denim waistband of my Levis. You rotate me so my spine is pressed to the spines of three horizontal layers of British literature. The hush of books. The unnaturally loud thud of a volume falling in the row behind us as our fumblings cause a small avalanche of words.
Javi and I thread our way through his neighborhood on my first day in Berlin. We have not seen one another in almost twenty years. We met in the mid-1980s at Colegio Cristo Rey, the summer I was an AFS exchange student in Paraguay. My Spanish, once fluent, now halts from lack of use. Javi’s English is near non-existent, so we struggle to communicate in a world where everyone else is speaking German.
Javi speaks to me rapidly, pointing out landmarks so that I will be able to find my way back to his apartment tomorrow when I venture out on my own. He gestures to stores and restaurants, makes me parrot back directions I am barely be able to memorize in English, let alone Spanish. He grows frustrated with my faint answers of Sí and yeah, okay. Exasperated, he asks me in Spanish, Do you have any idea what I am telling you? Will you get lost trying to find your way home?
I am jet-lagged and irritated. I roll my eyes and say, !Hijo de la gran puta, sí! Te entiendo, carajo.
We dissolve in hysterical giggles. Javi tucks my gloved hand into the pocket of his coat. We cross Ku’damm, the November night falling blue around us.