Straw Flowers

Straw Flowers
"Straw Flowers" by L. Folk

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Jump (from Upon Waking)

We were stranded in New York City after missing the last bus out. Our parents had gone to bed, refusing to fetch us after we had missed our curfew, so we had to take a train. I was in the station ready to board an Amtrak train when I saw you in another terminal. We recognized one another and I said to my weary brother, "I know him." You were in mid-stride when I saw you and your own hand caught the wall to reverse your direction. You were older, a man, a gentleman who had taken a gentleman's path of boarding school and then Harvard. You were alone, free of baggage, and eager. You rushed up to me and embraced me. It had been such a long time indeed, yet you smelled the same--a cross between soap and musk. You told my brother and me that you could get us home, that you knew of an alternate path-- one that would take us through dark exotic places. Were we up for the adventure? Of course we were.

It was not exactly clear just how we lost my brother. He was there and then he was not. He was not there when you told me we needed to jump from the plane into the river. You told me we would do it holding hands and without a parachute. But the water was too shallow, I insisted; I could see the bottom pebbles shifting in the diaphanous curtains of water. We would break our necks. We jumped anyway and tried to cover ourselves with water. In the muddy banks of the river where the water had evaporated from the heat, bullets buzzed by us like flies. Or were they rocks? I was less worried than you about this (you took this all so seriously). You were terrified: you called our pursuers jihadists. I called them children.

We reached the dock and headed for a cruise ship. Your shirt blew open exposing the tangled blond hairs on your chest as we ran hand-in-hand. The ship sounded its long horn and the boat moved like a behemoth for deeper waters. Perhaps we had retreated to the lavatory to rid ourselves of the mud. Perhaps you had known the captain and that's how we got on board. The only thing I remember is this: once all land was out of sight, you went to the railing and told me we must jump again. The man (the captain?) in the background working the controls said "Jump now." I jumped but you were mesmerized by the waves and froze. I looked up at you from the water and coaxed you in. It was here that the captain dumped the secret cargo (it was an undercover operation). A fleet of flatbed trucks buoyed up like toy boats. We saw the dark heads of the refugees up front in the cab as we climbed aboard one of the beds. You were calm enough now, under the deep blue of the night sky and the deeper blue of the sea, to undress me. We stared at the naked sky as the fleet of trucks bobbed in the waves.

Eventually you chose your dark world over me. The last time I saw you I was in the back of a taxi and my brother was dictating directions to the cab driver; we were on our way home. You shot at us from a truck packed with migrant workers. I was insulted. Hurt. You disappointed me again. You would never be the hero I needed.


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