I will go running off into the blue.
I will double knot my boots and sling a backpack over my shoulders. The water bottle in the side pocket will crush and crinkle as the water inside swooshes against the plastic.
My feet will patter against the dry, dusty dirt. The palm trees will wave their welcome. The canopy of birds will whistle its greetings. I will hear voices boisterously belt out a lively tune in their native tongue. The song will replace the blood in my veins and it will circulate throughout my body. I will breathe in wonder, mystery, and excitement. I will fully and immediately immerse myself in this new culture. I will feel more at home than I ever did at home.
That morning the refreshing, crisp breeze wisped about my face as the tiny boat chugged down the river. My fingers grasped the worn wooden ledge and I leisurely leaned back while maintaining my balance. This foreign land was exotic and enticing. My left foot tapped against a suitcase in wild anticipation; my dreams were coming true. I was about to step foot into the blue.
And then I did, and the blue rapidly drained from my world until nothing but grey remained.
My feet sunk into grassy mud. Long, razor-sharp grass grew to the side. A wooden board embedded in the mud offered a respite, but I had no balance and I splashed into the mud. I took in my surroundings. There were no palm trees to wave and no birds that sang.
A young, thin girl grabbed my heavy suitcase from me and carried it across the long, muddy field and through the untamed grass. My arms were weak from the weight, but I had to return to grab more. The natives looked at me and laughed. I felt ashamed.
I grabbed a water container only to have it snatched from my struggling hands, too. The weight of the water paled in comparison to the weight of my embarrassment.
We set up in the hut and I felt lost, and only fear and dread pulsed through my veins. I breathed in the stench of dirty children and a dirty hut in a small, dirty village that had pathways of dry, dusty dirt and no singing multitudes.
Instead of immersing myself into the culture I immersed myself in my mosquito net and I laid on a thin, feeble pad and shut my eyes and hoped to wake up in my bed in America, my one true home and nothing else would take its place.
Shutting my eyes didn’t work. I was still in my net in a village God knows how far down the Amazon. Six weeks of this lay ahead of me. My naivety was abruptedly murdered.
That hot, hot, sticky, sweaty day.
My legs were itchy, itchy, itchy.
I scraped my fingernails against my skin
like an ice scraper on a ice-covered windshield.
Slowly, slowly, then I gained speed and
I wouldn’t stop ‘till all the skin was off
and the bumps were smoothed out.
But it wasn’t working and the nausea crept in
and took over like LSD.
The tears were hot in my tearducts and
I could feel them about to pour out.
The sky was darkening and it looked like a storm.
Its anger matched mind.
The water in the atmosphere was homesick for the ground,
and I squeezed my eyes shut and prayed and prayed for rain.
And then it came.
On a dirt-covered chunk of concrete between splotches of grass
I stood, eyes gently shut.
Rain hit my skin like a hug in the airport.
It mixed with my sweat and soaked my clothes.
I stood and stood and stood and
Rain fell, fell, fell.
The wind blew and I felt cold.
Everything will be okay.
Once I saw a man who read Salinger
Adorned in plaid and pomp
With a beige backpack and a bicycle.
His mind, I imagined, fantastical
And I yearned to hear thoughts profound
Pour out of his mouth melodically into my ears.
Strategically I planned my outfits,
My hair, and my location to garner attention
But never received even a glance.
Then I realized my folly—
Caulfield would deem him a phony,
And Franny would ridicule his ego.
So, I ended my madness:
Where longing once lodged apathy made home.
To read is not to be, and he certainly was not.
I tap my heels together
The crinkle in my forehead deepens
My eyes squeeze shut
Visions of America explode across the darkness
My body is not home, but my heart is.
My muscles are rigid
My breathing relaxed
Gently my eyes rest closed
Clouds of Peru drift across the horizon
My body is home, but my heart is not.
My heavy eyes opened groggily. A dim light from a single bulb cast an orange hue over us. My watch read 3:30AM. Vladimir urged the four of us to raise; it’s time to leave the launcha. I sat up, my hammock slightly swinging, and strapped on my Keens. My legs swung awkwardly from the left to the right as I determined how I could successfully manuever myself out of my hammock without crushing the baggage we had bundled beneath our hanging bodies. We all untied our hammocks and began to carry our supplies off the launcha. We descended two flights of stairs. Our shoes clanked against the worn metal. The other passengers slept snug in their hammocks as fisherman scurried on the ground level of the ship.
My weak arms were full of supplies. Headlamps adorned the heads of workers, providing light so that I could watch my step. Branches of plaintains, boxes, lumber, and metal littered the ground. A wooden plank with pegs connected the launcha to the shore. Cautiously I stepped, worried my grasp would weaken and I would spill the supplies or that I would slip on the muddy boards. I made it, but the ground outside was wet and muddy and squished beneath my feet. Sarah tripped in a hole.
As the fisherman finished unloading their cargo onto the earth we laid down a tarp and sat. Vladimir and Sarah disappeared into a hut. The fisherman finished their business and left. The launcha left. It was pitch black out, the blackest black I had ever experienced. Here we were, in the middle of the Amazon rain forest, hundreds of miles away from the nearest city.
Sarah and Vladimir returned. All five of us sat on a tarp.
Despite the darkness the area was replete with a cacophony of noises. The creatures of the jungle do not rest.
We gazed at the night sky. Trillions upon trillions of stars densely freckled the sky. Entire galaxies were visible. Suddenly Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star made perfect sense—the stars twinkled here. Light pollution’s dense cloud had not yet corrupted the sky here.
We sat. We talked. We gazed. We listened.
The sun began to raise behind us over the trees. The sky turned a lighter blue, pink, and orange. The light glimmered off the river. Mosquitoes fested on us, but we had not yet learned of the torture mosquitoes brought with each bite.
We had a breakfast of a piece of bread as two strangers arrived on a long boat. We loaded the tiny boat with our things and then ourselves and started down the river.
Everything was fresh, thrilling, and new. A mystery surrounded us—the mystery of the jungle. The trees were more verdant and tall, the sky bluer, the air fresher, the sun brighter. We breathed in air tainted with water. Although we only slept an hour our eyes were peeled and taking in the thick, dense forest and the profound beauty it offered us. Here we were on the largest river in the world with 6 weeks of mystery ahead of us. Excitement and wonder filled the air with a trace of fear.
He decidido seguir a Cristo
My tongue vibrated against the roof of my mouth, pressed against the back of my front teeth, and the sharp oh jetted through my lips with gusto. The ten syllable phrase resounded through the room, echoing in my ears.
A rhythmically disadvantaged crowd attempted to clap to the beat, filling the dark concrete building lit only with a small lantern with a cacophany of muffled pats. A woman in a worn pink blouse and dirty bermuda shorts poked her brown leg, killing a mosquito, and nonchalantly rubbed blood and the insect’s remains on her wooden chair.
Engaged children sang along vivaciously, eyes sparkling in the dim light that colored their brown flesh with an orangish hue. A few adults sang earnestly along with the children; the rest muttered the words with a mild disinterest, their hands meeting like the south poles of two magnets. The white faces of the foreigners were alit with joy, eyes crinkled in happiness, hearts overflowing as the Spanish voices of the impoverished vibrated their entire being with their praises of the one true, white Creator God.
No vuelvo atras
I was an automaton, regurgitating the noises and robotically clapping my hands, bouncing my head from side to side to impress a pretense of joy. Once I had genuinely decided to follow Christ. Una vez. Now here I sat in the middle of a jungle, and as the crowd professed that there is no turning back from the decision, I secretly denounced Christ. The thought surfaced from the deep crevices of my heart, from the most remote corners of my brain, and it swiftly crept into my consciousness and swept across my being: I turned back. And now I had to guard this jewel from the others, throw a dozen dirty rags over its luminescence and hope not a trace of it seeps out. I had turned back, and no matter how much I strained to reverse this thought, I couldn’t. From this there is no turning back.
No vuelvo atras
Late at night I lay in bed I lay in the dark and the fan steadily hums above me.
All else is quiet within these four walls on this frosty winter night.
My head is stationary against these pillows but my mind drifts and I’m in the humidty and I feel the sweat drench my skin and I breathe in the muddy, dirty smells of the jungle in the bright hot Amazon sun.
The face of Gender fades into view and he looks on quiet and curious with his penetrating, inquisitive brown eyes and his soft brown skin and he looks at me. He looks at me and his somber expression falters and his eyes gravitate upwards and a slow grin steals across his face. His one gold tooth glints in the sunlight.
There he stands with his piercing gaze and his mind ablaze and what is he thinking? Unravel your brain and paint the field with your neurons and replace the starry night sky with the electrical currents firing between your synapses.
Can you see me now, as I lay here on these comfortable pillows engulfed by fluffy blankets in my temperature-regulated room? I pray you don’t but I pray you do.
"¿Está bien?" you asked me one day. The opacity of my lies eluded you and you saw right through them and right through me. The truth is, the truth is I turned back and lies fluttered off my tongue and into everyone’s ears and I’m so sorry and I want you to know this. Will you forgive me?
If I scribble in a letter “No creo que Dios exista” will you still plop down next to me and put your thin, strong arm around my shoulder and verify that I’m all right? I hope you will and I hope you will forgive me, but it’s okay if you do not because we had no right to be there spreading lies, making you believe lies, instilling false hope into you all.
Please tell me you still have that dingy piece of paper with my note scrawled out to you. Carry it with you as a piece of me just as I carry you. Or perhaps you shouldn’t, and you should throw it into flames and watch the smoke blend into the treeline of the infinite Amazon forest and forget me, me laying in my bed with no sweat on my flesh, no strain in my muscles, a belly full of food, and a broke down savior complex.
My arms jiggle when I move.
Flesh on bone and nothing between—
I lift an infant and snap goes my humerus.
But my mind, O my mind!,
My mind can bench press a thousand tons.
Left, up, right, down, I swear to God to Zeus to Krishna
It is stronger than Superman’s superman and
my neural connections? They are neural lightning storms that
Put Jupiter to shame.
My body is weak but my mind is omnipotent
And you better fucking believe in its elasticity
Because it instantaneously bounces back from its kryptonite.
I am nineteen years old and I am glad I have never been in love.
I have not been enamored by a boy who whispers delicately into my ear
whose compliments wash over me like torrential downpour after a humid summer afternoon.
I have never had a boy hold me as I cry because I feel shitty about myself
and sweep my hair back and dissolve my salty tears with his chapped lips.
No boy has sprightly joked about my bumbling gait
or my mispronunciation of ‘button’.
Instead I have fallen in love with the way my face wrinkles and eyebrows wiggle
and hands gesticulate as I speak.
I love the way my feet briskly skate across the ground in mismatched socks
and the dry jokes I make when I am alone.
I have myself to uphold when I weep at night and I compose myself
when I feel shitty and dry my tears with my clenched fists and unwashed t-shirt.
I am nineteen years old and I have learned to love by myself.