it amazes me; one day we are people and the next we are names nailed alongside highways. light and rain are streaming onto the yellow hills and fences. maybe the clouds think we are the ones floating along, turning our ant patterns into shapes and pictures. they’re hanging down low and across across us, pregnant piles of misty sky advancing on the other unseen armies of cloud behind us. we can’t run away, only scuttle around beneath them, dodging tiny, crystal bombs as they pour down on our silver shell. everyone is stretching in their own ways. a man bounces a ball at a rest stop, the kind that people pretend will make you feel better if you squeeze it instead of slapping some poor fool in the face.
the air is heavy here. back home, everything is bare and brown, and the air is light enough no one notices it. here, breathing is more like drinking, inhaling soupy, warm moisture.
my first discovery: cole slaw is bearable here.
second discovery: being the only white person in sight makes me awkward and inexplicably happy.
this is quite clearly not where we’re supposed to be. plastic covered chairs in a waiting room, hushed voices, and three other people who would rather be someplace else. it’s nothing. this place is only a precaution, but nagging worry still manages to creep through sky blue walls. what if? i’ve mentally begun analyzing her every bruise, ache, tired spell, and complaint. it could all add up to a combination of jetlag and excuses, but the small chance it could be something more has me watching her closely. she’s perky again, playing an annoying game with an overly cheery tune, but too many stories of nothing turning into something serious keeps me praying. more whining children and loud mothers come in, burned faces and strep throat in tow. we spend an hour listening to complaints and vague parental threats. they call her name, and we sit behind as she follows the nurse in. after the burned, tired kids are called in as well, an older man catches my eye and almost imperceptibly shakes his head and rolls his eyes. i grin and nod back at him. a half hour later they walk back in, her holding a temporary tattoo and piece of paper stating that she’s fine and needs only avoid dairy and stress for a few days. i smile at the man we we walk out the heavy metal door, slamming shut to hold in the cool air and worry behind it.
she makes friends everywhere she goes. from the sweet older woman at the receptionist’s desk to the pentecostal preacher at mcdonalds, everyone falls in love with her. strangers ask to take pictures of her and tell us she’s beautiful. now we sit to wait for the ferry, and she begins to show off her temporary tattoo to a woman with a mohawk, piercings that look like she fell in a tackle box, and arms covered with pictures that are clearly not removable with baby oil. it’s a look i secretly rather like, but she doesn’t see often. mom looks slightly wary for a moment, but hope takes a seat and begins to fill her in on every detail of her history, from the tooth she pulled from her own mouth a few weeks ago to the plane flight she took from korea to america when she was seven months old. i can’t help smiling at how open she is with everyone, no matter how they look or sound or how different they are. maybe part of it comes from her being used to looking unlike everyone and being proud of it, but i think most of it is pure spirit. i hope it takes a good long time for the world to break her of the habit of trusting so freely. it’s an ability that can built a person or rip them apart, and i want her to reach as high as she can before we teach her to know better.