I remember a year ago like it's a daydream. When you are always moving, coming or going, counting time zones and fumbling for a foreign word, then maybe life is just a strand of daydreams. You string them up and wear them like pearls, they fall from your nape, rest on your throat, and throb in time with your pulse.
We're at wooden table in March in a little courtyard in Nicaragua, me and Savannah. Evening is rising, the heat is dying, some birds chatter in a dribbling fountain. I'm sick, hunched over the table with a bottle of water and a Coke. They're playing American music, I'm quizzing Savannah on the artists. She's telling me about her hopes, far-off college plans, the social dynamics at school. I watch her speak, watch the lavender fall onto her from the purple sky. I love her so intensely at this instant, it's 5:15. She is the navel of the world right now.
Halen says he's grateful for the shadows that the red rock bluff is throwing down. It's summer in the southern Utah desert, all scrub and dust and bone dry blue sky. Me and Halen are out for a run in the shade, the flaming sun is falling down in the west, pebbles crunch and scratch underfoot. We round the corner of the bluff and beneath us down in the valley there's a daydream draped over the rocks, little houses and green trees, all bejeweled in desert sundown gold. Halen stops, and I stop, and we don't say anything. We just let it all sparkle. My arm climbs up Halen's back and dangles from his shoulder, his arm circles my waist. And we sparkle too.
The earthquake hits a little after six in the evening. It's a 5.1. For the past few days, El Salvador has experienced a "seismic cluster," meaning the earth is excited or bored, so it's shaking all the time. This one feels like a monster. I'm in the kitchen, Shannon yells to the kids. The ground shimmies, the walls moan, the windows rattle, and you sense that if the world willed it, it could throw us right off its back and out into space. Then suddenly it's done and quiet and still. Violet is in the living room. She was coloring when the quake came, and she hit the deck just like we'd taught her. Now she's prostrate, arms and legs splayed wide, exposing as much of her body as possible to anything that might fall from the walls or ceiling. Her face is buried in the carpet and her muffled voice asks if it's all over, because she wants to color. It's the most adorable thing I think I've ever seen.
I can't hear anything but the wind and crying birds way up here, miles from the lonely highway and hours from a town of any size. Me and Grace are sitting on the roof of a monastery called Rizong, she's scratching drawings into rocks and I'm listening to the day creak by, sharp, cold, and deep blue. The Himalayas are all around us, pressing in. They're impossible, they tower and glower, angular, hard shadow and harsh glare, crushing the earth beneath and impaling the innocent sky overhead. Wind slides over the bony brown ridges, it ruffles Grace's hair. She doesn't look up, she says she's making this little rock into a whale. Scratch, scratch. She's so small in these infinite mountains. I scoot closer to her and she draws a whale and the rocks get older.
West Virginia is all wet today. Ripped up clouds lay broken in the crags of the hills, bleeding rain all over everything. It streaks across the windows of our bus. Shannon is watching May outside, she's listening to a podcast, she's absently holding my hand. She's wearing a stupid hoodie she got at Goodwill. It says "I (heart) New York," but the heart is a Mickey Mouse head. Shannon has never been to New York, and she doesn't think highly of Disneyland. But the hoodie was six dollars, and she was cold. She presses a little closer to me, still watching the water fall out of the sky. I pretend I'm looking outside too, but I'm really just watching the flat, gray daylight play across her face. I think how you can believe that everything is okay, even when it's not. That's what it was like before I knew Shannon, I say to myself as I count her eyelashes. I remember it like it's a daydream.