She was unapologetically beautiful with ocean damp hair and breasts that pressed two dark spots into her pink camisole.Light freckles on her nose matched her sand crusted toes and she walked the leaf-shadowed path as if she bore the weight of a hidden royal past.
Around us on all sides were the spinning dementia of cicadas and the love affairs of bullfrogs.Obscenity saturated the damp air.We passed from the trees into the cane forests and out past a chicken yard where the hens bickered openly and the cock was king.
We spoke of love and culture and sex and God.She had been raised in the same British boarding school as Cat Stevens.Oh yes, she remembered the old schoolyard.
Love is a battlefield.
Culture is a club.
Sex is natural.
God is a DJ.
We passed under a cicada mist and our faces moistened with their sticky insanity.She told me that she loved me, without shame.She had love to spare.She was beautiful -is beautiful still – in my memory.I took her arm and called her sister.She made me feel beautiful by association.The kind of beauty that doesn’t care if every hair is in place or whether blemishes show.That kind of beauty is rare.From the soul.Within.
She didn’t believe in God, I remember that.She told me that she used to ask the nuns at her school to explain things.She got rapped on the knuckles by a wooden ruler on more than one occasion.Got assigned penance once for peeking in the windows of the church.Couldn’t conceive of God.Refused to even consider.
Later that night, we stood together on the shore of the South China Sea.Before us, the ocean hushed on the downbeat while we practiced the forms of our art. Slowly, we speared and parried our energy into the breeze and then back upon ourselves.
Tan sau.Fuk sau.Bong sau.
Others in our class spread out around and behind us.Before us was the inky green of the ocean at night, rhythmic and regular in its white-tipped entropy.
Tan sau.Fuk sau.Bong sau.
Take energy.Give energy.Round and back again.
My eyes focused beyond the black over the water, not understanding what they were seeing at first.It was the crest of a wave.A piece of trash.An angel on the breeze.It floated toward me, drifting with design.
Upon realizing that this other-wordly thing was alive, I moved toward it.Was compelled toward it.Its glowing wings flowed and rippled as if slack on their frames.Tassles hung from them, bigger than the diameter of my hand spread wide.It was beautiful.My God, it was beautiful.It was not from this earth.Who would believe me? I wanted to touch it. I wanted to be blessed by it.I reached for it.Inches from my hand, I could see it.Our souls connected and my blood paused in its channels.I felt it then – its energy, its purity.Its eyes large and dark.Black as the night sky.My hand withdrew and I cursed myself for my own weakness.For the blessing lost.
Many years later I would visit my friend in her London home.She would take me around.We would get pasties and beer; would go to a few bookstores.She would take me to the tower where we would stare at the flightless ravens and dare them to say to us the only word they knew. At night, we would lie under her pink satin bed cover and listen to an Indian guru she had studied under while he chanted in a language I could not begin to understand.She would turn to me to tell me she believed in God now.Maybe not completely, but she was trying.She was still beautiful.By then, she had wrecked my life and I hers, but she was beautiful.
When we would part, we would leave with open wounds.
But she was still beautiful.