Stories From California

By Heart - Culver City, CA

One of my favorite things about writing beyond journalism is: I never know where it takes me. Like when I answer prompts for writers' meetings. "What do you know by heart?" was one question. Minutes later, memories folded into spices on my tongue seasoned with lines from the morning's newspaper: 

My parents' phone number I know by heart: null sieben sechs drei eins, vier drei drei acht.

My school friend's number: null sieben sechs drei eins, sechs eins drei fünf.

My number in L.A.: three one zero, three eight three, one two five one.

 

I know by heart the feeling of sand between my toes on Venice Beach. I know by heart how to pick up a pen and write. And write. And write and write. I know by heart lyrics of ABBA songs, Smokie, Rolling Stones, Juanes, Kate Bush, Zara Leander, Blondie, Prince. I know by heart a lot of useless words like that. Not at all useless, because I'm very happy when I sing along.

I know by heart my favorite recipe: coconut ginger carrot soup. I always put more ginger than the recipe instructs.

Today I peel ginger, an extra portion on top of what I usually do. Ginger to burn away words, pictures, sounds of those killed

In Gilroy

In El Paso

In Dayton

To burn away thoughts of those left behind with candles, prayers, tears.

Today I peel ginger until the roots are soft, juicy, yellow, with no trace of skin. Today I peel ginger until I feel the smoothness underneath my thumb, until my palms are drenched in its essence, until its fragrance cleanses the whole house.

Insence. Sweet and spicy.

Balm for my blistered heart.

I slice the root's center with the biggest knife I have. Cut. Slice. Cut. Slice. Cut. Slice. Then take the carrots. Earth in my hands. I peel until they shine bright orange. No spots. No scars. No trace of soil. Slice. Cut. Slice. Cut. Slice. Cut. The coconut oil melted into smooth transparent liquid from the heat. How hot is it today

In Gilroy

In El Paso

What's the temperature in Dayton?

A hint of ocean breeze touches my cheek. Cools of my skin. Cradles my heart. Sings me a lullaby.

Outside my window, leaves of manzanita bushes rustle. A crying crow lifts from the tree. Time stops between the wings of butterflies. Marine layers move in.

Layers of comfort. Layers of tears from long buried Egyptian queens. Layers of sweat in native ground. Layers of ancient worriors' wine.

Evaporated.

Into blue. Into fog on my doorstep. Into poisoned relief.

I stir the serpent's healing haze into hot boil and bubble on my stove. Tears fall. Tears rise with the steam. Tears float out of the window into grey.

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