The great shining light

Laying in a sauna looking at the triangular light patterns on the wall. Someone had the thought to install a sand-filled hourglass on the wall, mounted on a piece of wood with tick marks, 5, 10, 15. The digital clock outside the sauna, beyond the glass door counts the seconds, but the second counter has a broken bulb, and so the numbers are dissected in a kind of ancient Mesopotamian language. I’m taken back to that childhood place when I was walking in the basement of some swimming pool where my brother swam in a freestyle race. With my mother’s change, I bought a fruit roll-up that was a shade of yellow ochre; I still remember that color, the cellophane in my hands, the way it tasted, the smell of chlorine in the air.

I swim gracefully, I glide, watching the autumn sun flicker on the water’s surface, the light show it makes at the bottom of the pool. Feeling the tide of elementary school children entering and exiting, adults in and out of work, I found this lane all to myself and I thought of you, I thought of imaginary schools of fish below me and their unshakable desire to swim together. The patterns they make like smoke signals, the light they reflect against their silver scales and oh I was filled with this childlike desire to take you there and show you this magnificent display of nature.

We were massaging each other’s feet in someone else’s apartment, you were slightly tipsy on someone else’s German gluten-free beer that you promised you’d replace. I don’t remember what was on TV. You got a call that your mother went to the emergency room, with chest pain, pain in her left arm. “I’ve been dreading this call for 15 years,” you said. Suddenly the rest of all life seemed very inconsequential, floating on that sixth floor apartment into the unknown. You stared horrified into space. I called your mother in my thoughts and held her in my hands and whispered “Dai Ko Myo” signing the characters on her forehead, over her body. In between your shock and your tears you didn’t see me praying for your mother, so I thought I’d tell you now.

Swimming there I think of my mother, wondering where she is, wondering what she is thinking, as if she’s already gone. Sometimes I hear her voice when I’m drawing or painting, she tells me to add some red here or there, she reminds me of the mathematical proportions of the human face and maybe she’ll say, “I think you’re better than me now.” Floating there I think of my mother living the life she always wanted to live, before me, after me, with me, without me.

大 Dai
光 Ko
明 Myo

The great shining light.