Boa

Flash non-fiction from times when the jungle was wilder.

I pull the suitcase down off the shelf above the corner closet, and there she is looking at me—a boa. We are equally surprised, and both jump back. How long has she been with me in my bedroom on top of the closet? How on earth did she get in?

How on earth will I get her out?

Maybe I should leave her there, I think. Maybe I have slept in my bed with her watching over me on many nights.

Maybe so, I think, but no more. We are afraid of each other now, and in this room together neither of us will sleep.

I stand on a chair with a broom and push her onto the floor. She flops helplessly to the tile, and in a desperate speedy wiggle, dives toward the safe darkness under my bed. I swipe at her with the broom – mighty whacks that push her toward the open door. I don’t want to hit her, but I am afraid of her. She strikes at the broom. She is afraid of me.

When I finally push her through the door into the black night, she slithers into the leafy jungle. My heart is pounding fast, as if I have been fighting for my life. Does she have a sister in my bedroom? Will she try to find her way back in?

Now, if she bites me I will deserve it. I hit her hard, and she did nothing to me but enter unannounced.

I lay on my bed in the dark and I am not sleepy. I imagine eyes looking down at me from the shelf on top of the closet. I feel the flicker of a thin tongue that reads my dreams.

I have been wrong. On how many nights have I lamented sleeping alone, while in truth accompanied by a lithe and silent guardian?

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Barbara Struncova’s 37th Birthday

Happy birthday, Barbara. From all of us who refuse to forget you.

barbara-at-kellys

You are supposed to be celebrating 37 years, today.

Bill is in jail today, like he was last year on your birthday. The USA did all it could to fight for you in court. They pulled the story of what happened to you from the archives of the OIJ, translated it to English, and presented it in a court of law, so that now what was once secret is public information. The judge, of course, was unable to sentence Bill for a crime that was not one of the original charges, but believe me girl–everyone got the point.

I wish we had more to give you for your birthday, but this is what we hold in our hands.

I know you are very close, or you were. I would like to question the trees, the crocodiles, the owls. When I learn to speak their languages, I will.

Sleep sweetly, friend.

About Being Brave. Or Not.

I’ve always been perplexed by people who tell me I’m brave—or maybe I should say, I am intrigued by the things that people interpret as acts of bravery.

How many times have I heard this: “You live in Costa Rica?  Oh you’re so brave!”  Or in reference to me moving here by myself (even though I was coming back to friends) when I was 24, “That’s so brave!”

The thing is, it’s not brave.  Not for me, anyway.  How can you be brave if you aren’t scared?  If I’m not afraid of something, for me to do it requires no bravery at all.

My boss took the batch of us on a canopy tour, recently, where you harness up, hang by metal clamps from steel cables, and zoom through the jungle canopy from tree to tree.  It’s a lot of fun.  I’ve never been afraid of heights, so it requires no bravery for me to launch from the platform and fly through the air.  Some of the team members, however, were petrified.  For them to do the exact same thing as I did was a tremendous act of bravery.  I watched them struggle with their fear and overcome it (or not).

To be brave is not the same as to be fearless.  If I’m not afraid of the ocean and I paddle out into it on a surfboard, that’s not bravery.  If I am afraid of the ocean and I paddle out into it anyway, THAT is brave.

For me, getting on an airplane is brave.  Getting on the motorcycle is brave.  (I do it all the time, clamped for dear life to the back of my husband who is cool as a cumber.)  Living in Costa Rica?  Not brave.  Getting on a boat?  Not brave.  Canopy tour?  Not brave.  Spelunking?  That’s another story.  I will hang by my tiptoes from a tightrope before I crawl into a small space that I can’t see my way out of.  That would require me to be brave, and I’m not interested.  Call me a chicken.

Up until the end of July, surfing, for me, was generally not an act of bravery unless there were a lot of rocks in the water.  I have this inexplicable panic in the presence of rocks.  Duh.  Rocks.  But yes—seeing dark shapes under me, or feeling them when I can’t see them, has always just about sent me over the edge.  No idea why.  And then the crocodile thing happened.

It didn’t happen to me in the most literal way, but there are ways in which it did.  And I’ve been back surfing, since.  Gingerly, if there is such a thing.  It’s getting a little better.  But make no mistake—surfing, for me, has become an act of bravery in a way that it wasn’t before.  I think I speak for a lot of people in my town when I say that.  Whereas before, perhaps, we are fearless, we have now become brave.

Being fearless, which can be good or bad, is a characteristic, and who chooses their characteristics?  Being brave is a choice.

Where am I going with this?  A ninguna parte.  I’m just saying.  Fearlessness and bravery might look the same on the outside.  On the inside, they’re not.