This big white house on the mountain above Kona that Jordan’s mother and stepfather can now rent is amazing, from another world. The land around it is thick with lava rocks, bright green flowering, fruit trees. When the house was first built, the land around it was landscaped in levels, plateaus that wrap up and up and up so that on the flatness grow wild gardens of tropical flora. The view is vast, filling up the peripheries of vision, a steep rolling view that lands in lava fields then ocean and spreads all the way out and beyond and up to meet the rich blue sky and back again. This house is right at the beginning of the end of the world. When the sun drops in the evening to meet the horizon, the sun paints the sky and the sky gets thick with orange and red. The big white house and the sun glare, eye to eye, staring each other down.
Jordan sculpts in her new art class instead of paints. She wants tangible, something to put her arms around. Two huge buffaloes made up of scraps of vinyl and fabric. One for her father and one for her Kate. Here in Hawaii Jordan roams, while in Connecticut, Kate battles a sickness and Jordan’s father battles to break into politics. Here the vinyl buffaloes rest on their sides, their eyes stitched shut, their hides quilts etched with patterns. Marks in red inks and black. Jordan stuffs them with paper to be recycled and old straw she finds in one of the art room closets. The buffaloes become so full that straw pokes out at the stitching. The art teacher puts the buffaloes in the school gallery. Jordan places leftover straw around their heads and makes a sign for the exhibit that reads: BY THE DISCANDYING OF THIS PELLETED STORM,/LIE GRAVELESS – ANTONY & CLEOPATRA III xiii 165-166.
One buffalo covered in wounds like the slices stabs would make.
The other covered in marks that look like wounds that sprouted from the inside: scars of infected bumps or growths.
Isaac watches Jordan as she stuffs the buffaloes, her arm movement punches. He watches how her face seems to fall downward as she works from some sort of sad place. This Jordan and her buffaloes make him think of an idea for a performance piece he could do, something with drums and the cutting of fabric, something to the effect of: MEETING – WORKING OUT OF TO FALL BACK WITHIN. Isaac hasn’t been inspired in awhile and the teacher has reminded him twice that he’s already behind on this assignment. He’s bored and Jordan seems interesting and anyway, someone has to ask the new girl why buffaloes. So Isaac does, Why buffaloes? Jordan stops working and looks up at him but doesn’t answer. The next day he is handed a letter: Guilt. Guilt. I feel I’ve roamed from the east to Hawaii. I’ve been pushed to edges of cliffs. The sadness of ideas gone bad. Deadly to huge things. What I felt flying over the states. Loss. Everything’s been taken.
Maybe it all started back in Connecticut when Kate read to Jordan from a dirty magazine.
Where’d you find it?
Would you just listen?
And Jordan did, not wanting to, but getting to want to, although shocked. Bodies contorted and sliding, noisy body pieces entering, moving, holding. Jordan pictured a slick world of juicy flowers, flesh colored with all the red and pink and brown tints.
Sleep over tonight, Kate asked.
It’s a school night.
So what, like that’s ever stopped us before, what’s your problem?
Since the fifth grade they had been sleeping over at each other’s houses and always in the same bed. But that night something clicked on and hummed real loud. Jordan lay there in bed beside Kate just like always but tonight, Jordan felt electric and Kate’s back was like a current pulling her in the way her tank top hit flesh mid back, the way Kate’s legs rounded forward, the shape of her long thighs beneath the blanket. Her long thick chestnut hair swept back on the pillow away from her neck. Her smoothness. Her breathing. Is she awake? Can she hear the humming? All night Jordan watched Kate’s back and buzzed waiting for something to happen. Something! Anything! But what? To be closer imagining Kate’s smoothness melting to liquid juice beneath her fingers, to run her fingers out through Kate’s hair starting from her pale temples, to touch the place where Kate’s breasts round out from her sides.
She thought press but what’s that.
She thought, will this night ever end.
When I was in the Sac-n-Sav supermarket in Kailua-Kona today there was a man that reminded me of my grandfather. He was in line smiling at me. In his basket he had a bottle of red wine and a loaf of French bread, that’s all, but he looked really healthy for such an old man who might just eat bread and wine and I thought it was symbolic in a religious way so I smiled back. He was wearing a baseball cap just like my grandfather wore all the time, blue and orange, the New York Mets.
Jordan agrees to go to Isaac’s for dinner. He wants to expose her to local style cooking: rice and poi and teriyaki chicken, sweet guava juice, chilled papaya, mango.
Isaac’s mother has a bamboo plant growing tall inside their house.
I like this bamboo, says Jordan, and she touches a leaf.
It’s supposed to be an outdoor plant but it seems to be doing pretty well in front of the windows. He moves towards her, We like to bring things in close around here.
She looks out the sliding glass doors at the lava rock field stretching to the wild Pacific. Birds fly low above waves, dive for fish. She imagines whales out in the deeper waters, such hugeness invisible to human eyes because of all this water depth. It makes her think of her buffaloes with their eyes closed, lying on their sides in the school gallery in the dark. She likes how in Isaac’s home there is a wild plant within all this peace: the white carpet, the leaving the shoes at the door, the walking barefoot on the white carpet towards the bamboo plant towards the window towards the ocean, boundless, the feeling of moving through surfaces that are invisible.
She turns to him.
Isaac, this is the quietest place I’ve ever been, Isaac.
He wonders what that means, surrounded by his name said twice, to make her eyes go soft and her face relax in a way he hasn’t yet seen happen with any other girl. It makes him tense, he wants to hear Jordan laugh.
Yeah, sometimes when it is just my mom and me eating all we can hear is the sound of our chewing, it’s like being in a cow pasture.
She doesn’t laugh.
Hey, have you heard of TV Cow yet?
She shakes her head no.
It’s this cow who lives over on the North Shore who has a glass window over her stomach so that they can study what is going on inside. Sometimes when you drive past the pasture, TV Cow is standing right by the fence along the road and you can stop to look at her guts.
Maybe it started earlier than the night of the dirty magazine reading because Kate started to rub herself underneath the covers whenever Jordan slept over starting freshman year. She pretended she wasn’t doing it though by carrying on a conversation about the school day, but Jordan could see she was by how the blanket was moving and by how her breathing cut in and out in a weird rhythm as she talked. And the temperature around the bed would rise and sometimes within a word she said there would be a gasp. In the beginning Jordan moved away from her and closer to the wall when she was doing it and pretend too that it wasn’t happening until the first time she did it after the dirty magazine reading.
Jordan asked Kate to show her what she was doing.
What? I’m not doing anything. What are you talking about?
Kate, come on, don’t lie, and Jordan pulled back the covers real fast and there was her sheer blue nightgown lifted up and her hand on herself beneath her black cotton underwear.
Come closer, Kate whispered and Jordan did.
Watch and follow what I do.
Jordan did and Kate squirmed closer, pressing her lips against Jordan’s ear, her breathing in it, and then Jordan was falling deeper to the places Kate’s breathing went to in her, and that’s what it took for both of them to realize how to meet.
When Jordan is around her stepfather, she tries to look ugly. Things like slouching as a way to hide her breasts. Or she makes her face harden, close down, puts on an invisible mask. She’ll keep her eyes squinted a little and try to never meet his. It is none of his business to see how she looks in her new bathing suit even though he claims it is an inspection to make sure it’s decent. Before school, if Jordan wears a skirt, he checks to make sure she wears a slip by lifting the skirt up by the hem. When she tries to tell her mother how weird he makes her feel, her mother scoffs, He’s a good man, and her mother’s face closes down, gets hard like it’s about to enter a fight, You can finish folding the laundry by yourself.
Mom, what’s wrong?
But it’s the truth.
Why do you always think your view is the truth. Why do you always wonder what’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong, Jordan, stop looking for trouble.
Jordan calls Isaac at midnight, Let’s go swimming.
But it’s raining and late.
Pick me up in front of Hawaiian Gardens in ten.
When they get to the bottom of the mountain, he puts his hand on her thigh. She demands, What are you thinking? just as they park at the beach but before he can answer, before he turns the car off, she’s opened the car door and now she’s running stripping off her clothes, spinning in the rain. Her head tilted, open mouth, tongue to rain drops.
He yells out, But the currents are too strong!
Come on, what’s taking you so long, as she runs towards the water and dives.
He strips. There’s no moon, no stars, just dark clouds in a night sky. Only the light of sand and the breaking wave foam. The shape of her body as it surfaces calling out to him, Isaac this is soooo great where are you!
They find each other under the water because it’s the ocean’s movement that makes their bodies bump together, tangle up, makes her tautness slide against his. Isaac hopes this means something but Jordan just wants to be clean and feel wrapped in rightness. She loves the rain on her head face shoulders breasts above the surface while the currents move her stomach and hips and legs and feet beneath the surface. Waves moving, water touching, this is purity. Pure! she screams out to sea, twirls, flings her arms up to the sky, dives, surfaces. When she runs out of the waves he follows. She finds his jeans and sits on them in the sand, squeezes water out of her hair, lays back on her red sweater.
What was he supposed to do with her in all this sand and darkness and water? He stands above her, this new girl, this Jordan from mainland, her naked body not tanned dark yet like the island girls he knows. She looks white blue, ceramic, fragile. Her hair matted, her brown eyes closed.
What are you doing?
He bends. He kneels in the sand beside her.
She opens up her eyes. Oh this dream boy is beautiful, dark, strong but lean and smooth skinned. Such long lashes. She thinks, spirit eyes. But Jordan can’t look at him from the waist down. She thinks, I just want it in me, his strength and broadness around me, will his breathing sound as sweet as Kate’s when he gets me.
I dare you to kiss me and make it good. When Isaac kisses her, she arches her back then reaches her arms around him pulls him on top of her. When she feels his hardness against her low belly, the kiss stops.
Kiss me again. She’s thinking, but with more pressure, she’s thinking, just like Kate.
Can you just go inside?
Instead of falling, she finds herself rising with his movements. Above the clouds. There, there are those beady stars, here’s where they shine.
When Jordan’s father found out about the things that Kate and Jordan were doing when they were together after classes, he pulled Jordan out of boarding school and decided to send her to live with her mother and stepfather in Hawaii.
I can’t handle you, he said.
Don’t send me away. Please, she begged.
But Jordan’s father was a lawyer trying to break into politics. He was a newly married man trying to please his third wife.
I can’t have you kissing girls and doing all those other pornographic things you’ve been doing for all of New England to discover!
You just don’t want me around.
I just want you away from that Kate and to be around boys so that you can live a normal life.
I’m never getting married to a boy if that’s what you mean.
You’ll forget about Kate after awhile, once you are in your new school with all those surfer boys, and the school’s a good one, they have one of the best art programs in the country, and you don’t have to wear uniforms.
I’m not going.
You have no choice.
I’ll run away.
I spoke with her mother-
-you spoke with her mother!-
-and we agreed that neither of you should contact the other. No letters, no calls, no visits.
Jordan looks at him like he’s gone mad.
There’s no need to look so wounded.
I can’t live in Hawaii with mom, I hate him.
Your stepfather is a good man.
He’s rotten and mom thinks he’s a savior when he is really the devil and whenever I’m with them she ignores me and he makes me feel uncomfortable.
They are excited to have you.
Yeah, I bet he is, he’s a creep.
Remember those pictures he took of me one visit? Even you said they were creepy!
Mom never wanted me why would she want me now. Are you paying them?
Jordan, please, don’t make this more difficult than it already is.
Why do you have to get rid of me!
It’s for your own good.
No, it’s for yours and for that gourd head you married!
Jordan, that’s enough. It’s settled. What you have been doing with Kate just isn’t right. You’ll have no future–
-you mean you’ll have no future!
He turns to the window and puts his hands in his pockets.
Jordan felt it was important not to cry so she didn’t.
I can’t believe this is happening, what you are doing-
-what you have done to make this happen.
Did you tell mom about Kate?
I never want her to know.
Jordan tried to call Kate the next day when her father was at work. Kate’s mother answered the phone and told Jordan that no Kate can not come to the phone, don’t ever try calling here again, and told Jordan to stay away from her daughter or else she would ruin her future. Jordan hung up the phone terrified, her face burning with shame, imagined her own mother, imagined being killed.
In art class, Jordan makes replica after replica of small rat pig creatures. Ceramic sculptures from the same mold. She positions their heads arching up and textures their deep brown coats to look thick and wild. And in their eye sockets? Fake sparkly gemstones. One red and one blue. Their faces sneer. Isaac worries she makes them because of him, because she hasn’t talked to him since that midnight in the rain at the beach. He wonders about the pointy tails. Is she making fun of that night she wanted him? He liked her way well enough, and she was into it, boy was she into it, the things she said and did, she was way hot, he couldn’t stop thinking about her, that moment. Jordan arranges the mini monsters in her portion of the studio. She makes a sign that reads: I AM FIRE, AND AIR – ANTONY &CLEOPATRA V ii 288. From where he stands it looks impossible to walk through as if there isn’t enough space in any one area for a footstep. He writes her a note: What are these monsters, are they some type of guards? She hands him the note back: Annoyance. All those ugly moments that try to get you, burn you, make you feel bad, ugly, wrong, surrounded. Orion fallen from the heavens, shattered, broken, powerless but still pesky. Or stars above clouds out of reach, but still pesky.
The last time Kate and Jordan were together back in mid-November, Kate convinced Jordan to skip school and to hide out with her in the woods behind the soccer fields and tennis courts. They walked on paths covered in leaves and the day was crisp and bleak gray but not wet. The trees were almost already bare except for the last yellow leaves. The yellow leaves made Jordan think of summer sun; their brightness lit up the day. And there were also the evergreens. The world gray, yellow, dark green wrapping around them. Kate ran ahead of Jordan. Her gray wool uniform skirt, her legs, her knee socks, her burgundy sweater tied around her waist, her navy parka flapping in her hands and then Kate throwing down the parka, arranging it like it was a small picnic blanket. Kate unbuttoned her white blouse and there was the bra that was Jordan’s favorite, the scalloped edge lacy peach one they bought together right before this school year started. Kate’s skirt was twisted, the zipper part having wrapped almost to her front when it should have been on her left side which was always the case with uniform skirts.
Fix your skirt Kate.
Like it matters.
Jordan laughs, Fix your blouse Kate.
You love me.
When Kate reaches under her skirt and pulls off her underwear, Jordan can feel her heart fall into her stomach. When Kate bends to stuff her underwear into one of her parka’s pockets, Jordan watches how the bra’s lace edge falls just enough away from breast skin.
Unbutton your blouse and come here.
Jordan does and takes off her underwear too and lies next to Kate who is already down on the coat.
Curve inside me like I’m a spoon.
Jordan turns and squirms and presses against Kate’s front.
Leaves beneath them crunch.
They reach their hands underneath each other’s skirts.
Their breathing mixes in the air with the sounds of birds.
So close to earth their hands find softness.
Jordan thinks, summer nectarines.
They touch each other the same and then everything becomes and ends the same.
The sounds of each other’s moans get them there.
We’re like lions.
Kate unhooks Jordan’s bra and lifts it up and turns her on her back, moves down to between her legs, Are you ready for your first kiss?
Take your bra off first, I want to see.
Kate kneels up slides her shirt off unhooks her bra, takes it off.
And there Kate is above Jordan against the trees and the sky and they think this is it this is it but Jordan asks anyway, What’s going to happen, how do you know what you’re doing and then there’s no answer but action and softness and drowning rightness.
You are beauty, Jordan sighs to the air as she feels Kate’s face her forehead her lids and lashes her cheeks her thick chestnut hair with her hands, Kate’s shoulders with her thighs.
Now the sun shines mild on them in the white gray sky.
When Kate finishes she climbs up to Jordan’s mouth and kisses her dead on the lips, then they stare at each other present for all eternity until Kate jumps up sudden and quick, buttons her blouse and runs. And runs.
I want more Isaac and more Kate. My father never calls he doesn’t care. Will I ever see Kate again? Will she die or get better? These thoughts Jordan would have as she touches herself and she imagined falling deeper and deeper into the earth remembering how Kate’s breathing sounds. Jordan is outside on the plateau of land two tiers beneath the land the big white house is on above Kona. Just her place and the bright green trees and grass and birds. Flowers that look like birds and birds that look like flowers, the red and orange and green here so bright they’re sharp, so sharp they’re loud. And the view of the ocean stretches onward and onward blue movement while into her mind streams of images flow: girl bodies leaning forward arching back, boy bodies moving into her lifting red short shiny skirts, Kate lifting her uniform skirt, Kate in a hospital gown, Isaac on top of her pushing her legs apart with his knee.
Isaac took me to a new beach. We had only forty-five minutes to be there until we had to be back at school. The road off the highway was mostly lava rock; it was two miles of bumpy slow going. We swam first and while we did I remembered my dream from the night before where there was a shark fin between my legs but I wasn’t scared in the water today. Something was overcome, maybe shifted in the night. We noticed the wind picked up as we walked back to the blanket. The wind flapped open my book and one of Kate’s letters blew out and headed for the water. A woman called out, Look! Whales! There are whales playing in the ocean, but I didn’t stop to look, I wanted to save the letter more than see whales even though I had wanted to see them my entire life but I didn’t want to lose her either so I chased the letter until I saved it and then I looked up. The whales were still there and I had her letter in my hand. Their huge dorsal fins slapping the water, their breathing, their sounding.
Jordan sleeps outside tonight. She had been watching TV doing her homework when Ron came up behind her and tackled her to the floor and started tickling Jordan, Jordan screaming, Stop it I mean it. She kicked at him and tried to push him away while her mother ignored them, while her mother looked jealous. Jordan yelled at him, How come you only laugh when you torture me! Finally he stopped. When her mother went upstairs to bed, Ron got back off the couch and sat next to her on the floor. She wouldn’t look at him, she watched TV.
I know something.
He tucked her hair behind her ear.
And that Kate-friend in Connecticut, he whispered into her as he reached for her breast.
She punched his hand away.
And the woods.
Jordan ran outside her stomach full of churning flame, the sky full of burning stars and Orion standing there in his cocky stance looking down at her, Jordan shouting up at him, Why are you the only one I can ever see up there!
It was Saturday and Jordan needed to escape the big white house so she called Isaac.
Take me to town to go shopping.
She snuck down the back stairs and out the back door and there was the old man with the Mets cap from Sac-N-Save weeding the herb garden. She smelled cigarettes and mothballs. When he smiled at her, she didn’t smile back this time.
Who are you?
August, the new gardener.
She wondered when her mother or Ron thought to hire a gardener and how they found this guy and why no one told her to expect to see a man working in the yard.
Jordan ran down to the snack store in Holualoa where she told Isaac to pick her up and he was there waiting. She wanted to drive and he let her and they headed off to Hilo. She wanted to charge everything on her stepfather’s Visa. Bathing suits and miniskirts. Tight shirts and make up sets. Three new pairs of sandals. Perfume. Fancy bras. Silver hoops. Sunglasses.
Does Ron know?
That you’re using his card?
He has to pay I deserve this, and she grabs a soft blue down comforter folded perfectly into a plastic zippered pouch.
Why does Ron know about Kate? Who told him? Does mom know, God she can’t know! Jordan calls her father and the answering machine picks up: Dad are you there are you there pick up pick up the phone Dad please? I have a boyfriend his name is Isaac can I come home please can you call me I need to talk to you.
The sound of the phone being picked up.
How’s my girl?
Horrible, why did you tell Ron about Kate?
Because someone needed to know to keep an eye on you.
But you promised...did you tell mom too?
Ron’s creepier than ever, Dad.
He’s fine, he looks after you.
-Jordan, you’re in paradise, why not enjoy this opportunity.
It’s hell! I’m going to die, don’t you understand that I need to come back, can I?
It’s healthy for you to be there and look, you already have yourself a local Hawaiian boyfriend, why don’t you tell me all about him. Is he teaching you how to surf?
Jordan and Isaac speed through Volcano National Park. All the vast expanses and mountains and sea excite her the further they get from the big white house. The sun, the wind, the hours spent next to him, next to his smell, the freedom. Jordan wants to get her mind off that Ron house and Connecticut. She wants to give him pleasure. To call up from within him lust. She unties her hair, unfastens her seatbelt, turns sideways, kisses his ears his neck slow taking pauses long enough to make him want. She sucks his nipple until it rises hard in her mouth. She licks his side as she unzips his shorts and reaches inside his boxers through the slit. Sitting on her heel, she digs it into herself as doing this to him excites her as she bends down and wishes for her breasts to be free. Jordan takes his hand and guides it to untie the strings of her bikini top while she takes him in her mouth and she can’t stop, the way the car speeds up as if what she does drives them forward. She trusts him today and she does not even care if anything bad happens, this moment matters where she works well for him and they both want this and the thrill.
How I miss the smell of you Kate the way you taste everything that is opposite of him, we are about smoothness and little movements, sweetness, flowers breathed in but how I love the ocean like a vast powerful takedown of weather around me. Being moved by something bigger than me. Broad shoulders! Being lifted! With you it’s mutual swirling the depths a sinking a melding overtaking. You and I sink to meet. Last night I dreamt I flew, this was my first flying dream and I was in control but joyous, free. We were at our old school above the soccer field, the landing I was aiming for was the door by the main office and the principal was our freshman English teacher in dreadlocks. I introduced you as my love and he said, I thought you wanted to be Cleopatra. Where’s your Antony? I cried out, He was too weak and too broken to save me but it wasn’t his fault! It was Rome’s! It was Rome! If him, then the asp. If you, then not him. If you, taste, longing…I feel bigger than my life, my body, and for that, where is he to move me, up and out? He makes me rise. If you and I are to be together we need to be invisible and things will come between us, press us down, ground us into the earth, we are not about rising. Can we be like Egypt and blame it on Rome.
When Jordan’s father took her to the airport, he left her at the gate way before it was time to board the plane for Hawaii. She watched him walk away and become another tall man in a gray suit among the crowd of people. The sight made her numb. Then Jordan opened Hamlet and read because that was what her father suggested she read in preparation for her new English class. In Act III, she heard a man crying and looked up from the play to see that the real life crying was coming from her father in his gray suit. Her father in tears. He was saying nothing when he pulled her into his arms and she allowed this without asking any questions. She didn’t know what to do, what it meant – could this maybe mean that she could stay? He took her face in between his hands while he sobbed like a little boy and she looked into his eyes. They looked shrunken and broken and hopeless and she was embarrassed by this sadness in the way that only certain children know that they are more the parent and their parent more the child. She thought: incapable, useless, pity. She wanted him to want to be her father, to let her be the most important thing in his life, to let her stay. She thought of Ophelia’s father, she thought of the great father’s of history.
Where do the promises go?
His eyes said: weakness, forgive me, forgive me.
Jordan felt: let down, anger, forgive.
And then, he simply walked away.
Jordan is in the shower when the bathroom door opens and Ron enters, closes the door. He doesn’t say a word and she can’t see him through the thick plastic yellow floral shower curtain, but she can hear him close the lid to the toilette bowl, she can hear him sit down on the closed lid, and then there’s this silence in which her head races in fear, she’s crying without noise, frozen, she vows to herself to not turn off the water, to not get out until the creep leaves, so she crosses her arms over her chest just in case and thinks if whether or not she could yank down the shower curtain to use as a covering, wonders if he is going to make a move first. She hears Ron get up, hears the door open, hears it click shut.
What house is the moon in? It’s been full and bright and makes the night sky look holy as if it is a safe place to walk. Its shining keeps me awake. I think it is making me spin. I’m buzzing like I’m being zapped, if only I could harness it, maybe use it to rise. When the clouds move, the moon tinges them silver. I wish it could talk to me and tell me what it wants. We are of nature and air is like liquid – it connects us, the way the ocean does when we swim in it. Oh Moon, you bright stillness arching fast! What is it? You make me excited with too much energy you are taking from the sun and why are you glaring it at me? I want rest! I want peace!
The last time I saw August was the day the big white house burned down. It was right before sundown and I was watching for that green phenomena to happen on the horizon when suddenly he appeared on the lanai and told me to leave so I called Isaac and told him to meet at Hawaiian Gardens in fifteen. I left the house then and followed the path down the terraced plateaus until it came out to the mountain road. My mother wasn’t home but my step father was and as the sun went down the house went up in thick leaping flames. While I waited for Isaac, I decided no, he can give me a ride to town but he can’t raise me up, he can’t be my savior, he can help me get back east to Kate who in her sickness might need me. When Isaac arrived I told him not to ask questions, to believe the fire wasn’t my fault, and together we watched the house burn as he spiraled us down the island mountain. I told him I was never going to marry a boy, that I loved a girl too, that I was going to be a famous sculptor someday and the big white house looked, as it was burning, as if it had finally traded places with the sun after that blazing stare down. It must have become so tired of sitting up there on the mountain so high away from the water, so high above the horizon line, how it must have always wanted to move move move out over the water towards its very own horizon and get beneath it. And I thought, maybe everything has a back door to its heart. And I thought, an eye for an eye.