Everything That Rises
"She said one day soon/ You and I will merge/ Everything that rises/ Must converge."

I used to spend summers in the overwhelming heat and swoon of southern Sinaloa. I was often sick there. The tropical water got to me, and I ended up very ill during the summer of 1970. I had paratyphoid. Imagine it: 100% humidity, unbelievable heat, and me with high fevers. None of my relatives knew how sick I was. They thought I was a weak gringo. My dad had left for California and allowed me to stay behind, thinking it would make more of a man of me. Perhaps it did. My cousins taught me to drink and smoke and cuss and chase girls. We danced on second story rooftops in downpours. We swam in a river with alligators around us. No challenge was too great. And then I got sicker and sicker.

When I left Mazatlan, I was on a bus. I had an iguana in a shoebox. I was so sick I could not eat, and could barely stay awake. It was a 27 hour bus ride north. I vaguely remember a little boy sitting beside me, trying to get me to eat. I remember smelling the iguana, dead, and dropping the sad shoebox in a metal trash barrel in some desert bus stop. 200 miles outside of Tijuana, our bus broke down, and I caught a ride on another bus. I had to stand the whole way, and I was so far gone in my fever that I went into a trance.

When I got to the bus station in Tijuana, all I could do was crawl in the back seat of a cab and tell the driver where my family's house was. I was lucky he was honest. I was asleep.

He dropped me off. I was hours late. Nobody had any idea what had happened to me. Within a week, I was in the hospital, in sever dehydration and locked away in an infectious wing of the hospital. My mom had to wear a mask to see me.

I celebrated my 15th birthday when I got out. It's no wonder I was a little wild when I started high school shortly thereafter. The doctors had told me I'd missed dying by 36 hours. I had seen everyhting you could see that summer. What did I care about high school?

Back in Culiacan, I was so sick, I had seen all my junior high pals walking across the sky. Prudence came in my window and sat on my bed and talked to me. I still know what pants she was wearing.

My uncle owned the only radio station in Rosario, Sinaloa. He didn't like rock and roll. So he gave me a box full of all the 45's he didn't want to play. I sat in his big rocking chair, in my fever, with the shakes, and I listened to what at the time seemed like the lonesomest songs ever written. I can name them: the Byrds' version of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tamourine Man." Led Zeppelin's "Good Times Bad Times." Simon and Garfunkle's "The Boxer." We had The Sons of Champlin and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

My cousin Irma didn't understad this music, and she didn't understand me, and she didn't understand what was wrong with me. But she knew I wanted to be a writer. And she gave me those days, sitting across from me, watching my face as I found whatever refuge I could in those songs.

I think she knew I was changing before here eyes. I was inside some strange cocoon. And something other was about to come out.

She is gone now, dead for ten years.

But I'm here, thinking about her, thinking about those fevered roots of what I learned to write. Thankful. Watching the words spread into the world.

The Spanish translation by her brother Enrique is done. I am revising it with joy. Writing to people in Rome, in New Delhi, in Israel. Could an angel have spoken to me? Could an angel have walked out of the sky on those fevered days and whispered my destiny to me?

Maybe the angel was Robert Plant. John Fogerty. Dylan. Maybe it was Prudence. Maybe she was Irma.

Everything that rises must converge.


Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]