The last two weeks are a storm of dust and hoofbeats and hot breath on my neck. The taste of dirt and sweat in my mouth, my heart pounding, my muscles weak, my mind raising its whip high, high, high in the air.
I can feel the stretch of my ambition, an arch in its neck as it throws its head back and finds that there is nothing to declare. Nothing at all. I can’t summon a battle cry.
Zaviera starts her first day of school tomorrow. She curled up into me tonight and said, “I don’t want to go without you. It’ll be scary.” I repeated the names of the girls we had met. I walked us along the hours of her scrambling up on to my lap as I discovered I’m not so bad with little children after all, I have a way of gathering them to me.
By the second day of bringing Zaviera to ‘familiarity’ meetings with her class, I’d already fallen in love with two of the girls and claimed them as the friends that would accompany Zaviera through the years to come. Bianca and Sylvia. Bianca pronounced “BE -ANK - AH” not “BE AHNK AH” as I was pronouncing it.
“So sorry,” I said.
It fascinates me, this inversion of pronunciation. The A’s that I’m used to making soft are now hard. Everything is backwards, turned upside down, and I will never be able to trust my ability to spell now that I’m swimming in commonwealth language. I’ve noticed lately that I come bursting up for air amongst the missing R’s of language with an American accent that refuses to be subdued. I have developed a tendency to nickname all those around me like I’m from the south, “Come here, sugah”, “that’s alright sweetpea,” even as everything else about me becomes tangled in the life and culture of this island that is home. So much so that now when I watch American television or read the updates of friends back in the USA, I no longer feel a connection. I don’t relate. The ponga trees, the rolling green hills, the scent of South Pacific air, these things have become my landing, my place of familiarity.
But lately, I’ve been dreaming of my other home. The home that my DNA spent centuries gathering its lessons from: Spain.
I dream of Spain.
I dream of the island.
I watch my children grow.
I watch this passionate dance of genetics emerge in them. It swirls its skirts. Slaps its thighs. Flares its cape.
And then there is me. I sometimes feel so inadequate to the display of beauty and passion that is my life as a mother, daughter, woman, wife.
I try to stay one step ahead of it, to not be consumed by the bulls with their heads bowed, horns aimed, breath at my neck.
All of these thoughts are with me in the dark as I gather my daughter into my body. I rest my hand along her hip, aware of how quickly this intimacy will slip away from me.
“I have so much faith in you,” I say. “People love you. They can’t help it. At the end of the day, you will know how brave you are. Would you like me to rub your feet? Will that help you sleep?”
“No thanks,” she said, pulling my arm tighter around her small, precious bones.
She falls asleep while I hum off-key the only lullabye I know.
I can’t take credit for any of this life that surrounds me, even though I often try to. I try to grip it to tightly or pretend that it falls behind me, as effortless as a shadow.
Really, it is a dance. A surrender. A throwing open of the gates. A heel stomping. A deep breath. The snort of bulls. The charge of a heart pounding. Knowing that so long as it beats, it can’t be trampled.
Tonight, as the family sleeps, I feel the bulls catch up to me. One grabs me in its teeth and flings me gently on to its back. I grab its horns and laugh, the wind in my face.
There was nothing to fear after all.