An ant moved into my computer during the summer. It wasn’t just visiting. It was there to stay. It nestled between the N, the M and the J. It was really hot back then.
I’d email my friends about the weather and the long days and the ice cream and watch the little inhabitant. I’d move my computer closer to the window in the hope that it would leave. I’d rush back to my desk as soon as I saw him scuttle away. But the dweller always returned. He had replaced the green summer grass for my white, tepid keyboard.
Who you are isn’t constant. At Middlebury, West Coasters are always excited about each other. This one lives in Seattle and that one in Sacramento, but they somehow feel that they have something huge in common. Would they care at all if they met in California? The same trend holds true overseas: in Mali, every American is your bosom friend. When I’m home, I’m the environmentalist. I give recycling bins as gifts, and I turn off all the lights. At college, I’m not considered one of the really green people at all. Green suddenly means more than turning off lights.
In 1968 we boarded the Bergensford, a Norwegian ship filled with smorgasbord and people. I spent the passage vaguely ill, uneasy, trailing my older brothers. One brother, 16, fell in love with gorgeous Benta; one brother, 14, fell in love with physics experienced as he hung from our porthole palm outstretched with ping-pong balls that would be sucked up to the top deck where they bounced around, a new kind of rain. And then the hurricane hit. One brother, 16, turned green and cabin-bound and one brother, 14, turned Houdini, escaping to stand at the rail, buffeted, magic, half human.
The reading list for sophomore English at my high school (a course that my teacher jokingly titled “white men who make bad choices”) felt full, formal, formulaic. Until spring, when we got to The Great Gatsby. I’ve read it five times since, and with every take I still feel overwhelmed by that last page, by the green light and the orgastic future and the fresh, green breast of the new world. I read that and feel as though I understand exactly what he means, but with Fitzgerald there’s always something more, and there’s no way I have unearthed it all.
I tell people that I grew up in the green. It’s easier than saying “well, there was Tacoma, then Seattle, and my dad lives in Olympia but I only stay there 1/25 of the year”. On weather maps costal Puget Sound is bright green. During days where summer sweat should melt your underwear the Sound brings in breezes that wrap up the worst of it. In winter, however, it makes the coast unsnowable. The mountain range over Eastern Washington is where the weather hits. The maps show orange there. But I never knew that when I was living in green.
There is something elusive about Brazil that I can’t pin down. Portuguese twists out of their mouths and I can’t untangle the words. My Spanish does me no good. Only 200 miles of coastline separated me from the wide expanse of the green Amazon. I could float up the river and emerge unnoticed. Would I find football hooligans or the pulsating energy of Carnival dancing down the street at 4 am? My country sleeps when the sun goes down; Brazil breaks open from sardine cans and goes streaking into the ocean. I want to put on sequins and go dancing too.
I’ve written about a parakeet already on my blog, and I am going to write about the same parakeet again, but not for what it was or how it acted, but for its green. It had the best green. It was amazing – bright, a source of light; it was supposed to be the tangiest lime sorbet ever, but it got stuck on the animal. The green was contained by the finest strands, and when you looked closely, it wasn’t the same green – no light, no unity – but separated greens. The greens were clear, and they liked to stab the fake light.
We each had to take one vial. Inside, a green liquid jiggled and an eerie light shone through.
“Do not drink until you are told,” a voice announced in a monotone.
Around us, four corners revealed four musicians, frozen and ready.
“You may drink now,” the same voice said.
I hesitated and looked at Kyle to see if he would drink neon green out of a test tube. We each tilted back the contents. A sweet, spicy, and intoxicating jolt of sour filled my head. I looked at the audience, doe-eyed, blinking. We peered over the banister. The show began.