Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1

That Was All I Ever Knew of Nepal

                        I sit in the tub
and watch clouds motor.
             After the closed-door

                        shoutdown with Eleanor,
twelve-year-old Lucy showed
             me her poster on Nepal.

                        The two red triangles
of the Nepalese flag,
             symbolizing the Himalayas.

                        White sun on one.
Cool moon on the
             other. Imports: petroleum

                        products, electricity,
fertilizer. Exports: jute,
             leather, clothing, carpet,

                        hand-hammered tingsha
and singing bowls. Sal wood
             obtained in forests, bamboo

                        and rattan. In her querulous
glitter-glue script: “One of
             the poorest countries in

                        the world.” My friend
Megan died there. That
             was all I ever knew of Nepal.

                        I was seventeen. We’d met
for cream-filled donuts from
             Ed’s Market for breakfast on the

                        beach in south Jersey. Megan
down from Philly, me from
             the suburbs. Her bright winter

                        skin on the beach in her jeans
and t-shirt. I laughed at her.
             We talked about Eric,

                        her lover. A year later they were
sucked under a truck while motorcycling
             in the mountains in Nepal. She’d

                        told me Eric was her all.
I met him once. She
             was funny and kind,

                        never once offered a critical
word. Eleanor lost a significant
             part of her mascara today

                        to her upper cheek when she
said she was “in love.”
             Unlike others

                        she was actually in love
and would make her decisions
             accordingly. Adventure, even

                        danger, in Mexico, with her
African/Swiss/French boyfriend. Other exports: grain,
             herbal treatments, oils and

                        pashmina. Currency: rupee.
Flag of two pennants also symbolic
             of Hinduism and Buddhism.

                        Blue border, peace and harmony.
Crimson, Nepal’s national
             color. Brave spirit. The pulse

                        of the people. Megan had
those qualities. I was too
             wrapped up in bimbo-ness to

                        be able to pin it down. Megan
and Eric died together. Tonight
             it’s 46, tomorrow it will

                        be 8. In between, some
violence. In between, some
             action. A skyful of scudding

                        clouds. Eleanor wept real tears
and we administered “tough love.”
             I said Djibril had to man up

                        (trying to think of the French
equivalent) and finish high
             school. Pay the

                        price of the year spent
skipping lycée and dealing
             hashish. I said nothing

                        about Megan. I hadn’t
seen the poster yet, hadn’t
             yet shocked the wits

                        out of Lucy and her friend Heather
by telling them the one
             story I knew about their

                        chosen country. My friend Melora
Bonn from Philly came down
             to the shore to visit, fell in love

                        with Megan’s brother, Rob.
I remember her stealthy, labyrinthine
             journey into center city that fall

                        to the birth control pill doctor so
she could give Rob her flower.
             A couple of years later,

                        after they’d split, she had
a breakdown at Penn.
             I hated facing Rob at the beach

                        the summer after Megan died.
Between that and our shared
             history of Melora I thought

                        my heart would break. Rob
was a mechanic. He looked
             like Arlo Guthrie. Melora said

                        all the time how smart
he was. But wasn’t it
             me, just two weeks ago, after

                        a twelve-step meeting, advising
the younger man, Jon—
             whose beautiful, intent face

                        (with one curved crease
down each gaunt cheek)
             had been coming to me in dream,

                        whom I thought of also
while awake—about his love life? As
             I approached, he stepped back.

                        I felt like the cellulite
monster. His face, his kind
             laughing face, the time he

                        stopped his pickup in the middle
of Sixth Street in a snowstorm
             to speak to me—he said, It’s always

                        a pleasure to see you. Knowing,
I guess, of his effectiveness
             with women. I saw his face

                        on the icy highway going to work,
as one commute after another
             the semis fell, taking cars with them.

                        Eleanor loves Djibril like a girl.
He’s her dove, her coney. I
             know. I do know. “Adventure

                        and maybe even danger.” I hear
the wind spanking the house. The
             temperature will drop

                        forty degrees. Maybe snow.
Jon’s knee will never
             be right, from the time

                        the police shot him. And
he told me he was worried
             about telling the woman he

                        was falling for that he wasn’t
from a two-parent family!
             Possible snow

                        showers. Severe drop in temperature,
more opportunities for truck
             crack-ups and the errant, the

                        random, the unlucky cars.  end