It used to make me sad, that my older sister was never really my sister. She was never the type to give advice on impulsive hook-ups or sneak out with me to buy cigarettes. She was never the type to giggle aimlessly at messing up. She was never the type to introduce me to symmetry.
My sister’s friend decided to join us on our annual 2-week beach visit up at the North Coast, and I did not see myself particularly enjoying her presence. But to say that I was mistaken would be a massive understatement. This girl, twenty-three in age but merely seventeen in her curious mind, opened a certain door within me. A door that I had known existed all my life, but was always too afraid to explore. A door that, in truth, held behind it an undiscovered lavender field. See, I’ve always been drawn to the color purple. Something about the many magical hues in-between indigo, violet, and somewhere along the lines of periwinkle have perplexed me for as long as I can remember. To most people, purple is but a symbol of royalty. But not very often does one question the essence of royalty. In my perspective, royalty is a matter of living. It is taking immense, shameless pride in yourself, to the extent where self-justification is simply belittling. I am royal in the way I prioritize my desires and instincts. Royalty is not genetically passed-down. Rather, it is a seedling that everyone has the freedom of planting within his or her own mind. To douse yourself in love and accept vulnerability is to watch this seed grow into a mesmerizing tree.
Purple. My sister’s friend was purple in the way she carried herself. She had the kind of energy you could easily get annoyed of, and some may even go so far as to call her overbearing. She was not in your face; rather she showed you your own face in her childish bliss. I think the reason she was never really popular is because people saw themselves, as free and uninhibited individuals, in her joyful eyes. She was the kind of girl that danced at your grandparents’ home when the jingle to her favorite advertisement played on the television. And what puzzled and vexed those around her most of all was that in such a caged culture, she was a free soul.
I believe it was her impulsive character that drew me so strongly to the idea of her becoming the older sister that I never had. She was fresh and radiant, two things I knew I had the potential of kindling within my own self. I suppose all I ever needed was a “push”. No, I think a “pull” would be better suited for what I’m trying to get at. All I ever needed was someone who had spent their summers hiking up the same meandering mountain trail I had so frequently dreamt of. I wanted someone in my life that could stop in their tracks, nearing the top of this mythical mountain, only to reach their right hand out to me and pull me. Pull me more in their direction. Encourage me to travel deeper into the abyss without thinking twice about useless things like gender expectation or social protocol. I wanted a pull, and this purple-colored friend of my sister’s pulled me two nights ago. The night that things began to make sense and balance rather well, and when the sky was there to listen to me and me alone.
“I’m headed to the beach; anyone care to join?” she asked assertively. I admired how fond she was of her words, despite the wall-clock blatantly reading “2 AM”. It was like everything she ever said was uttered with full faith and confidence. In this moment, I imagined what her high school diary must have looked like. No chicken scratching. Some doodles here and there. Perhaps the occasional song lyric- everything in finite presence, shamelessly laid out on pearl-white paper. She struck me as that kind of girl, the kind to let things flow and submit to such motion as the nature of things. She was content with anything and everything about herself.
“Yeah, I might come along,” I offered. Looking over at my older sister sprawled lazily across her bed, iPhone in-hand, I tried to search in her eyes for any sign of disapproval. Does she mind if we go chill by the beach, just her friend and I? Is this considered familial or social betrayal? Is she aware of what I intend to do at the beach? A million and one questions raced through my mind, and yet all I had was the weak tie of telepathy to try and scout for answers. I caught her eye and saw indifference in it. Absolute indifference. That, to me, was enough of a supportive sign. Ergo, I began to rummage through my stuff in effort of showing this purple friend of my sister’s that I would indeed be accompanying her. I zipped my make-up kit open and pretended to be fetching for my necklace. Just as my younger sister walked out of the room, I slipped both my lighter and pack of trusty cigarettes into the pocket of my sweater. I was sure to yank two blankets out of the cupboard before finally departing with this girl towards the sea.
On foot, our beach condo is situated approximately seven minutes away from the shore, five minutes and thirty-five seconds by bicycle. The girl-of-purple and I endured most of the walk in undisturbed silence. The only sound to break my train of thought was the crushing, cooling sound of the sea extending its fingertips and gently touching the shoreline, right before it curls its fingers again and retreats into its palm. Even this sound, as unavoidable as it was, did not do much to break one’s train of thought. It merely coexisted, this whooshing coastal sound. It almost had a way of ripping thoughts open and exposing them to further curiosity and deeper understanding. The sound of the sea pulled me, too, in this profound sense.
“Here?” I asked, unaware of where exactly it was she wanted to set-up.
“Yeah, sure,” she replied distantly. Her head was already somewhere else, somewhere peaceful. I wanted more than anything to be there as well.
“I think we should lay this blanket down on the sand, since it’s kind of coarse, and then use this one to cover-up. It’s softer and cozier,” I said as I began constructing what would soon be our little home for the next couple of hours.
She was removed. Far, far removed, and I myself couldn’t wait to takeoff to that remote planet of bliss and comfort. It seems as though she understood my desires and intentions, because she looked into my eyes as she pulled out a neatly rolled joint from the left pocket of her shorts. Leaving it on her lap, she held her gaze and started smiling because she knew that on that very lap of hers lay the gateway to my yearn for experimentation. I also believe she held her gaze because she saw herself in my eyes; she saw the young seventeen-year-old girl with more questions to ask than words to speak. The one who plasters-on a certain image to keep family, friends and invasive things like culture at ease. And consequentially, the one who leads a polar life in her mind and soul, just waiting for the day where the restrictive gates of geography unlock and grant her the freedom to explore the world. To explore the idea of leaving. Of growing.
With that, she lit the jay. She lit it as though hastily whispering a secret to the tiny confines of her cupped hand and all that lay within it: the joint, the fire of her lighter, and lastly her lips.
She took the first hit and look out beyond the sea, but I kept staring at where the joint had left her mouth. A small gap between her upper and lower lip first, eyes squinted, then a larger gap and even larger one after that. The smoke flowed out of her mouth in exhaustion, like it had been tightly packed inside of her chest waiting for a sweet release. An escape of its own. I noticed that her eyes were not squinting anymore. Was the world prettier to look at when high?
Girl-of-purple went on with this behavior for what could have been anywhere between ten minutes to two hours, I could not tell the difference, me myself being wildly entertained by the mere sight before me. At one point, she let out a final symphony of smoke swirls and softness before handing me the jay. Will there be no further explanation to this? I thought to myself. In any case, fret escaped my mind as soon as the jay met the touch of my thumb and index finger. With it sandwiched between them, I stared at the jay. I knew what I was supposed to do, and more importantly I knew that it was what I had wanted to do in the first place. The matter appeared simple and clear, like glass noodles. There really isn’t much complexity to glass noodles.
Inhale. Little cough. Slight dryness in my throat. Exhale. Not much smoke emitted.
Inhale. Bigger cough. More dryness in my throat. Exhale. More smoke emitted.
Deeper inhale. Intolerable cough. Painful dryness in my throat. Exha—
Stop. Girl-of-purple handed me a bottle of water, which had appeared heaven-sent at the time. Quickly and quite desperately, I tore at the packaging plastic surrounding the bottle cap and barbarically disposed of the cap itself onto the sand. One large gulp. Two, two large gulps. I decided that I needed to give it another shot. This would not be the end of my night. Not just yet.
Swallow. Deep, very deep inhale. No cough. Nearly unnoticeable dryness in my throat. Schools and schools of smoke emitted. A gaseous wonder. Fumes upon fumes of pastel, opaque white.
“Do you feel the high?” she asked me, with a relaxed smile on her lips. I assume she interpreted my behavior as affirmative, because it was all I could do to sink onto the blanket and dig my toes into the refreshing, soft sand. My heart rate had slowed down, and I could now take deeper breaths of air, hence putting me at ease in the process. Physically, I had loosened up. But I have always been greedy, and I wanted more from that introductory experience.
“Let me light it,” I said to her. Impressed, she handed me the lighter and watched as I imitated exactly what I had seen her do not five minutes ago. Down to the position of her ring finger, which typically seems uninvolved, but in truth plays a large role in balancing the feel of one’s hand in sheltering and submitting to the jay.
“Not bad,” she admitted. Not bad. In my mind, that does not directly translate to good. Perhaps mediocre. In the mental state I was in, however, all things translated to good. Good filled my chest and warmed my skin. It brought along with it a gust of wind that wiped the hair clear off my face, as though reintroducing me to the world through new eyes. I stared at the water for a bit, lost in a daze of absolute nothingness. I was lost in only the purest of ways, for it was the kind of lost that did not anticipate an end. I was not lost in the sense that I wanted to be found. I wanted to remain suspended in this nothingness, if anything, for as long as I possibly could. However, my empty yet nonetheless profound intimacy with the sea ended as soon as my eyes met what I later understood to be the one and only “eureka” moment I had yet to experience.
“Look,” she whispered. Even though there was no need to continue, she soon added, “Look, over there”.
My eyes slowly traveled upwards, removing themselves from the hollow lure of the sea and making their way to the skies above. The sun lay held, frozen at eye-level with me. Not even the slightest neck crane was needed to adjust my total view of it, for it was poised directly in my central line of vision. I began by squinting at the sun, assuming that its glare was too strong for the naked eye to bear. But something inside of me challenged this thought; too much to bear? Too much to bear? I was at the peak of my psychological and sensory awareness. Perception was but a molten material, moldable to the powers of my mind. I was incredibly stoned, and everything seemed in-tune with my psyche. So I gave it a shot.
My eyelashes fluttered rapidly as I tried to relax the muscles of my eyes, returning from a tight squint to full openness. It had been nearly fifteen minutes before it occurred to me that my eyes were wide open, and that I was staring directly into the sun with absolute ease. To say that the sight of the sun slowly climbing the skies and shying behind the clouds now and again was breathtaking would be an understatement. I was conversing with the sun. I was seeking truth in its radiance, in its resilient nature. I remember being baffled by the fact that the sun persists in rising, no matter what hellish experiences the day may bring. It persists in rising. Partially because that is all it can do, but mainly because it has found enough inner strength to pursue itself. Day after day. I wish to pursue myself, too. I wish to reach a point where there is a fluid relationship between my thoughts, speech, and behavior. I wish to wash away the numerous coats of redundant pink that I tried so hard to plaster on myself. I wish to wash away this pink to reveal the deep purples and blues and streaks of emerald that lay within me. And I wish to do so with pride.
Lost in my thoughts of growing more into the person I knew that I had been destined to be, I didn’t notice that the sun had started flashing. With unmistakable white at its core, the sun was surrounded by a ring of light orange followed by another ring of light blue. Extended afterward was an even larger ring of pure peach. Even though I wanted to question the science behind this phenomenon, I recall simply marveling. I decided to absorb the beauty that lie ahead of me rather than question its occurrence. We tend to that a lot, us humans. Question so much that we morph into scavengers that feed on answers and nothing else. We have lost touch of the sacred unknown. The abyss, the darkness of not having any comforting answers. It was in that moment, however, that I found it in myself to make peace with the art of light in the sky. I did not wish to hear of the electromagnetic spectrum, nor did I wish to be informed about its happenings. I was content. Not willingly ignorant, but rather comfortable with the idea that there were sights and ideas far beyond me. If inner peace was concentrated in a bucket of holed house paint, I had slowly begun to let it spill. I had lived my entire life with a roll of scotch-tape in one hand and a sealed plastic bag in the other, constantly ready for leakage. But it was in that moment, and with that joint, that I had decided to release both items onto the floor. The paint had finally started to spill, and I would let it spill to the very last drop of color.
A good chunk of time passed as I lay, eyes closed, on the soft blanket. It wasn’t a deep sleep that I had experienced; in fact I would not call it sleep at all. I was fully awake on the inside. My mind was buzzing yet calm, curious yet content. I remember then realizing the charm of paradox. I remember then understanding the beautiful symmetry behind it.
“How do you feel, then?” she asked. She wasn’t looking at me; her gaze lie fixated on a certain point in the sea. Following her gaze, I saw that she was traveling with her eyes along the fine line where sky met sea. As the light swallowed the night little by little, I caught the sun perform the last of its cheeky summersaults along the horizon. It glittered and danced along the water, slowly rising above and losing touch of its playful bedding. In that moment, it did not matter what relevance 6 AM had in my life. It did not matter that the night had turned itself in and shut its doors on my closet of poetic youth. It was enough to know that I had a fruit inside of me that hungered for nurture. I was to advance, to continue questioning, to travel along the meandering mountain trail. I was to stop in my tracks one day, too, and reach out for the next young wanderer. Maybe she’ll be my younger sister, the next wanderer. She’ll probably be my younger sister. I just hope that I’ll be an older sister to her, unlike mine ever was to me.