“The Dress and the Snake”
The time to watch a sunset is twenty minutes. Is it longer in Heaven? Are the colors the same? My heart flattens, flutters and it is hard to talk. Speaking now, I feel as if ropes have caged my heart and made me sad.
What is underneath this sadness? Fear? Anger? I am not sure. My soul seems to be standing. Everyone thinks I am holding up well. So brave.
I feel weak, breathless at times
I’d like to run until I reach Egypt
But I have the responsibility of staying.
This coat I wear does not want winter to come. The naive mind of spring bursts in my heart. Death has no colors.
It made me feel secure thinking Dad would live on like Su Aht said.
“No die. No die this year.” Then, the recalculations, like a mortality math question.
The place where my wedding dress is being made is attached to an oriental grocery store. The sounds and scents are strange. As I now have been in there many times, I have become friends with Su Aht – my tailor’s mother and teacher. She has noticed my ripe tears and wounded heart. Her English, non-existent, folds many layers; we speak silently.
Su Aht asks, What year my dad was born. Her daughter translates in Thai.
“How old is your dad?”
“74,” I say.
“What year he born?” Pantanee translates to me, as Su Aht looks wise in the eyes.
I reply curiously, “1929.”
Su Aht sits in her corner and pulls out her Thai zodiac book, thumbing through the pages. She settles on a page with the Chinese zodiac. Click, clack, cluck. She counts in Thai, her finger running in a circle. She does it again and again circling the circle with her fingers. I nibble on the peeled apple slices she offered. Their sweet taste teasing me.
She looks happy; she says with a smile, “No die. No die this year.” Then blurts out more in Thai. I say to Pantanee, my tailor, “We need a translator here. She might be on to something!”
Pantanee chats with her friend in English on the telephone. Whispers of conversation blurt out. “He’s no good for you.” I hear her say in English. She comes over and tells her friend to hold on. Pantanee and her mother, Su Aht, speak in Thai, counting, clicking. Strange sounds emerging from their tongue. Mother tongue melting.
Pantanee starts clicking, clacking, counting. They both look up somber, sad as if they have bad news. “This is the year of the snake to die,” Pantanee says with quilted accent thick.
Su Aht speaks softly in Thai. Optimism erupts from her eyes. Pantanee translates her mother’s thoughts, “If he can make it past this year, he will have more years.” I nod and think. I really don’t know much about the Chinese zodiac, but think of it in a positive way.
There are pictures hanging above Su Aht. I was looking at them as she figured my father’s cycle in this world. She caught me look at the elder monks dressed in orange red robes. They looked like Ghandi. She turns in her chair motioning with her hands clasped as in prayer. I say to myself, “I am open to many things, but please don’t make me pray to this Ghandi like person.” Then Su Aht reaches for a mango.
She goes on counting and clicking as I slice mango. She offers a sauce to dip it into. I taste to be polite. It is gross.
I look at my dress and see so many things embroidered in it – culture, love, tradition, my father, my mother, my sister, my friends, my love for Rich, my future.
The dress hangs in the tailor from Thailand’s shop exposed to so many things. When I step into that dress next Sunday and walk down the aisle with my father I hope Dad will walk towards another year, but accept it perhaps is time for this lovely snake who I call Father to swim to Heaven.