I had just stepped out of the shower. My clothes were clean, my temperature had dropped, and my hair was damp. I walked out onto the porch. Jack was cutting weed, Brigitte had her sketchpad in hand and was drawing flowers, Jump was working on a picture of the beach with the waves rolling in, and JJ was asleep on a mat. I took a chair, and opened my own sketchpad. I began writing down a poem in charcoal.
I was getting a massage from a friend soon (not Taka), and as payment, I was creating this poem. I went over every letter twice, making sure they were dark on the page. Then I began painting the title across the top of the page in watercolor. I only had fifteen minutes before the massage, so I was sketching quickly. I also wanted to bring my friend a spliff, so I asked Jack if he had any rolling papers.
“No,” he said, looking concerned, his face grim at not having what I needed. “Only bong.”
I smiled and shook my head. “No worries,” I said and continued sketching. The letters were beginning to pop, and the poem was looking good when Jack handed me a cigarette with the top twisted. I looked at it, confused. “For you,” he said, nodding his head. “Spliff.” He had taken the tobacco out and filled the top half with weed. I smiled at him and took the joint. He didn’t know that I had wanted to roll a spliff for my friend. He thought it was for me. I shrugged my shoulders to myself, and lit it up. A breeze was blowing off the sea, and it moved across my face and through my hair. All was well.
A song came on. It was Neil Young, singing Down By the River. I felt something rise in my stomach, a good feeling that I associate with light, freedom, flying. It moved through my body and out my mouth, and I smiled. “I love this song,” I said to Brigitte. She was already looking at me. She nodded, a slight smile on her lips, and returned to her sketchpad. I let the strains of music enter my ears and move through my body.
“Dance,” Jack suddenly said, looking at Brigitte with a goofy smile. She giggled and looked down. I watched her curiously. She looked back up at me, a half-smile on her face. “I told Jack how we used to dance when Daddy would play this song,” she said. My memory flitted back to being five years old, dancing to Daddy’s records in the living room. Brigitte was two, in diapers, and she was my dancing buddy. Record covers would litter the floor, and Brigitte’s bottle would be laying around somewhere. Then, however, it was Buddy Miles who was singing Down By The River, but either rendition is beautiful.
I looked out at the sea. I took a deep breath and felt the air on my skin. I turned back to Brigitte. “Let’s have a moment for Daddy,” I said. Her eyes got huge, the way they do when she thinks something is a great idea. “Yes,” she said solemnly, nodding her head. “Let’s.”
We paused and looked out to sea, at the turquoise bath that was our little cove, and back to the tiny bungalow porch, littered with art supplies, weed, and us. A queer feeling of happiness, nostalgia, and sadness rolled through us both, I think, at once. I felt Daddy there in spirit, a translucent, shimmering presence hovering just outside our porch. He could feel the water, could taste the waves. He was laughing with his feet kicked back, and slapping his knees in joy. He was about sixteen years old, or twenty, or twenty-five. I smiled with him and felt my heart expand to include him in it. We were having a great time.
Then the image vanished, dissolved, and I was looking out to sea.