“My brother called me up one day and told me he had created a Frankenstein machine. So I went over, naturally. We got high and watched lightning fly across the room. He called me Rob then. Because I was Rob then.”
I already knew she was once Roberto, but it seemed big for her to share these words. They floated between us, waiting for me to snatch them up and accept them as a kind of bonding. I snatched them with a smile and she smiled and I shared my high stories and we laughed together.
The night before I spoke with the man who helped me as I knelt down into a sweat lodge.
“So it’s been a week. How are you feeling?” He asked. He had told me to allow the week’s time to help settle the effects of sweating profusely and chanting to our ancestors in a lodge that was completely dark.
“I feel more balanced.” I lied. I was ashamed that I could not allow the lodge to do more for me. I could not put away my guard. My pores were open, sweat flowing through them as though a dam had been lowered. My brain could not allow the energies of the universe to take control. So I sat in the dark very aware of myself and the words flowing from my mouth, while others let go.
And so this morning I woke up to the feeling of sheets against flesh. There is something in the way the sheets know how to form to your body. Caressing it. I pulled the sheets away from me knowing that I would never get up if I left them covering me. I grabbed an oversized shirt waiting for this moment near my bed and walked out with my French press and coffee mug, which reads “you are magical.” Whether the mug is talking about the drinker of coffee or the person the drinker is conversing with is up to whomever reads it. They can decide.
As I wait for my coffee to brew we talk about high stories. Then we move on to natural high stories. She talks about her time training as a pilot in England. I ask her how many different lives she’s had. A moment later I hope I have not offended her, and when she answers with a smile I wonder to myself if she views her life as a woman differently than she did life as a man.
She describes how the plane she trains in is not meant for the ground. On the ground it is clunky, inconvenient. As it rises it becomes elegant. She describes the sound of the super chargers as she flies vertically into the sky as beautiful and filled with grace.
I can’t help but wonder if she is narrating her life. How she has lived so much of it on the ground feeling clunky and wrong. But now she flies and it all make sense.
She describes the feeling of flying vertically and then barreling through the sky as to avoid gun fire. She describes her relationship with the man who trained her. She was then a him.
“At 17 I got to learn from this man who survived so much in WWII. He was fighting from the sky as others were trying to attack him. He survived. He was calm and empathetic and he taught me and I felt so grateful.”
I was, in that moment, in the Hayao Miyazaki film The Wind Rises with Jiro Horikoshi as he designed the Japanese fighter jets and found so much love in what he did. And then I was in Nepal in the sky over red tail hawks floating over a lake with a reflection of the Himalayas. The wind whistling and the hills like a patchwork quilt over the core of the earth. And I think I understood the feeling she couldn’t quite describe. But I was there with her. So I understood some of the feelings that were wordless. And I was hopeful that I would know the others in time.