adrift in ha long bay

words & images alexandra von arx

Aboard the small fishing boat were twin sisters from Mexico, an Italian artist and his teenage lover, a father and son from Paris, two young friends from southern California dressed for the Venice Beach boardwalk, and an older man whose aggressively protruding belly looked almost prosthetic, as if the shock and sadness that had caused its accumulation were a joke that had overstayed its welcome.

The sky around the stars was deeper than the darkness behind my eyes. I sat on top of the boat, watching, listening, trying to dissect the night. I pulled instruments from the symphony: the slow churn of the boat engine, the whimpers seeping from the wood on the sides of the ship, the click of the nail clippers that the chef was using to trim his toenails as he dangled his legs over the stern. I looked around at the islands that thrust themselves up from the waters of the Bay. Curves of a reclining body. Spikes of an increased heart rate.

I saw the islands rising through the water as one range: naked, shaking. I watched Gaea drape them with moss and before she routed the winds to wrap them in warm gusts. Then, God gently released a handful of small mice and insects to clamber across their flanks. Brahman guided them down the hallways of absolute reality. Izanagi drew them back with his lessons on vengeance. Buddha returned them to calm. Allah preached the importance of individuality and the power of the self. I watched a plastic bag full of carrot peels and chicken intestines float on the water below me and vanish into the shadow of a peak.

Cracks appeared one day, fissures that ran from the bottom of the sea to explode from the mountains’ foreheads. The hills bled streams of stone. The range contracted in agony and expelled its innards, broke apart along the fault lines to escape the pain. Slowly, weeping sand and silt, the mountains floated away from each other across the bay—hundreds of orphans, amputees, refugees.

The creators argued about who was to blame. If each of us was perfect, where did it all go wrong? Accusations slid down marble pedestals, insults bounced from halos. Insecure, unstable, they fled each other and rushed to assemble their masses of believers: One more to prove my supremacy, one more to bolster my pride, one more to deem me supreme.

But it was never them. It was the small figure rising from the West, its shadow filtering down through the water, turning the waves black as oil. The figure that raised its head and looked at the mountains, still intact, and said, “You are mine.”

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up. Log Out