The Greatest Mystery

Easter Island – October 2016

Remember who you are.

Who you were before the world got ahold of you.

This is why you are here.

It is said that ancient minds expressed their immense knowledge of the cosmos through myth. Their brains worked with symbol and metaphor. A fusion of conscious and subconscious. A slow, relentless divergence occurred over the ages. Hard logic became more valued and imagination became irrelevant.

My mind does not grasp formulas, equations, hard facts, dates. But I understand. A deep knowing that fills my atoms. My reality is fluid, kaleidoscopic, limitless. I am awake in a dream without end. Beliefs are not held, but carried for a while and then set free as new evidence comes to light. But never do I forget that we humans know nothing. And no one is in control.

Wild horses roam the desolate landscape of Rapa Nui. They are almost as captivating to me as the moai. They converge in the road ahead. I trail behind their majestic parade. Your mind is more of a wild horse than most people’s, a psychic once told me. A mixture of admiration and pity in her eyes. Even as a child, especially as a child, my mind was rebellious. I dreamed of being an archaeologist and having rainbow-colored hair. My favorite color was clear. Not a color of the spectrum but the prism itself.

The exasperation and hostility it provoked: that color doesn’t exist!

But I can see it. It’s all around us.

Nothing can be done with you. You are hopeless!

I wasn’t trying to be difficult. I couldn’t restrain myself from imagining possibilities. I’ve never expected, or even wanted, others to see the world as I do. I peer out the dusty windshield. The beasts advance down the road. A wayward kind of grace. They toss their manes, haughty and jubilant. A devilish smile spreads across my face. An evil giggle escapes. I never stood a chance.

In the field, two males are locked a violent pirouette. Teeth tear flesh. Long, thick ropes of blood and saliva fly through the air. An image from this morning flashes through my mind. A dead horse by the side of the road. The bloated, contorted carcass. Its eyes were frozen in a fierce gaze heavenward. Even in death untamed.

Moai are strewn across the outer slopes of Rano Raraku like discarded game pieces from a divine hand. The soil in the crater is the color of dried blood. Here, the moai were extracted from the flesh of the Earth.

One must bleed until there’s no poison left. The wounds scab over, and it seems we are done with the bleeding. But then they burst open again. And again.

Deep within the abyss of the past, I believed everything I was told. This innocence was not lost, but purposely rejected. Exiled to this mysterious, magical land. I have come here to reclaim it.

When we experience pain, pieces of the personality shatter, disperse, and become lodged in hidden corners of the psyche.This is done as a means of survival, so the pain doesn’t reoccur. Those who search for answers find that, eventually, the sanctuaries become prisons. The bandages no longer shelter the wounds. The search must go deeper. Clues are unearthed and examined. Shards and tiny splinters. It is painstaking work. Some discoveries raise more questions than answers. Sometimes the revelations are catastrophic. They invalidate all previous work. If only we could bury it all again. But there is no going back.

Was it carelessness or rat infestation that caused the fatal deforestation? Who constructed the moai? Why do all sites face inland, but one? Certain moai are lined up with the astronomical year. Why? Is Easter Island part of the legacy of a lost civilization that existed millennia before recorded history? The survivors of a cataclysm were ancient mariners who journeyed to the far reaches of the planet, transporting their knowledge of the universe.

So many questions. So much energy is invested in trying to decipher the enigma of our collective past.

The greatest mystery one can solve is that of the self.

Hanga Roa. The only town on this remotest of islands. I drift into a tiny shop. Ocean blue walls close in on me. On display: a dismal selection of tinned food, crackers, cookies, and chips. The Pacific islands are a fussy eater’s worst nightmare. Tourists mill about. Languages intertwine. I get in line behind three young women. Words emerge from their obscure speech. Numbers. It’s Hungarian. Words from each of the languages I’ve taught myself over the years tumble through my mind. I’ve taught myself almost everything I know: how to write, how to navigate the planet, how to unlearn everything I was told I ought to be. How to interpret the secret, personal language that each of us carry into existence. The hieroglyphics scrawled on the walls of my soul.

A tingle to my left. Heat. I glance in that direction. A man stands in front of the cooler. Wiry, small-boned, Polynesian. Stately and youthful. He could be twenty-five or forty-five. His hair falls past his shoulders in inky blue-black waves. His gaze captures mine. Blazing black nuggets. I see you, missy.

I catch my breath and turn away. I pay for my water and stumble into the midday sunlight, head spinning. I get into the Jeep and place my hands on the steering wheel. Breathe, breathe. I stare into the rearview mirror. No one has ever looked at me like that before. Except me. I see you. Missy.

Long ago, I tried to been seen below my surface. The late 1980s. My last year as a teenager. Palm Springs, LA. The don’t-you-know-who-I-am crowd. So many offers of conditional generosity. Do you know who you are? was my reply. The best pickup line annihilator ever. Then, one eternal night club evening, eyes peered into mine. Orbs obscured by the grimy glaze of age. The gaze of a long-dead soul. No man will ever be interested in what goes on in that pretty little head, doll. A sneer. Your deep thoughts. If you’re really smart, you’ll keep your mouth shut and use the real gifts you were given. You’ll be set for life.

My beautiful defiance: take your BMW and shove it up your flabby, wrinkled ass, old man! Just because you’ve been alive since the beginning of time doesn’t mean you know everything!

But even the most determined scientist abandons a theory after finding no evidence to support it.

No one will ever understand me. A realization that can cause such devastation. Or empowerment.

Te Pito Kura. Navel of Light. The place of the magic spheres. Mana, spirit power, was harnessed here. Easter Island is also known as Rapa Nui, but its original name was Te Pito O Te Henua. Navel of the World. We are, each of us, the center. The quantum observers of our lives.

We did not come into existence to be educated into submission. To be herded into a corral of listless uniformity. We are here to observe, to experience, to formulate our own realities. To enter the labyrinth of our spirit, get gloriously lost, find our way to the center of light and back again.

And so the time of the moai came to an end and the Birdman became the mythical ideal. Like the Earth, our personal histories consist of eras. Each one more intricate than the last.

The cold wind tangles my hair into knots. I stand on the precipice and peer into the fog. The percussive hiss of ocean waves crashing into the cliffs rises from far below. A decision looms: sink into the safe and familiar forever or take that step into the unknown. I need my innocence – trust, hope, and belief – more than ever now. The fog dissipates, and, in the distance, the prize becomes visible.

The Rano Kau crater towers over the very edge of the island. A gray minivan pulls up next to me in the parking lot. Tourists spill out, identical blonde males and females. Their language is vague, strangled. Some form of Scandinavian. I follow them up the trail to the lookout. They veer to the left. A figure sits at the very edge, cross-legged and immobile. A monolith of flesh and blood. My heart stops.

Him, again. The wind stirs his hair. Raven wings taking flight and coming to rest again. The tourists cluster around him, oblivious to his presence. Squawks and exclamations engulf him. He does not move.

I walk up the path to the right and sit on a boulder. The crater gapes before me. A most ancient wound. An unsettling, post-cataclysmic stillness rises from within. A void that can never be filled. Some things you never get back. But with the passing of time, scars take on an exquisite beauty. If you let them.

The tingle again. I take a deep breath and reach out. We merge into a soft embrace of resonances. Warm and platonic and steady. I bow my head and smile. I see you, too.

Sadness and wonder coalesce. I close my eyes. Could it be that I’m not alone after all? I sweep my eyes in his direction, but he has vanished. A lone cackle breaks free from the cluster of tourists. It wafts across the crater, hovering for an instant before it’s swept away in the wind. Swallowed up by the emptiness of forever.

“Admit it. You aren’t like them. You’re not even close. You may occasionally dress yourself up as one of them, watch the same mindless television shows as they do, maybe even eat the same fast food sometimes. But it seems that the more you try to fit in, the more you feel like an outsider, watching the “normal people” as they go about their automatic existences. For every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others.” – Timothy Leary

Dear Readers: Thank you for being my Others.❤️

Plateaued

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San Pedro de Atacama, Chile – October 2016

It is necessary to acclimate to elevation. The heart beats faster. Breathlessness and dizziness can occur. Headache, nausea, and other unpleasant symptoms. I feel only a delightful giddiness. Whatever the cause of this bliss – lack of oxygen, the lingering effects of Easter Island, or both – I never want to get used to it.

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Travel agencies, restaurants, small hotels, and souvenir shops line the streets of San Pedro. Every color Polaroid-toned. This town would not exist if it weren’t for tourism. At this time of year, there are more locals than tourists. Hair the color of ink. Faces of angle and shadow. Skin tinted by the breath of the sun. Skin like smoke.

Plumper stray dogs I have never seen. They laze in doorways or waddle down the street. The wind comes in violent surges. It billows through the streets, rattling the sun-bleached doors, kicking up dust clouds, and then it vanishes into the distance.

A burro gallops by, pursued by two stray dogs. Their trot is listless. Teeth bared in mischievous smiles. The burro’s constipated bray provokes laughter from bystanders.

It doesn’t take long to wander out of town. Somewhere around here is an oasis, but I’m not so intent on finding it. Walls disappear. The shadows recede. I strip off my jacket and let the sun warm my arms. Frantic footsteps behind. The burro rounds the corner. Its bray is now hoarse. The dogs are nowhere to be seen. I shake my head. “Oh, chill out.” Poor animal. Going through life perpetually indignant.

I loop back to the guesthouse. It is managed by Natalie and Carlos, a young couple from Columbia. They are from a green place. The desert is too dry. There is not enough color. And this strange wind that blows, muting even the blue sky above. It is not normal. They want so much to move on, but they are anchored by financial circumstance.

“How many countries have you seen?” Natalie asks.

“Sixty-three now.” I shake my head in disbelief.

A unified, “Wow.” Dreamy faraway gazes of longing.

Natalie twirls her long, black hair around her finger and sighs. “If the wind is gone tonight, we will have a fire. We hope you will join us, Julie.”

But the wind rages, and I am thankful for the excuse to burrow deep into the soft bed. Smoke-tinged arms against the pure white duvet. The short walk was enough to awaken latent Native American DNA. I have not been this dark in many years.

The wind’s vast voice cannot hide the silent breath that calms the flickering flame, drawing it heavenward in one long, languid stream. I close my eyes and drift away. Ascend.

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Today, I go higher. 4000 meters and above. The Lagunas Altiplanicas glimmer. Hard sunlight on deep blue like shards of ice. The wind stabs deep into the bones. I grit my teeth and stand with my legs far apart in an effort to remain upright. The frigid gusts conjure phantoms from the Earth. They pirouette across the plain, into dissolution.

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Fossette and I are the solo females in the group. Her nickname is French for “dimple”, of which she has two in her perfectly round face. She is twenty-four and is traveling the world before starting her new job in a few weeks. She was in Easter Island just a couple of days ago, at the same time I was, but our paths didn’t cross there.

She shows me the photos she took of Valley of the Moon. The Atacama is her first desert.

“I went there yesterday, too.” I shrug. “It was okay.”

Her eyes widen.

“I know that sounds bad. It’s just that I’ve seen so many deserts.”

“Like where?”

“The American Southwest. New Mexico, Utah, Nevada. I’ve lived in Arizona and the California desert. Last year I visited Namibia. I’m not sure any desert can rock my world after that one.” I pause. Search my mind. “And Israel. I went to Israel and Palestine a few years ago.”

Her eyes take on that dreamy so-many-places-to-see glow. She has so many traits that I recognize. The youthful exuberance of someone who has all the time in the world to explore the infinite road that has unfurled before her. The unwavering confidence, the jubilant defiance. The oblivion to danger and ugly realities. All of the things that infused me before I was brutally knocked off course.

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The wistfulness that this provokes is tinged with gratitude rather than envy. Satisfaction and profound relief have taken the place of famine. I have managed to blaze around the planet anyway. Personal circumnavigation. After a long, lonely road, I have finally found myself again. My bank account is empty, but I feel like the wealthiest person alive. Alive. The well of love inside overflows, transporting my spirit in its gentle stream.

My sun is far past its zenith, but for Fossette, it rises. “Where do you want to go next?”

Out of all the places I really longed to see, only one remains. At this moment, it doesn’t matter if I ever get there. “You know what? For now, I’m good.” I turn away and stare out the window at the monochrome plateau. Finally, I’m good.

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This place is called Piedras Rojas. Red Rocks. Candy-colored landscape. Shades of soft pink and aqua blue. Flamingos immerse their heads in the pastel water, impervious to the atmospheric conditions. Sunlight glints off their pink feathers. Metallic shimmer. The sky is so close now. Blue infinity contrasts against all the colors of love. I can lift my hand and sink my fingers into heaven. Yes, I can still feel wonder. It is not all over.

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The wind, though. Every step is an effort. One must scream to be heard.

Fossette spreads her arms wide. “How could anyone not want to see…” She spins around. “This!”

I smile. Curiosity is a gift and a curse. She will find out soon enough.

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Another roadside stop. The minivan empties. A sign proclaims that we’re at the Tropic of Capricorn. A laugh of surprise escapes me. “Hey, I was at this place in Namibia, just a year ago! I didn’t know we’re at the same latitude!” But my voice is captured by the wind, and when I turn to the others, they have already occupied themselves with posing for photos. Group shots, everyone jumping together, and then sitting back to back in the middle of the road. I sweep my eyes across the vast desolation. Almost a mirror image of that other, distant place.

When they are done, I take a single photo of the empty road. How far I’ve come. I turn around and walk forward, following the path of the descending sun.

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In Search Of

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Easter Island – October 2016

Come back to me.

A shift in pressure as the plane descends through the clouds. I catch a glimpse of the island. Is that a cloud moai over the wing?

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The Time has come.

I have come in search of a lost spirit. She is eight years old, a halo of blonde hair cut into a Toni Tennille bob. She wears a long, deep purple dress that her mother made. Her feet are bare. For forty years, she has roamed among the stately monoliths.

Come back to me.

Detail from Religion class drawing. January 4, 1977

Detail from Religion class drawing. January 4, 1977

My favorite television show is In Search Of. It stars Mr. Spock from Star Trek. It’s about mysteries like the Loch Ness monster, haunted castles, and UFOs. My favorite episode is about Easter Island. At St. Anthony’s school, I draw the stone heads for a Religion class assignment. The heads are my science research project. I say that they were carved by outer space people. I don’t even care if anyone laughs. The Teacher or the other kids. But they don’t. They are afraid to now, after what happened.

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Dream

Julie Douglas
Writing 3
March 10, 1977

Dream.
I had a dream about the heads on Easter Island. Me and my friend were going to Easter Island. When we got there we didn’t expect a city. Then we go, do you know where the heads are? They go, yes, but they are guarded by ugly creatures. So what. We’ll bring weapons. Many men had took the most powerful guns on this whole island but they never returned, so nobody would dare go there. Thanks for telling us. You can stay at my place for tonight before your trip home. The End.

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A pre-dawn symphony awakens me. Vigorous crows and indignant clucks. I smile to myself as the performance grows more impassioned with the sunrise. It’s funny to be back in the Pacific islands after a ten-year absence. I once called two rocks in this vast region “home” – Guam and New Caledonia. Yet Easter Island had somehow fallen off my travel radar. The Time was not right back then.

I glance at my phone. Only twenty minutes have passed. It seems like more than an hour. That’s Island Time. Languid, elongated. It feels like I’ve been on this voyage for ages, but I’ve only just arrived.

The evening before I left on this journey, I found the In Search Of episode on YouTube. It was called, “The Easter Island Massacre.” Shadowy film tones and melodramatic music. Leonard Nimoy in a turtleneck and blazer. His presence as aloof and regal as the moai. The vague, sensational theories seem silly today, but to a young child in the 1970s, they were mesmerizing.

I gather myself together and walk down the path to Tahai, ten minutes from the guesthouse. It is a must-see place for sunsets, so now it is empty. The rangers haven’t yet arrived. Here is the only moai that has restored eyes. I stare into them.

She was here, but has moved on. I feel a pull to the right. The dirt road continues, so I follow it. I’ve got all day in Hanga Roa. The rental car is reserved for tomorrow and the day after. A wild horse passes me with a snort. A solitary moai comes into view. This one is named Kioe.

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I sit on the grass and watch the clouds dance behind him. A soft light emanates from his body. It shifts and whirls like a transparent aurora. I stare at it, transfixed. This has never happened before. I’m a feeler, not a seer. For a few moments, the world floats away. I am enveloped in a strange, soft emptiness. An instant of panic. What if I don’t come back? But it passes. Do I even care if I do, anymore? Then, in his eyes, a glimmer of awareness.

I catch my breath. “Can you see me?” I whisper. You know why I’ve come.

A young woman steps into view. “Hola.” She strolls around the Ahu taking photos. Her boyfriend appears. His voice grows harsh as she ignores the signs and steps onto the altar. Kioe is not important enough for a ranger. She shrugs. I stand up, brush myself off, and wander towards the village, passing Tahai, where wild horses have gathered.

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The Teacher stands at the front of the class. What do you want to be when you grow up?

The other kids stand up and say doctor, teacher, and other normal things. One girl says she wants to lie on the couch all day, eat candy, and watch soap operas. I want to be an archeologist and go to Easter Island. I can even spell the word archeologist.

The Teacher’s knife-slash smile. Cold light in her eyes. Very good, Julie. My stomach turns. I want to think that she likes me now, but I know it’s because she’s afraid I’ll tell my counselor about what she did. About the time when she took me in the office and everything went black.

Are you still seeing your lady friend?

I nod.

She stirs her coffee, and sucks on the plastic spoon until her fat lips turn white. Then she pulls it out of her mouth and shakes it in the air. What do you talk about?

The other kids stare at me. Eyes filled with disgust. I squirm. She no longer lets them be mean to me, but I don’t like it when they remember that I’m here and that there’s something wrong with me. I am too sensitive. Everyone says this word like it’s a disease. The Teacher was only trying to help me. But I am hopeless.

I turn away and stare out the window of the three-room rural schoolhouse, past the fields and barns. And I am There, walking along the windswept cliffs, weaving in and out of the stone heads, alone. Safe. Safe from them all.

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Rain in the Pacific islands sometimes comes in the form of momentary cloudbursts. Sometimes it’s a constant mist. I arrive at Anakena as the ranger station opens. Clouds encircle the beach, leaving a circular patch of sunlight. A French-speaking guide explains to a couple that the moai face inland to watch over the people. They are representations of the ancestors and were believed to be infused with a powerful spiritual magic called mana.

It would be fascinating to hear detailed history, but the thought of being around people, here, is unbearable. I have work to do and I will not be disturbed. She has already come and gone. I take the road towards Tongariki. Something tells me that I will find her there. The rich green slopes of Poike are obscured by rain. Wild horses dart in and out of the road. No other cars pass. It’s as if I’ve got the entire island to myself.

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A herd of wild horses has blocked the road. The pale green cliffs of the Rano Raraku crater rise in the distance. I come to a halt. The horses disperse, tossing their manes and shooting me haughty looks. Two males kick and bite each other, twirling around in a vicious dance. Two females approach the car. One of them rubs her head on the hood. A mischievous spark lights up her eyes.

I burst out laughing and roll down the window. “Aw, you just want love.”

She licks the hood as I continue to talk to her. A soft snort. Teeth appear. She tries to gnaw on the metal. The steely eyes of the rental car lady arise.

“Woah! That’s enough.” I tap my foot on the gas and nudge the horse out of the way. There’s no car insurance on Easter Island. All damage has to be paid for by the renter. “Goodbye, sweetheart,” I say as I drive away.

It only takes a few minutes to get to Tongariki, but by the time I arrive, it is pouring rain. I pull into the small parking lot and shut off the car. A minibus parks next to me. The door slides open. Tourists tumble out. Rain ponchos and selfie sticks. I recognize a few from the Lan flight from Santiago. With only one flight in and out per day, it’s bound to happen. The driver of the minibus on the other side leers at me. When I glance at him, he smirks. I sigh and start the car. It’s only early afternoon. It only takes thirty minutes to drive here from Hanga Roa. Be patient. Have faith in Later.

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Hating yourself is not something that comes naturally. It’s something that must be systematically taught. Not everyone has the fortune of finding such an enthusiastic and dedicated teacher. For some, it starts from birth, with parents who never should have been. For others, it’s teachers and peers. Sometimes it comes later, with toxic lovers and friends. But those are usually the result of earlier trauma. The seed of self-loathing must be planted deep within a fertile mind. You can cut back the stalks, but unless you dig way down to the root, they just keep growing back.

There is no shortage of gurus, coaches, whatevers. Systems©, Methods©, Secrets©. Each one proclaiming louder than the next that they can, for a price, help us be the best we can be.

As if we’re not already.

It’s funny how most of those self-proclaimed enlightened ones can’t seem to manage their own personal lives. So much easier to tell others how they should be, rather than look in the mirror. The Teacher claimed that she only wanted to help me. Her shrill voice has echoed, for too long, in my memory: What is wrong with you, Julie? Huh? There were so many things. I was left-handed. That started it all. I had odd thoughts, daydreamed, never raised my hand to be called upon. I did not work to the best of my ability.

The Teacher was fired after that school year. No one spoke about why, but a couple of years later the school secretary told my mother about what happened. She had witnessed the abuse and had been too afraid to step in. One of my oldest friends had also witnessed the Teacher beating me, and still blames herself for not saying anything. I would never blame a little kid for not standing up to that monster. Besides, by that time, the psychological damage had already been done.

Why didn’t you tell me? My mother asked.

I tried, but you wouldn’t listen.

Both of my parents bore the scars of Catholic school. Just be thankful you don’t have the nuns, they had said. My father, especially, suffered terrible humiliation under those blue-robed tyrants. He was also left-handed, and they forced him to write right-handed. He was poor. His father was an alcoholic and his mother was crazy. They made fun of his clothes, and how his mother pinned his hair back with barrettes because she couldn’t be bothered to cut his hair.

If I’d had the nuns, year after year, I wouldn’t have made it this far.

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It is late afternoon at Tongariki. The mist has lifted and coalesced into a shroud. It hovers over the landscape, a barrier between the worlds. The only person present is the ranger. She sits on the stone wall, lifts a hand in greeting, and then goes back to staring at her smart phone. Fifteen moai rise before me. I sit on a rain-sodden rock and lift my eyes to theirs. Auroras appear, undulating around them. A silent, incandescent vibration. A flicker of white, a giggle. She is here.

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Forty years gone. Without her.

Come back to me.

Of all the people who were cruel to you, you were the worst. Five years ago, these words blasted into my consciousness. At another sacred place on the day of elevens. The details of that event will never be for public consumption. It was meant for my spirit only.

Sounds are transported in the breeze. Distant waves, the whinny of excited horses. The ranger has begun to sing. Gentle words in Spanish. A wistful melody.

You can come out now. It’s safe. I won’t hurt you anymore.

She steps into view, pauses, and then runs towards me. I throw my arms open wide and gather her up. I love you. Teardrops soak her blonde hair. I cradle her in my lap. Her face morphs, matures. The awkward pre-teen with the unruly Blondie hair becomes the raging, defiant teenager. Eyes ringed with black eyeliner. Fierce spark of determination. She’s going to show them all.

And you did. I love you.

Twenty. Awake in a strange bed. A familiar, despised face. He only drugged and took advantage of her. She needs to get over it. It’s her own fault anyway for not seeing the signs. Why can’t she get over it? And then so many years stumbling along. Days spent curled up on the floor. Catatonic. Defeated eyes staring up from a hospital bed. Spirit gone, gone, gone. She can’t even succeed at killing herself.

I love you.

Twenty-four. Fresh out of the abyss. Blonde hair cut off. Acne scars. Starting over. Soon to be transformed again. There she is dancing on a stage. Seven-inch platforms, sequins, crushed velvet, satin. Fulfilling a sordid destiny.

You were just trying to stay alive. I love you.

Twenty-seven. Forehead against windowpane. Spring rain symphony. What now. What now. The heartbreak doesn’t exist, because there was no love. It was just a twisted game. All of it imagined.

Your heart was pure. I love you.

It all speeds up. Thirties, forties. Blazing a path across the planet. Trying to outrun herself. Fine lines appear. World-weary eyes. Circumnavigation blues.

Look how awesome you were, you are. How worthy. How beautiful. I love you.

I won’t hurt you anymore.

Psychopaths and egotists are merely obstacles to be dodged. They are not entitled to contemplation. I did nothing to deserve them.

Be gone. All of you.

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I stand before the Fifteen, reverent and resolute. The shroud of mist has dissipated. Blue sky revealed. Thank you for watching over her. I take her by the hand and lead her away.

She seeps back into me as the remaining days pass. Look, here’s Rano Raraku, where the moai were forged. Here is the crater of Rano Kau. Every morning and evening, we bathe in Kioe’s glow.

You never dared to dream that you would see the mystery, but here you are. You did it. I’m so proud of you.

Departure time arrives. I am ready. The plane ascends. I turn to the right, look past three turned heads, out the window. A collective ahhhh of shared wonder fills the cabin as the moai of Tahai appear. And just beyond: solitary Kioe. My heart bursts free and soars. Thank you for watching over me. I turn forward, close my eyes, and fly away.