by Anne-Marie Yerks
In Costa Rica I often thought of the Earth’s center. In grade school textbooks it was simply a ball of fire. How easy to understand. Like the sun in the sky, the center of the Earth is a ball of fire that burns. In grade school text simply a ball of fire. How easy. As a child I found it easy to understand. Like hell, the center of the Earth is hot and dangerous. Like the sun, it is unreachable.
In Costa Rica sound was different. The wind spoke to me. Ian’s body was silk dust. His whiskers straw, coconut fibers. The sun was a bawling eye, crying. The sobs came as the song of insects. It was here that I knew who Ian really was. In the darkness, walking among trees, that’s when I knew him. How could anyone take a lover after seeing his soul reflected in the green midnight shimmer of an alien plant?
Chocolate must come from outer space. That was what he said to me. The plant cacao was abandoned by aliens. Those pods growing from the trunk. Furry insides. Nothing else like it in the world as we know it. White pulp the color of coconut milk, the outside bright red, lemon green, indigo, mud brown. Ian was made of Costa Rica. His fingers knotted like tree trunks. His eyes the midnight shimmer of green. His voice spoke crying sun and sneaky wind beneath regular words, regular phrases I’d heard: I love you, he said, and I heard him beneath, and I came to read the sound of what I didn’t know existed.
The pods were edible. The ancients had used them for citrus milk, discarding the bitter seeds. Ian ate the pulp as if it were an apple. The skin was reptile textured, colored in spots.
The word “grove” became heavy. Thick and syrupy like his eyes. I knew we would have to make love there. Together we would make aliens. Ian laughed at my hair, my skin, the color of my eyes. He must have also–in secret–laughed at what spoke behind my words. Weakness. A rattling sickness. I heard it there, I could hear it speaking for me. I never coughed, never sneezed in his presence.
But the water made me sick. I was on fire with disease. In the tribes of my body I was eaten, being laughed at. Ian gave me chocolate. It was the cure of people past, the luxury of people present. In this place it could be a medicine, it could be an antidote for what lies behind your voice. He was trying to cure me of myself. I drank and wondered about the place where chocolate is from. Most likely it is a world contained within a world. All would be close up, a magnified vision. A spinning, churning, revolving place. A dizzy place. No so much a place as a sensation. An insect world. An insect in space, pods emerging from armor.
And we did make love there, of course. In the aisles between trees. I craved water. Real water, not water pounding the muggy afternoon. Behind my eyes were clean blue waves, crystal ice, puffs of cotton cloud. I was tired of being fooled. What looked sweet was bitter. What was bright also burned. The insects laughed a grainy voice. Chattering echoes. My muscles needed blood. I was weak with disease. The darkness was heavier than ever, the morning a dull glow. It was black fur, the night was. When I slept I plunged into the earth. I filled rock. It was very painful. Did you know that rocks have pores? I have come to know they do. In my sleep I filled the spaces, smaller than the point of the smallest microscopic pinpoint. I did it because something burned below them, below the damp heaviness. It was the heart of the world: the Earth’s firey core. It was a real hell. The energy of the saints. What I didn’t understand was that what burns is fluid, and that a ball can fall out of shape. In Costa Rica the Earth’s center is present. You are aware of it. As you walk you feel it beating rays between your legs.
It all ended when I fell from the tree. I say it ended when it really didn’t end. It was simply the beginning of my leaving.
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Anne-Marie Yerks is a fiction writer, essayist and journalist from the Metropolitan Detroit area. Her essays have appeared in the online editions of Good Housekeeping, Marie Claire, Country Living, and Redbook. She has work forthcoming in “Modern Memoir” (Fiction Attic Press) and in “Juked.” Her novel, Dream Junkies, was published by New Rivers Press in 2016 and is available on Amazon Kindle. Find her on Twitter and on the Web at www.annemariewrites.com.