Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Dreaming of Water

I’m walking on the edge of a swimming pool, the cool tile on the soles of my feet. The pool – white and faded is ephemeral as clouds. I’m confused. Do I leap into the water or just stand? My arms are relaxed by my side. Comfort and warmth flood my entire body – a sense of well-being in my own skin.

Before I can think, my legs give way and bend forward. Immediately the cool water catches me, rescues me. My hair is flying, gliding in the water. I dive deeper. Shouldn’t I panic? How will I breathe? I’m not even a very good swimmer – my mind rushes each second with doubt, but gently I sink and drop like a dead weight, finding a new center of gravity.

A man appears. His presence waves and pulls me into his space. He looks like Bobby Flay from the Food Network. Like a submarine, my face advances forward to his lips. I can’t pull the breaks and stop from colliding – my lips touch his and our mouths lock. We’re exchanging oxygen – exhaling water from the nostrils, inhaling air from our mouths. The interior of our mouths becoming the interior of a whale, we embrace endlessly, an infinite moment of warm air and peace. Locked together amidst the precarious stillness, a heavy grasp of unctuous liquid on my tongue evaporates into wind.

Before my greed to survive sucks for more, more oxygen, a black air tank descends next to me at arms length. My hands reach for the cord to bring the mouth piece into my mouth and I am separate again, no longer merged with anyone, breathing on my own.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Birthday Reflections

Last week, I celebrated my 34th year on Earth. The afternoon festivities included a lazy, backyard BBQ brimming with laugh-out-loud stories – the kind amplified by comic timing where every time an inappropriate word was uttered such as “threesome” or “doggie style”, a new guest would appear at that exact moment. We had a beautiful spread: plates of barbecued steak, lamb sausages, some fresh salad picked that day from a community garden, sweet pineapple and yogurt, salami and cheeses - slowly being nibbled away as you would a lover’s earlobe – followed by candles being blown on 3 cakes – chocolate and raspberry, strawberry cream and a Thorough Bread & Pastry white cake made especially for me.

We walked off our happy bellies with a migration downhill to our favorite karaoke joint, the Mint. DJed by an unforgettable Chinese “Karaoke Nazi” who at any moment could shout “No microphone for you!”, we serenaded the young night with “China girl,” “Piano Man,” “Under the Bridge,” “Pretty Woman” and “I Will Survive.” I’m blessed to have a diverse group of friends who hail from many parts of the world, who have blessed my life, each in their own way (even though they don’t realize it). For that, my 34th has been one of my most favorite yet.

But before shots, before credit cards and the easy means afforded by employment, the best birthdays have always had a bottle-it-up, magical quality. Like an infectious smile of glee and rapture, a happy heart dancing and leaping, that ephemeral bliss-filled feeling that makes you want to hold on to every second – a first kiss – so that it never ends. Jamais.

I’m recalling another favorite birthday.

I’m 10, in a pink, floral Sears dress, bright clashing red leg warmers with ducks on the shins and brown, leather sandals - my own fashionista stylings a la 80s vintage. We’re at a fancy Italian restaurant in San Jose. After 3 years, in the US, it’s our first time eating out as a family, a memorable indulgence, made possible by a gift certificate my mother received at work. For one night, all my desires come true. Adorned in my most favorite clothes, we are together, united as a tribe. We occupy one of the restaurant’s largest tables; 7 beings, including 4 young cousins – Huong, Chau, Phuong, Phuong-Anh and David – my adoptive sisters and brother for the night. I remember watching the black-tied waiter slicing the garlic bread, tossing red sauce into long strands of spaghetti. We laughed and timidly nodded yes, as the waiters walked behind each of us, offering a dusting of grated cheese. The meal, so simple and yet so sublime – a secret doorway into delight. It felt warm and infinite.

Eating and laughing for the sheer pleasure of eating and laughing.

I’m back in our apartment. Alone. I’m looking at the reflection of my face through the window glass. Looking into the milky night sky, the empty space into the future, I wonder how my face would look at 20, 30, 40. I’m wondering about the woman who would become me. I want so quickly to be older, for time to fly.

Now arriving at age 34, I think of that little girl often. I hope I’ve honored and kept true to her. She has traveled an adventurous journey – hard at times and so very wonderful too.

So, I dedicate this poem to my little girl. Happy Birthday! I hope your wishes and your dreams come true.

(an adaptation of an Emily Sparks monologue)

Where is the little girl,
The one I loved best of all
Thinking of her shy,
A hidden belly of fire; she’s full of curiosity and hope.
My little girl, the one who liked to out run the boys.
My girl, my girl
in many godless hours at night,
for whom I protected and shielded.
My little girl, where ever you are
May you always listen to your Heart.
May you always guard the empty space that allows you to Play and Dream
May you always dare to take care of yourself
for there is nothing but this.
And may those fears instilled in you, all those “Shoulds” taught to you
May they yield to the Courage of you
Until there is nothing but Light,
Nothing but Love.

By Mai Brehaut

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ode to Monday

Mondays - Numb days
The strong stench of boredom,
stale seriousness, the Ego's self importance
rocking me in its familiar, codependent arms.
Today like an old wall,
layers upon layers,
mopped together with thick white horse paste
wall paper slices, leaves of boiled cabbage
yesterdays news, now today.
Another sheet being rolled up,
applied momentarily,
Perhaps a cup of cold air will do
or a strong Americano with a shot of steamed milk,
a warm chausson aux pommes
my Love's sweet kiss on the cheek
reminding me to hold on to

By Mai Brehaut

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

On Root Canal and Cosmic Healing

I’m way too young to have old people teeth. Maybe I didn’t drink enough milk when I was a gamine. To me, the topic of root canal, conjures up images of people they find on “Extreme Makeovers” or my political science teacher at SCU. One day, as he was lecturing us about the US government (and passionately so) -- blood came gushing from his mouth like Dracula who had just lunched on someone’s neck. After 5 minutes or what seemed like an uncomfortable eternity, a girl in the front row told him politely that his mouth was bleeding. “Oh, root canal,” he barked nonchalantly.

The whole dental journey started last year right when I ventured off into the self-employment world. With only a month to use up a previous employer’s benefits, I took the bull by the horns and had all my yearly checkups (or in my case, multi-year catchups) within the span of 5 days.

I consider myself of average courageousness and tolerance when it comes to the medical things in life; the spreading of the eagle isn’t all that frightening –except for the occasional cold hands and that weird metal clamp thingie. Needles, blood work and peeing in a cup -- manageable. But when it comes to my teeth, I’m a 3 feet tall munchkin all over again. There isn’t a lollipop or balloon big enough to get me to open my chops.

Some how, I decided to get a grip and take on my dental demons once and for all. Moving to San Francisco in 2008, it was difficult to find a new dentist I could trust. Luckily, he was highly recommended -- the most amazing dentist. I never thought it was possible to find a dentist who made my teeth feel beautiful – an Adonis among dentists! He’ll be fighting and zapping away cavities in one moment, then gleefully applying peppermint chapstick on my parched lips, the next. Dr Bridges got me caught up on the missing years and ahead of the curve.

After all the love and care and some determined born-again flossing and maintenance, it wasn't enough. I’ve always had problems with this one tooth on the right side of my mouth. Ever since I was a teenager this tooth (aka black sheep) was always fickle and sensitive in times of weather change or even during life dramas that caused me to grind my teeth at night. I wonder what year the cavity started forming on the crown and later inside the root shaft making its way to the bone. Was it the year I didn’t get to go to prom? Not majoring what I most wanted to in college, English or Art, or much later, stress at work --taking things too personally, doing anything to rise up the corporate ladder. Were all those years of blocked pain and anger internalized by black sheep tooth?

Last Wednesday, for an hour and a half, my heart was in my throat. I felt like Jaime Sommers in the opening credits to the Bionic Woman – “anatomical damage: black sheep tooth—operational procedure: bionic replacement – estimated cost: classified”. I looked into Dr Bridges' blue eyes, like the color of the spring sky to comfort me. That day, I decided to treat myself by picking the free coconut chapstick instead of my usual mint.

When I came home, I mourned the old part of me. I made myself a cup of warm Yogi Ginger tea, the quote on the tea bag said, “for every loss, there’s equal gain…” That made me feel better; helped put things into perspective.

It’s been a week now since the procedure. It feels good, a new part of me reborn; it feels good, another chance.

RIP black sheep.

By Mai Brehaut

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun

Friday night, the boy took me out for a most romantic secret date. Still imagining the white ocean waves lapping the shore and the orange glow of the sunset, the delicious evening was still flirting with me - as we turned on the kitchen lights, back home. We found Manly’s familiar paw-steps, slow and sheepish, head lower then usual. He took his time crossing the kitchen to greet us. Like a seasoned parent, the boy immediately had serious premonitions – something was not quite right, while I thought the contrary, “Manly’s just a dog, taking his sweet time switching from night vision to light vision”.

Making our way into the living room, it wasn’t too long before we found the incriminating evidence, all over our green grass rug –an immaculately, tenderly licked quart of Pavel’s Russian yogurt with its carefully bitten off lid, lying not to far away, like a head from its decapitated body. When the Boy waved the yogurt container magnanimously in the air and asked, “what is this?,” both Manly and Biela made their best attempts to shrink into sand and snow. Burrowing into their beds, Manly, just looked ears down into our eyes, as if to say “it wasn’t me,” while Biela couldn’t turn her head and eyes away fast enough from our disapproving looks. She glanced off instead at the wall behind her as if praying for sanctuary in the little cracks.

Always present minded, we’ve learned (often the hard way) that dogs can’t be reprimanded for something that’s happened in the past. Of course, you can try, but it’s just useless in their minds. They learn from association (both good and bad), so it’s best to catch and correct them right in the act of naughtiness. So, instead, we just looked into Biela’s guilty brown eyes and gave her a nice pat on the head. “Ok, you got away with it this time, girlfriend.” Next time, the empty yogurt container treasure will not go in its usual, recycling area – (today, reachable by four-legged, fury creatures), it will go straight into the recycling bin in the garage.

The incident left me with a bout of warm nostalgia and reflection. I’m still amazed and thinking to myself, how did she do it? Ok, so fishing through the recycling bag, identifying the yummy target, then transporting the load was easy. But how was she then able to get the damn thing to open with only tongue and paw? And why on the rug out of all places in the house? The rug that she knows, is clearly forbidden and off limits for doggies--I guess, just for the hell of it, maybe to show Manly that she can live on the wild side!

There have been so many M&B (aka Bonnie & Clyde) believe-it-or-not stories --like the time when the Boy woke up in the middle of the night to the mysterious sounds of rustling paper and snorting, only to find Manly with his head inside my purse enjoying a forgotten egg sandwich. Or the time, I found Biela with my wedding sandals; the sorry grecian shoe, its front sole and golden straps completely chewed off and irrepairable. Or the large dark chocolate bar on our café table that had magically disappeared. Or my sony-ericcson mobile phone with suspicious looking teeth marks on the ear and mouth piece. And how can I forget the time I came out of the bathroom, a little "offering" in the hallway, the lifeless body of Manly’s giraffe with a precise line cut down its chest, exposing the missing cotton filling and the plastic noise maker. (I would later find the tiny clear, plastic sphere, its squeaky toy heart, hidden in Manly’s bed). Apparently, who knew Manly had a keen gift for open-heart surgery?

And still, I’m always surprised by what I learn from my dogs, Biela especially. We call her the “psychic dog” because she’s always sensing how we feel and sharing her wisdom in her doggie wicca ways.

For example, when I’m having a bad day, she will lie next to me and comfort me and only when I feel better, she will leave my side. Or when we don’t make enough time for each other or when work takes over our schedules, we’ll usually find her covered in mud with freshly dug cu-chi tunnels in our garden. She just knows and shows us the important things that needs focus and attention. She teaches us new lessons right when we think we know it all and think we're perfect. So when Biela gives her these little clues, I usually take heed.

Call me crazy, but ultimately, isn’t she just telling me that she needs a little spice, a little fun and like any being, don't we all need this? Especially when there’s too much seriousness or too much control or discipline, isn’t it when we most need to be naughty, let our hair down and have a little fun. After all, like humans, don’t doggies just wanna have fun?

Thanks Biela for the perspective.

By Mai Brehaut


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