by Heather, 2007
Aw, go to hell with your ole cel phones anyway.
Walking through Portland was a comfortable experience. It was cool, incredibly green, and riddled with antique shops. Flora in the average yard dazzled me with its exotic frond. Back in L.A., the drought had lowered the ante in my head until my pulse would quicken with the sighting of a yucca bloom. (I collected a bunch of seeds of some of the more strange plants but don’t know if they’ll grow back home.)
H and baby, husband K, S, me, J, walked down to a park that overlooked the river and downtown Portland, and I saw a pathway below us on the forested hillside.
“That looks neat” I said, and Holly explained that it was a bird sanctuary that led into a bicycle path that went to the amusement park across the river to the left, and to downtown Portland to the right. FAIRYLAND. I decided to go walk on it, and she said it was a loop that led back to the main road that would eventually take me back to her house. I set off at the trailhead, but not before S handed me her cel phone.
“Holly’s number is in the address book,” she said.
I always try to ignore the subtext imposed on me by cel phone owners. It’s not their fault. I didn’t deliberately set out to become “someone who doesn’t have a cel phone,” really, but it just happened when I got rid of it for a while, and a while turned into the last 5 years. In any case, I can’t say I’m used to the technology anymore.
Well, whatever. I looked at the cel in my hand and involuntarily called L and P, neither of whom picked up the phone. I left messages, stuck the cel in my backpack, and set off down the woody pathway in a fine mood, happy to have ditched everyone even if I did have S’s phone. I could see through the trees the faded colors of the carnival across the river, and may have been able to hear voices coming off of the slowly rotating ferris wheel. The path was on a hillside, and where the bottom of the hill met the river bloomed vast meadows of purple lupine-type flowers. The purple extended far out into the shallow swampy areas of the water. Downtown Portland appeared through the trees every now and then in the distance. Occasionally a well-fed jogger would pass me, but other than that and the buzzing of insects, I was entirely alone. It was lovely. I could open myself up like a fast-motion lily, a spot of energy and intention traversing a hillside.
A yellow and black butterfly fluttered along the path in front of me, suddenly rising to branches above my head, then diving down to flowers at my feet. It would disappear behind me then reappear 30 feet in the air, glinting perfectly in the sunlight and leaves far above.
I had left the yellow butterfly behind when I had the vague sensation that a larger insect was flying close to my head. I couldn’t see it, but it sure did sound big. The low thrumming noise definitely brought to mind one of those enormous black bees that likes the flowers outside of the Allison House. I have heard that they are harmless but I don’t believe it. I stepped up my pace a bit, glancing over my shoulder to see if I could see anything flying behind me. Then I heard it again. The path was narrow and sometimes rocky, and every now and then a small stream would intersect it, making a glittery muddy patch where I would have to gingerly step on stones with the balls of my feet, as I was wearing the jeans that were too long for me and thus dragged behind my heels. Also, I had on my little red suede slippers which were good for a stroll but not so much for muddy hiking. Or evading predators.
I walked faster. I could still hear the low thrumming behind me every now and again, and suddenly I had a paranoid vision of my body at the bottom of the hillside, half lying in the swampy purple flowers, throat slowly closing with an allergic reaction to a wasp sting after tripping and stumbling through the wasp’s nest that I was starting to think I had unwittingly disturbed – and a vague unease began itching at the edges of my mind.
There – it stopped – I must have evaded it, or gotten out of its territory, passed its nest, whatever – when it flew at me again, the insistent low buzz directly behind my head.
I bolted, not able to withstand anymore the thought of being bitten on my neck. The path turned jiggly in my vision, and I sprinted down the path with all my might. The bug kept close behind me – I couldn’t shake it – and I hoped desperately that I wouldn’t come across any very rocky or muddy parts of the path. I would not have been able to evade this persistent wasp through mud, not with the kind of shoes I had on, and then I easily could end up down below, sprawled in swampy lupine, asphyxiating and never to be heard from again. Well, I *did* had the cel phone at least.
Hmm….the cel phone…was it on “ring” or on “vibrate”?
I stopped running, and started laughing. But I couldn’t breathe, and I limped down the pathway, hysterically hiccupping like a crazy person, holding my sides from the cramps that I had. The pathway became bleary. I took off my backpack and opened it, took out the dratted device and flipped it up…sure enough, two missed calls and no wasp in sight.
Arm a child with a gun…a Heather with a celphone.
I’m so glad I didn’t kill myself out in the bird sanctuary.