One Note - IX
"There's a crack in everything. It's how the light gets in."
“Maybe death isn’t darkness, after all, but so much light wrapping itself around us.” - Mary Oliver
In our last two episodes, we
Tonight, the Valkyrie (whom I’ve begun to call Kelly) finally asked the right question. It was a question I didn’t even know needed asking.
We were sitting on the narrow stone bench beside Astrid’s memorial listening to the water trickle down the green marble and splash into the basin at its base. The stone is engraved with Astrid’s favorite Rumi quote: “Out beyond ideas of right and wrong, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
The memorial is part of the same island that houses the now notorious Music Road Trip venue, but when I asked Busk to set it aside for me, I insisted that only those I’d invited be given access. There would be no nosey news seekers dropping in on us unexpectedly. I even asked Busk to stay away - something I could tell hurt his feelings - but this conversation had to be between Kelly and me.
Kelly didn’t know it, but she was having two great honors bestowed upon her. Ever since my switch to Dizzy I’d kept my first and AltLife separate. I rarely spoke to anyone using my voice in AltLife, and had never shared anything but basic facts about Astrid and my family life with anyone. Then, after Astrid passed, I wanted to be certain there were no awkward expressions of sympathy. So many people are flummoxed by death. I brought Kelly to the memorial to apologize and introduce her to Astrid. I didn’t expect it to be easy.
Punctual as always, Kelly arrived at one minute to 3:00. She’d removed most of her Valkyrie gear and was dressed in a simple blue dress and ballet slippers. Without the helmet and horns, her face was rather pleasing - sharp boned and angular, with thin lips, bushy eyebrows, and shoulder-length, yellow curls.
“Is it the same in your first life?” I asked. In general, it’s considered rude to ask about a person’s first-life appearance. But I figured we’d known each other long enough and were discussing topics that were serious enough to warrant that kind of question.
“Is what the same?” she asked.
“Your hair. Is it the same color?”
“Oh lord no,” she laughed. Her voice was low and full of amusement. “I’m your B-basic, mixed-race mutt. My mom is Latina and my dad has a little bit of everything in him - black, white, Filipino, and to hear him tell it Samurai warrior.
I chuckled at the description. “So someone in your past spent time in Japan?”
“No, Hawaii actually.” My great great grandmother was a picture bride from Japan.
“An arranged marriage?”
“Yes, her husband was Filipino. He needed a wife and she needed a husband. It was quite common back then.”
“I bet there’s quite a story there.”
“Yes,” she said. “I spent a chunk of time researching the subject.”
“So I’m to conclude your hair is black?”
“Dark brown with sun streaks. Why are you asking? I thought maybe you’d changed your mind about letting me ask you questions.”
“I did, or rather that’s one of the reasons. First, I wanted to apologize for being so rude to you the other day. I’m afraid I let my own fears and misgivings get the better of me.”
“I would never betray your trust,” Kelly said. “I want you to know that. I’m as confused about what is going on as you are, but I am not talking to other reporters or trying to steal secrets.”
“I believe you,” I said.
“In fact, some pretty bizarre things have been happening that I wanted to run by you. Maybe you can make sense of it.”
“All right, I’m all ears,” I said. “But first let me explain about the hair.”
“It reminds me of Astrid.”
“My wife who passed. Her hair was that same color. That’s her memorial in front of us.”
“Ohhh…stupid me. I understand now. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be. There was no way you could know,” I said.
A long silence fell between us. “You never said,” Kelly finally said.
“We always talk about what other people experienced that day. But you never said what it was like for you. You were there, right?”
“Oh yes, I was there,” I said, surprised by how the words caught in my throat.
“You always say it was a positive experience. Uplifting was the word I think you used.” I could hear her flipping the paper pages of a notebook, looking for my exact words. No one could accuse Kelly of not being thorough.
“That’s correct,” I replied. I didn’t want to derail the conversation. The question was still there, hanging between us.
“What was it like, then? For you I mean.”