Death The Second Time Around
written by: Audrey N Lewis
In an effort to make my first novel appear realistic, I decided to research the process that various branches of justice and public safety followed when investigating missing persons. It was a much easier project than I anticipated, with multiple departments offering a decent amount of time and information. What I didn’t expect was the detective I was accidentally connected to. A detective who seemed just as interested in learning about me and my project as I was getting details from him. He wanted to meet in person, making time that would accommodate not just his schedule but mine. I wasn’t prepared when I opened the door. Sparks flashed, not like sparklers on the fourth of July, more like electrical sparks, the kind you’ve always been warned to stay away from for fear of being electrocuted. An electrical spark appearing to open a door into our souls. It offered a glimpse into the past, a passageway to the present.
There was nothing powerful enough to squelch the connection meant for young lovers or what felt like a rediscovered soul mate, not for the professional strangers we were.
Somewhere I had heard. “It is the connections that allow us to travel through life together, generation to generation and beyond. Connections that often cross even the barriers of time.”
Was this what that was? A chance encounter that opened doors from long ago, unanswered passion? It was a frightening reality and yet a calming relief.
For weeks the elders had met quietly. We were confused. The last time we had heard the thunder and felt the ground shake, all had rejoiced and feasted. A herd of Buffalo like we had never seen, it had been a good year.
My people had told me to stay away from the soldiers, the white men. They had warned me of trouble. Running Deer had been around for a long time, seen much, there was talk, and Running Deer was trusted. But Mother Earth had created all equally. I was at peace with her and all she had created. I feared little, and to me, these men of different colors of different cloth to me, I was curious.
I spent many hours by the lake, getting to know her. Becoming one with those who visited and that which grew. I knew her as I knew myself, and when I bathed, I knew who and what surrounded me. I forget not easily, for it is my way. I was in the water, enjoying her coolness. I knew I was being watched, and I played to him, tossing my head often in his direction. Stretching coyly, my interest and curiosity arousing me, as I was sure it did him. That first day, that first time, he did not stay, and like a deer who still had the arrow deep in his loin, he noisily and awkwardly stumbled among the grasses. I laughed at the clumsiness of this white man, knowing he had not been satisfied and was with a stiffness that needed relief. I laughed a bit guiltily at myself for causing such discomfort, with no satisfaction for either of us.
For days we played this game he watched, and I performed.
Finally, he ventured down to the water’s edge. I was especially curious about what all the cloth he wore covered up. I was not accustomed to a body being so hidden. He was not accustomed to a woman so immodest. To me, there was no reason for modesty. My body was a part of mother earth’s creation. Had it been meant to be covered so completely, I would have been born with a more generous covering. He was cautious. I was curious. Our eyes connected, and words spoke loudly without sound. His brown eyes with soulfulness reminded me of my mother before her death. The caring and strength of my grandfather and the caution of a newly birthed foal. I reached out and touched the cloth, which covered his chest; he initially pulled back and then laughed at his own reaction. We were worlds apart, but in that first instant that our eyes had met, that we had connected, worlds did not matter, for we were.
We would meet by the water’s edge for days, and while our language was different, we talked. We learned—he of my world and my tongue and I of his world, his tongue. The words sounded strange as they came from my mouth to my ears, as I am sure they sounded odd to him. I had learned to cover myself for our meetings, and he had learned that removing his boots and stockings so that he could feel the coolness of her against his feet brought him comfort. We had learned that the only barriers were those of our people, his and mine. Were we really so different? I could share everything with him, and he shared everything with me. We feared our futures. I feared for my people. I knew we could not be together, but I ached for him, for his touch. Words were not enough.
The sun sat high, and the trees were full; her water was warm. I was swimming when I felt him approach. He was learning to become one with her, and his movements flowed with hers, yet I knew he was there. From the corner of my eye, I watched him remove his coverings. My body grew with excitement as he lowered himself into the water and began to swim out to me. It had been days since we had last seen one another, and the nights were beginning to get cool. Still, my people did not know of our meetings, and his did not know of me. He swam up behind me, and I pretended to let him surprise me. He grew hard as he held me. Even in the coolness of her water, I could feel him, and my body flowed to be one with her coolness, wanting to invite him in. He lifted my hair from behind and nibbled at my neck. Together we swam to the shallows hidden by the beaver’s fallen limbs. Together hands intertwined, we explored every crevice of our bodies, his and mine. He was a bit uncomfortable as he explored his own body with me and unsure of himself as I explored mine with him.
I let myself fall back against him as he massaged my breast pulling at my hard nipples. He used his fingertips and followed down my belly, my body thrust forward, calling to him. As he held me still from behind, I twisted, wanting to look at him. Wanting to watch him. We struggled comfortably for a while before he allowed me to turn, and we could face each other. I pulled back. At first, his eyes were not alive as I was so used to seeing them. They were distant and sad. I held him, comforting him as best I could. I moved my mouth over his letting his tongue explore. I hurt for us both as we allowed ourselves to join. Allowed ourselves the satisfaction we had for so long withheld from one another and ourselves. We did not speak when it was over, and she lay still around us, comforting us. For a while, there was a silence, and then he looked at me and I at him. I looked inside him, searching for his being. His eyes became full of life again, allowing the silence to be filled with laughter and joy, our laughter, our joy. We held each other. We held onto each other as if we were afraid to let go.
The sun had long been sleeping before we climbed from her and let ourselves go back to where we both knew we belonged. We were full. We were satisfied. I knew I would have to limit myself to that feeling, that beauty. Like a desert flower, I would need to feed myself slowly. Savoring each memory, each touch. I watched as he covered himself, intrigued with him and his body. Aching to hold him again. To relive the moment. Wanting. He did not turn back as he made his way through the trees, and as he disappeared, I marveled at how he had learned to become one with her. How the clumsiness and awkwardness had disappeared. The unknown. We had taught one another well, I thought as I stepped into my own cloth covering and turned in the direction of my people, my home. I was right in savoring his touch, for it was many days before he returned. It was different. He was not so full of life. He was often silent when we would meet. His eyes searching. The language not there to share. Our hands would touch. They would hold; they would tighten and loosen. Our hands would talk. Had we crossed the lines that Running Deer had spoken of? Did I teach him too much, I wondered as he tightened his grip around my fingers? Protectively. Loving. Frightened. So much silence and yet so much noise.
We saw each other sporadically in the moons that followed. I was with child and for a long time tried to hide it. I feared his loss. It was only when the sun was about to sleep that he would appear from the shadows. Often I was not there when he would pass by, and when the sun would awaken, I would find signs, offerings left for me.
The sun was incredibly high, and her waters especially warm. I listened a bit more intently to her sounds before removing my coverings and letting her envelop me. No one yet knew I was with child. I feared father and LaLa (grandfather), for they would question until there were answers. The ground would shake, and the trees bend. The freedom of the sparrow hawk would be forever grounded. But this day with the sun so high and her waters so warm, so inviting. With there so much silence. I felt safe. I watched as this child I carried moved an arm or perhaps foot across my swollen belly, calmly giving approval at her warmth. Together we frolicked in her calm beauty, together we rejoiced, his gift of a child. How I wished to share with him her beauty, her movement, her life. Wanting to allow myself sorrow yet feeling only excitement with each move, I threw my head back and let myself succumb to her. Allowing her to devour me until I could take no more, and as I rose to the surface for air, his eyes met mine. He stood before me, full of life as he had been at our first meeting, curious and cautious. He put his hand out for mine, and together we swam to the shallows. As we reached where both of our feet rested on her sandy bottom for the first time he saw me, he saw what no one else had yet seen. He saw me swollen with life. I was surprised, and yet relief did not describe what I felt as he reacted joyfully, knowing that it was with him that this life had been created. As he touched me, she moved, and his eyes sparkled. Again, even after so much time, there was no spoken language. There was no explanation for the absence. He came each day following, and again we grew close, again we shared, and language returned. When I could hide no longer, my people discovered I was with child, and silence filled our camp. There were no questions, for we all knew no one wanted to hear the answers. It was a day of warmth, and the sun was high when this child asked to appear within me. He had been there with me to watch the sun sleep and awaken. It was the first time that I did not watch as he became one with her. Instead, we held one another the warmth of body to body, the only warmth we needed as we rested, as in peace we slept. She came quickly to his ready hands in the warmth of the waters where she was created. He cradled her and beamed as I remember my father’s elation as he introduced my brother to our people. He held her up for the sun to see, to warm just as my father had done. Laying her on me, he laid by my side; again, we spoke without language. His first words were, “I love you” I forget not, for that is my way, and without explanation, I understood. They came so freely; with such meaning, it was not a difficult task for him. As I held her, tears came to me, and I cried. He was not so easily moved. But in his eyes, I also saw the water that tears are made of. I saw his joy. We held her together, his hands wrapped around mine, our fingers locked. Together we held her, and I spoke her name. “Rising Sun.” There was much silence. She was peaceful, and the sun was warm. Together we lay until the sun began to prepare for sleep.
The woods were a hiding place for the blanket he presented to us. The blanket he covered us with protectively, lovingly, frightened before he left to the woods. He turned and smiled with his mouth; he smiled, but his eyes were filled with sorrow. He whispered hoarsely, not wanting me to see his tears, “Sara,” his name for her…I repeated it and then shook my head, “Rising Sun,” he put his finger to his lips, a motion I had not yet seen; he kissed his finger and then held it out to me. He waited only as long as it takes for a drop of rain to fall before he turned away. I longed for it to be my lips that he kissed, and as he became one with the trees, I watched achingly holding Rising Sun securely to my bosom.
More moons passed than I wanted to count, and Rising Sun reached for the sun with the agility and beauty of a prairie flower. We spent much time together by the water exploring her shores and her sandy bottom. Laughing as we would sit on her and make bubbles. I would speak of her father. I would tell her that he was a strong man; I could not call him a warrior, for I never knew. He was gentle and wise like my mother, he had the care and strength of my grandfather, and he was curious like a new foal. He was a kind soul, I would tell her. He was caring and loving, and someday I told her I truly believed he would return. How proud he would be of her. Of her slender and tender beauty. Of the care with which she touched our mother and her understanding as she listened to her speak.
The talk of the coming thunder reminded me of Rising Sun’s creation, and warmth filled me. But now, the thunder did not sound rejoiceful. The hushed voices and quiet contemplation of our warriors brought fear and questions. It was the thunder that shook our homes as we sent our children running to her protective trees. Rising Sun reluctantly ran with them as I tried to help gather what I could and help the elders to the water to the safety of her shade. As I looked up, I saw them coming across the water, and like my people, I headed for the shelter of her fallen trees. But then I saw him riding behind taller than I had ever seen him. He wore gray on his head now and a covering like the soldiers. But I knew it was him; I knew the way he rode, like my people, like I had taught him. He was one with his horse. I turned and tried to make my way quickly through her towards him. Her waters swirled from the many horses she had held. The horses that carried the soldiers, soldiers who fired at my people. His eyes caught mine, and he dismounted. My body was light with great happiness, for he had returned. I looked to her shores, hoping that Rising Sun would be there for me to see, and as I turned back, his hands were upon my shoulders, pushing me down. His eyes, frightened, had tears, and I saw him cry out as I went under her I looked to him; I am sure he saw me question. I could not breathe – her waters filled my mouth, and I could feel her fill my chest. I heard his words one last time but now did not understand. “I love you,” he said, and as my spirit left and rose from her, I called to him, “Aka; again.”
And now I understand. Finally, I can forgive, which brings me peace. I know I will not be back. But for now, today, here, I must wonder, and so I wait for death the second time around.
- Death The Second Time Around - December 7, 2021
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