I go back. To where I woke up. To where I first came to consciousness.
Peninsula as prow, jutting into the Pacific. Steep, unstable cliffs flecked with ice plant. Lacy break of waves on rocks below.
Ceaseless peal of the buoy bell, rocked by swells. Seagulls ride the ceaseless wind. Blue skies swell to red as the sun sets.
A low stucco wall skirts the edge. Feral cats jump up and over. Green-blue gazebos, slatted roofs. Picnic tables, gouged initials. Huge concrete barbecues, iron grills rusty from hamburger grease, ocean cold and fog.
Bermuda grass, prickly under my bare feet. A stucco bandstand, wooden stage peeling paint. My brother and I hoist ourselves up to give a show for my grandmother. Marching from one end to the other. Singing, dancing, twirling. Falling over laughing.
Stone-slabbed drinking fountains. A black and white picture: leaning in for a drink. Checked shorts, freckles across my nose, hair in two braids criss-crossing my head. The shorts brown and yellow.
A large telescope faces Catalina and the channel. Freighters headed out to sea. Fishing boats returning home. My uncle holds me up. All I ever see is black. And sometimes my eyelash huge against the lens.
The swings. Canvas slings on rusty chains. Iron-brown stains on my palms. Old poles wobbly in holes widened by years of swinging. Lean out, legs pumping. Higher, higher, almost into the tall eucalyptus, their blade-like leaves slicing the wind. The chains catch, ca-thunking me back.
Now I stand on other cliffs. My heart goes back: the gravelled paths, the sad bells of the buoys off the cliffs, the break of waves that goes on whether I am there or not. And when the wind blows I hear the ca-thunk of the swings, when you have gone as high and as far as you can.