I just got a truck. Part of getting a truck in California is that you have to make sure it passes the emissions test. My truck has been very stubborn about this, so every time I get it fixed I have to put three days of driving on it to get the computer to run all the checks.
On this particular full-mooned evening, I drove around with my dojo-sister, J, and wound up at the beach.
As we walked along the shoreline, J found this:
Corked and sealed with wax. We wondered who it could be from, and how long it had been there.
“We gotta open it!” I said.
“Maybe it’s from a Nigerian prince,” said J, “offering up his fortune to whoever finds this note.”
“Great, so our message in a bottle is spam?” I said. We laughed.
We bring the bottle back to the parking lot where there’s some light. We’re beside ourselves with excitement over this mysterious midnight adventure. We try and guess what the note inside says with increasing absurdity and silliness.
“It’s probably in Chinese,” I say, opening it. I take out the plastic baggie and unfold the note.
“Is it in Chinese?” she asks.
I smile and shake my head. “Yup.”
It is definitely in Chinese.
I only recognize a few words, so I put it up on Facebook and a translation came back pretty quickly.
J felt a little sad that we opened the girl’s bottle, as though doing so had undone the prayer.
I think her grandfather heard the message the moment she left it there on the beach.
It made me think about my own (only) grandmother. When I spoke to her on the phone today, she seemed worn down. She told me she has degenerative arthritis. She has a birthday coming up, and she said that each year she wonders why. She’s ready to go. I asked her if she had a time-frame — if I should come out to visit her. She said no… that she’d rather I remember her as she was. This is a woman who, last year, wanted to take me out to jazz clubs with her boyfriend and teach me how to order drinks. When younger men asked her to dance, she’d refuse them with “thanks, cupcake.” My brother and I have her pegged at perpetually forty-five. She’s in her eighties, now. She said that she’d had a good life, and one of the things she’s especially proud of are her grandkids.
“Don’t waste opportunities to be awesome,” my brother said. “There’s a little under five hours today to get it done.”
We have less time than we think.
“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”
― Langston Hughes