A first journey, there and back

Rainbows hang in suspended water, beautiful above my head. I can see both ends clearly, but the arch disappears into a washed blue sky. I accidentally approach the base, the secret land three times. I have no fear of that — but I don’t know. Maybe I should. They act like I should. I ask, smiling, anyway.

“I’m trying to find the Pearl Harbor bike path.”

No-one really knows. An unknown route along the edge of the water that should exist.

Direction is three confused officials and two fellows pedaling like me. I follow where I can and listen when I need. And soon,I find myself pedaling not through paradise, but exile — trash cluttered and scented with rot and western social run-off.

Rust covered tarps and cinder blocks tied with half-broken twine. The smell of garbage layers deep is sweet vomit sick; it burns the nose like stomach acid, fresh and warm.

Cats like rats and little hard-pressed-to-fly birds like roaches. Roosters are dogs and dogs are vultures here under highway overpasses marked: No Trespassing, Government Land.

But this isn’t the high wood-planked walls with their secrets they want to keep safe. No, this is  wasted land. Around every shadow is a hardened exile gang. District privilege clings complicated cobwebs to my glowing skin. I try to wipe it away as I bike on through, but how can I?

All my inner-district rebellion has no place here, picking nervously through graffiti walls and rivers tangled with plastic bottles that smell like death. On boats and behind broken fences, with their lives sprawled across the mud are broken Jugglers and snapped Ash Trees. Canal hands and feet that scatter like timid cats around me as I and my metal steed rattle by.

Life here is not elegant, floral, pretty. It is not indigenous, ingenious, on purpose. It is lost and forgotten, poured-to-the-top full of soured bitterness dragging its heels through dead palm tree fronds and coke bottles and dirty plastic bins. It is abandoned, discarded, and left out to ruin. It is oppressed, pressed down, and scraping by.


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