The stars don’t beg to be seen.

There wasn’t much to say that night that wasn’t already hanging in the air. She knew he saw it in her eyes, just as she could feel in his chest where her head rested and ears listened. She listened intently to the molecules circulating in him, pumping steadily the life that was ever-changing him and making him new.

They both knew it, but they wouldn’t give these emotions the decency of being put to words. It’s a shame, really. They would have been beautiful had they been uttered. But for now, those words would remain in her eyes and in his chest. Tonight was not the night for those words. Perhaps another night, or maybe not. Maybe those words were to forever remain there, hanging in the air, just as the stars hung in the same place in the sky, night after night, never wandering, never worrying about where to hang tomorrow. Just like the stars, those words were constant. They didn’t need to be seen or heard to be known. They just were and they would be tomorrow too.

She raised her head slightly to look at him, inquisitive of his thoughts, hoping to catch a glimpse of them in his cafe-colored eyes. The creases around his eyes etched a smile into his face as his eyes focused in on hers, wondering what her questioning eyes could want. His nose brushed hers and his deep, brown eyes asked for a kiss. But with her lips lightly pressed against his, she just smiled. To not only see it, but to feel a smile against yours, knowing that you are the reason for that grin — it’s perfect.

She pulled her face away from his and found his eyes again. She brushed her hands through his hair, kissed his cheek, and laid her ear against his chest where it had been before.

Words weren’t necessary, but he decided it was rude to leave them hanging around.

I love you, he whispered, but she already knew.

I love you too, she said, though he’d already seen it in her eyes.

The stars don’t beg to be seen, nor did those words beg to be spoken.

You know the stars will always be there, hanging in the sky just as they did yesterday, but you look anyway. Beauty doesn’t need to ask to be desired. It is because it is. And though there wasn’t anything to be said that night that they didn’t already know, those words were spoken.

They didn’t need to say anything at all, but it would have been rude to leave such beautiful words just hanging there.


Hello, Stranger

Parents teach their children not to talk with strangers. I’m not sure if my parents ignored that lesson in safety or if I refused to hear it, but somehow I grew to love introducing myself to new people and learning who they are – the thrill of saying our first shared words and watching conversation unravel; the fulfillment of attaching a name to a face; the joy of finding commonalities with previously mysterious stranger – it’s a beautiful concept to be welcomed into a stranger’s life, into their story, if only for the ten minutes we share on a city bus.


My hands rested in my pockets and my feet shuffled to the beat of Miel San Marcos, my favorite Latin American praise band. The wind blazed through 3rd and Pike, rustling my hair and widening my smile, as the 17 arrived. I breathed it in one more time: the busy people, fast cars, and roaring buses—forcing their way through crowds and traffic, ignoring lights, ignoring the wind, ignoring each other; the smell of stale smoke and a whiff of weed from the gangsters and homeless delinquents; the unrelenting wind, barreling through tall buildings and into my cold lungs. I took in the sweet elements of my imperfect city and stepped into the bus, sitting down in a familiar green seat.

Other riders shoved through the crowd, unaware of the people around them, and made their way to their own green seats, selecting the place of least conflict or conversation. But I smiled at them as they marched up those first steps and made their way through the narrow aisle. I smiled eagerly, awaiting someone, anyone, who would reciprocate my desire to befriend a stranger.

“Hola,” he said to me. My head turned toward two gentlemen and I smiled at them.

“Hola.” I turned off the music on my ipod and wrapped up my earbuds.

“She speaks Spanish!” he said to his friend while letting out a hearty chuckle.

How many times can a smile grow? I wondered; mine grew again. He overestimated my ability to speak his language, but I didn’t tell him my secret. I met Mario and Alberto that morning. Mario asked me for a hundred dollars and Alberto just shook his head.

“He’s joking,” said Alberto.

“I know,” I assured him, smiling again. “So, what do you guys do?”

They told me about being fishermen and how work was hard to come by. Mario asked for a hundred dollars one more time. I told him I didn’t even have 50¢, so then we talked about family. They told me about brothers and sisters and family in Mexico and El Salvador; and they told me how they missed their families, but Seattle was their home.
Mario mumbled something in Spanish to Alberto, their eyes glancing at me, then back to each other. Alberto told me Mario thought I had nice eyes.

“Thank you,” I told him. We turned the corner and they reached their stop.

“Nice to meet you, muchacha. It was good to talk with you,” said Mario.

“Nice to talk with you too.” I waved to the strangers who became my friends between Pike St. and Westlake Ave.


I met Shawnti on the 41 while laughing at the ridiculousness of those who complained about overcrowding. If only they could see public transportation in Japan or India, we agreed. I met Kris on the 347 — a conversation that started with overcrowding and ended with, “see you next Tuesday,” was filled with dreams of travel and a mutual desire to know and experience culture in a way that changes us. I met Mark somewhere on 3rd while waiting for the 511. We went out to coffee together and he told me about his family and his old life before living on the streets.


The treasure of getting to know these people is great. Months or a year after talking with them in one instance, I still remember. I remember the way they made me smile and the way we connected over our short conversation. But not everyone seems to think this form of conversing is so wonderful.

Hundreds of people commute to and from Seattle every day by bus, yet every day I observe the same scene at the Mountlake Terrace Park and Ride: lonely riders, eyes viewing books or eyelids, and a still silence except for the rumble of the engine. Riders develop a routine. After finding a familiar spot in the parking garage, they walk down the steps to the platform, saunter to the end of the line, set down their bags and wait. Everyone shuffles when a bus arrives, scurrying onto the bus or shortening the line of people that is still waiting. Once on the bus, there is a sea of familiar faces, but the familiar faces are nothing more than that. They are rarely friends, coworkers or even acquaintances. They are merely recognizable faces. Each of these persons catches the same bus downtown every day, and most often ride with the same people every day as they venture to their various office buildings; however, very few take the time to get to know the people they sit next to every day.

Maybe I should blame my extroverted tendencies, but it is odd to me that a person could spend so much time with another person yet not know their name or a single thing about them. The average bus ride downtown is thirty minutes, on a good day. If there is rain or traffic it’s a little longer. If two people spent one week chatting on their thirty-minute bus ride, they would spend two and a half hours learning about each other that week. Discounting vacation days, it would be about 130 hours a year. If the average person works forty years at the same job (assuming the other person also works forty years at the same job), these two people, invested in each other, could spend 5,200 hours talking just during the time they ride the bus. It is unrealistic to think these two people would ride the same bus all the time, never miss a day together, and always talk to only each other, but it shows the enormity of the amount of time they have together.

Why then, do people choose to remain silent? We are scared. Of what, exactly? What is there to harm us? We’re afraid our words will be unheard or rejected, afraid the conversation will turn awkward and we’ll be left looking foolish. We’re afraid of the pounding in our chest and the daunting butterflies of talking to the stranger.

But there’s a struggling single mom who needs a person to remind her why she does what she does, or a just-out-of-college businessman who needs encouragement that he doesn’t get from his boss. There’s an elderly woman who needs to be reminded she is beautiful because no one has told her for many years. There are two Hispanic fishermen who need someone to tell their story to. Or maybe that’s you.

Sometimes life is awkward. Sometimes the pounding in your chest doesn’t leave. But everyone needs a chance to tell their story, and many are only waiting for someone to ask.

Casa 601

I’m taking a creative nonfiction writing class this quarter in which my first assignment was to write a descriptive essay about a place. Here is my essay about my friend Josue’s house in Costa Rica on the first night I was there in June. It’s a bit longer than what I usually post, but I hope you enjoy it.

_ _ _

The little, bronze key unlocked the iron bars. They swung out toward me, creaking, and invited me in. “Es mi casa,” said Josue. As we walked up the ceramic steps onto the ceramic porch and passed the threshold, it was too dark to notice the mint green paint covering the cement walls outside the house.

The lights at first hurt my eyes. I fought with the light, desiring so badly to surrender, but unable to convince my lips to say good night to fresh faces, fresh names, fresh, wet kisses on my cheeks. It was late. I’d flown from Seattle to stay in a stranger’s house and now, twelve hours later, I’d arrived. Their eyes rested expectantly on my sweaty, greasy figure, waiting, perhaps, for an explanation. I had none. It was curiosity that brought me here and curiosity that kept my heavy eyes glancing around the room.

I sat at the kitchen table, collecting gifts – a tall glass of guava juice, cookies, a Samsung phone for my time in the country, a house key. If it was theirs it was mine now too, and this was the center of their world. I knew because I’d seen pictures of friends — Juan Pablo and Gabo — sitting here, hanging out; Josue blowing out twenty-two birthday candles; the Martinez family eating dinner years ago on this same pastel blue table-cloth with white doilies.

I tried calling my mom that night to let her know I was safe, but there was no answer. She usually went to bed early. It was Tuesday so she’d probably spent the evening in our living room on the worn, green couch watching NCIS or some other cop show. I imagined my dad snoring on the adjacent couch and my mom annoyed at the interruption. She would have gone to bed early because her eyes don’t handle mornings well. I left a message and rejoined the expectant faces.

No walls separated the table from the brown suede couches in the living room where my Costa Rican dad was torn between the Saprissa game and the American girl at his kitchen table. His wife was occupied with making me comfortable, using Josue and her daughter as translators, running between rooms to find more accoutrements to give me. Comfortable chaos darted in and out; people kept coming. A sister, a friend, a brother, a nephew.

The TV spoke a language I could hardly understand and so did the house. Puerto; door. Mucho gusto; nice to meet you. Cocina; kitchen. Comida; food. Buenas noches; good night. My Spanish-speaking mom and dad kissed me good night, again welcoming me to their home. The chaos dissipated, but the house wouldn’t rest. The TV remained on. American sitcoms; National Geographic; gaudy Christian praise shows; Spanish-speaking cartoons I’d never seen before.

The refrigerator hummed. It must have been hungry. I noticed it’s belly held some cheese, fish, rice, guava juice, margarine, and other condiments, but not much more. Next to the fridge, on the orange, sponge-painted walls was a painting. A small, circular, white house with a Spanish roof. The house was surrounded by wild flowers and a white horse. I knew this painting. Josue took a picture next to it a couple of months ago and posted it on Facebook. I often looked at that picture and wondered where he had taken it, wondering also about the white horse and how beautiful it would be to be there too.

“Let me show you my house.” Josue left his laptop on the blue table-cloth and we got up to wander the empty house.

My sweaty, bare feet stuck to the ceramics as we walked out of the kitchen and came to a cross-roads. To my left was a sink. A bathroom also, with a toilet and shower, but outside the bathroom, in the center of the cross-roads, there was only a sink with a mirror above it and a bright light illuminating the tired eyes that stared back at me.

Across from the sink was a closed door. My sister’s room, or so I was told. And next to that, an open door. My room. Before it became mine, it belonged to Josue’s 7-year-old nephew. He painted blue stripes on the wall and hung up personal artwork. A picture of him and his mom holding hands. “Te amo,” it said. There was a bed and a closet, but all toys were put away. A large TV sat on the ground in the corner by my bed. I’m not sure if it worked, but it did guard me while I slept.

I turned off the light, and forced the door shut as it protested, then followed Josue down the hallway. To the left, another closed door. His parents’ room. To the right, the door was cracked. I curiously let myself in and my heart fluttered. I knew this room.

I laughed and smiled as I noticed a line of blue stars and moons that danced all the way around the room. “Nice blue stars,” I chuckled. Estars. We often joked at his difficulty in saying the English word.

This is the room Josue and I often skyped in. I remembered the first time we met. I was introduced that night to the white lace curtains that hung behind his headboard and the blue stars and moons that his sister painted years ago when the room belonged to her. He told me, “Wait. I have to show you my guitar.” Those were the first words my brother ever said to me as he reached for his out-of-tune beauty and played a song for me that he had written. We talked for three hours that first night, and now we stood in the same room where we met two years ago. His guitar rested against the closet doors. He picked it up to show me again and told me dreams of owning a new guitar with a prettier sound.

It was after midnight when we finished wandering, but I wasn’t ready to sleep. Rain tapped the zinc roof, reminding me of my lullaby in Seattle. We walked back through the hallway, beyond the cross-roads, and across the threshold where I had taken my first steps into their world. Josue and I stood on the ceramic porch, leaning our faces into the iron bars and watching the rain and delinquents pedal the streets. “I like the smell of Costa Rica,” I told Josue. “It smells fresh.” “It’s the rain,” he said. “And the humidity.” I nodded in agreement. Whatever it was, it smelled like home.

The moon was a bright crescent. Josue asked what the moon looked like in Seattle. It hadn’t occurred to me it might have looked different, but it must have. I couldn’t recall. I didn’t remember much about the home I’d slept in last night. Why was that? Why did something so familiar feel so distant now that thousands of miles separated my skin from its home? And how could this home, this place so unfamiliar, feel like a place I’d always known?

After three hours of sitting at the kitchen table, the Martinez home was now also mine. The puerto was the entrance to my home. The cocina was the center of my world. The comida in the hungry fridge was as much mine as it was Josue’s.

These mint green walls and the home inside it were not merely necessities for this family, nor were they simply a collection of things that defined their culture. The guava juice, the painting of the white house, the blue stars, the key to the iron gate – they were pieces of a world that gave my heart rest.

My wild heart.

There’s something perfect about sitting by a fire while the wind rustles leaves and the world quiets down. The freeway rumbles a few miles away and if you wait for it, in the stillness of the blackest time of night, the train’s whistle faints near the ocean.

Laughter echoes in the twilight; smiles glow in the firelight. But as I close my eyes and dream, my thoughts wander to a place under different stars. To safe arms; wanton eyes; a smile reflecting my own.

Embers escape from dying logs and I dream of escaping from here. Someday I’ll float away, too, when the wind carries me back to you.

Smoke dances with the wind while the fire flickers, dying as the night carries on. The dreams in my heart still burn with the strength of a wild fire. I am no longer here where the train whistles by the Pacific. My heart– like embers in the wind– is carried away, and I’m with you. Safe, free, home.

Dreams disguised as small thoughts.

I sit here motionless, more still than David except for the spontaneous gusts of wind that brush my hair into my face, reminding me that I am, in fact, much more alive. I stare into nothing but the molecules which fill the air that slowly fills my lungs. Exhale. People glance in my direction as they walk past my bench and hurry to their buses.

My head turns slowly. A father holds his boy’s hand. They walk down the steps to the platform. The dad patiently waits for 2-year-old feet to stumble down the shallow steps which are hardly shallow for someone of his stature. My eyes fill up but they don’t move. They remain as still as my statued figure. The dad and his boy become blurry through my glossy, wet filter.

The wind brushes against my hair again. I know, I say to no one but my thoughts.  I am here. Remain here. I try to convince myself, but I can’t. I can’t help myself. My thoughts return to our future. I think about who you might be and the dad you’re going to be. I think of those strong hands that will hold our son’s hand, and the soft lips that will kiss our daughter’s forehead.

My thoughts place you on those steps with a young boy and I see your infectious smile that I will someday fall in love with. You relish the joy of being his daddy. He loves you. I can see it in his pure, glossy, smiling eyes as he looks up into your kind, caring daddy’s gaze. He has your eyes, the eyes I will someday fall in love with.

He takes one more step, and with that step he erupts in 2-year-old giggles. Your smile grows and you pick him up and swing him around. Then you pull him into your bundled up chest and squeeze him tight like daddies do. You kiss his cold, rosy cheeks and he bursts out in those sweet little boy giggles again, fidgeting to be set free. He has your strong heart, the heart that I will someday fall in love with.

My thoughts return to now though I struggle to stay here. I hide the glaze behind my eyes, putting it away for some other time. The boy walks away with his dad’s fingers tied to his. They catch a bus going somewhere and I get on mine heading home, though I wish it would take me to where you are.

Someday. Someday there will be a bus — a train, a car, a plane — and it will take me to you, wherever you are. And someday I’ll fall in love with your caring eyes; your infectious smile; your strong heart. Someday I’ll fall in love with you. But today our future is hidden behind my eyes, packaged in dreams disguised as small thoughts. Today I am just taking the bus home.

Where my heart lies.

I fear that someday my heart may fall out of my chest.

I close my eyes and I see it.

My chest is empty.

My heart is scattered in a million small pieces. It lies limp, losing its erratic beat as oxygen escapes from its exposed cells. I tried so hard to keep it safe under this pale flesh blanket and tucked between ribbed bars and lungs and veins. But I attempted to no avail.

I see myself scrambling on the floor to pick up the pieces, almost missing the flesh that fell beneath my bed. So many pieces strewn across my bedroom floor. So many pieces slipping through my fingers. So many pieces spread across so much distance. So many pieces; who can hold them all?

Tonight I lay in my bed, arms crossed over my chest, palms curled into fists, eyes clenched shut as to keep the darkness out. Beneath my eyelids there is darkness still. I pull in tightly, keeping everything together, holding my heart inside. It seems to be working though I feel an ominous emptiness in my chest.

I open my eyes to the darkness of my room and in the shadows I face fear. Maybe it’s not really there, I think. Maybe it fell out a long time ago. Maybe the pieces are already scattered.

I shake off these silly thoughts and adjust my eyes to the darkness beneath my lashes, pulling in tighter just to make sure my heart is there. I feel its steady beat. Thump. Thump. I breath in and exhale my fears. I roll over and begin to dream.

Still, sometimes I think I’ll wake up and see my heart lying on the floor.

Freedom in the night.

Another long day of lifeguarding, over. So many thoughts rolling around. So much time to think.

I walk out the glass doors and I breath and I forget the thoughts that tormented my heart. It’s just me and the night.

I breath in the night air that is cold and crisp, but invitingly warm in every other way. Its wind brushes my hair away from my neck and kisses my rosy cheeks. It embraces me as I breath it in, accepting it, letting it fill my tired lungs. It soothes my lungs. I relax in the engulfing power of this mighty wind who wraps itself around me. I close my eyes and inhale this wind; they remain closed as I exhale.

We walk together, the wind and I; we walk through the night, the night who watches carefully with Orion at his side. I say hello to Orion, an old friend of mine by now, and I smile at him, closing my eyes once again while breathing in through my tired, yet exuberant smile.

I shuffle through my purse and find my ipod. I put in my ear buds and find a song to dance with me in the night. Mumford & Sons; The Cave.

The guitar picking picks up my spirits. I feel a tingle in my heart, chasing away the heavy thoughts.

It’s empty in the valley of your heart. The sun, it rises slowly as you walk away from all the fears and all the faults you’ve left behind.

Verse 1; verse 2; and the mandolin comes in with the accordion and banjo.

But I will hold on hoping. I won’t let you choke on the noose around your neck. And I’ll find strength in pain. And I will change my ways. I’ll know my name as it’s called again.

My heart skips and my feet skip with it. Quieter now. Secrets of encouragement are whispered to me.

So come out of your cave walking on your hands and see the world hanging upside down.

The last chord falls, and then I press repeat. Spirits are soaring now. I am alive and I feel it.

The wind rushes around me; darkness overwhelms the streets, and the trees dance with me, swaying to their own rhythm. The stars dance with me, shining brighter as I imagine their smiles grow wider at the thought of a dance partner though she is millions of miles away. The dancing overflows from my heart and into my feet. Walking won’t suit me tonight; only dancing can satisfy my fickle feet. I tap my hands on my legs to the beat, drumming my way into the melody.

Street lights come and go; I pass by houses I’ve passed a hundred times before; the night stays with me; the wind still holds my hand.

Then there is grass, crunching under my feet. My dancing comes to a halt. Pause. The music stops. I step through the door and my heart is overwhelmed. I pick up the burdens I left at the door and I carry them to my room.

Dear night, I’ll be back for you soon.

Songs were meant for dancing.

We should write more letters,
and make more mixed CDs,
and ride our bikes around the block.

We should wave at our neighbors
and talk to our neighbors
and bake cookies for our neighbors and then go talk with them some more.

We should smell flowers on our walk to work,
or to the bus,
or to class,
or to get the mail.

We should dance to the song on our ipod,
when everyone is watching,
because songs weren’t meant for sitting still.

We should smile at everyone who’s watching,
because maybe they wish they were dancing too.

We should remember how to enjoy
the small things,
and remember that the small things
aren’t really that small at all.

Who is this heart we speak of?

Why do we talk about our hearts as though they are not the thing that beats inside our chest?

My heart, she beats rhythmically, keeping my blood flowing– pump, pump, pumping, steadily, never missing a beat. She knows when to beat faster to keep up with my running feet and when to slow down to the pace of my quieting mind. Her steady thumping inside my chest reminds me that I’m living; I’m breathing; I’m existing. It’s all because of her. She beats inside my chest, rhythmically, steadily, never missing a beat.

But I put her down, talking about her like she’s ill with ventricular fibrillation. Up, down, up, down; emotionless, then full of joy, then stricken with disappointment. I say she’s a whore, throwing herself on anything that catches her eye. I say she is cracked, broken, desperately in need of repair. I say she’s got her head in the clouds. I say she’s distracted, not doing her job, not keeping me safe and full of life. But she is. She is a hard worker. My heart has always been faithful, beating rhythmically, steadily, never missing a beat.

My heart, she remains inside my chest, beating faithfully. She is not a whore. She is not broken. She has never been distracted from her vital task. So, who is this other heart we speak of? Who is this heart that breaks? Who is this heart who risks my safety for her satisfaction? Who is this heart who keeps on missing beats?

This December night.

I wish I could capture this essence for you, to share with you my Christmas joy, and the way I smile when I walk though I walk alone. I wish I could share this with you — the sweet sound of a saxophone and intimate chatter and the laugh of friends and lovers as I walk, walk through the cold that is not too cold, but just cold enough to remind me it’s December.

The sky is beautiful tonight. It’s clear, so I can see the stars and airplanes. And I do. I watch them. I watch the planes and wonder where they’re going and dream I am going there too. And I watch the stars. I see them. I see their greatness and I understand their feelings of insignificance. Just stars without names among a billion other stars without names, all trekking trillions of miles to shine for me, but they will never know me either, for I am only one of billions who think these stars shine for them too. Tonight, here in this place, the stars are nearly forgotten as they are drowned out by these lights, a string of glowing balls whose childlike gleam dances with the saxophone.

I breath in the cold, dry air, I close my eyes, and I smile. I want to remember this — this seemingly small joy that is nothing small at all. I feel it in the deepest part of who I am; I feel it from my fingers, through my lungs, and down to my toes. It is peace. It is goodness. It is joy, and love, and happiness. It is the knowledge of others’ joy overwhelming my heart.

I sing Christmas songs under my breath. Have yourself a merry little Christmas, I whisper to the stars. O come let us adore him, I beckon to the wind. The rustling of bags, full of surprises; the clicking of a woman’s heels as she hurries to finish errands after a long day of work; the eagerness of a child, pulling his mother’s arm in the direction of the long line for an old man in a red suit — they sing with me. The sounds of Christmas ring in my ears as my song goes on, unheard and unnoticed by those who are caught up in their own joys. Yet I am joyful. I treasure these things in my heart, quietly, and I keep on walking, accompanied by the gleam of this December night.

I am satisfied here, though I wish I could share this with you — the way my face lights up when I hear my Christmas song, and the way my heart soars when I think about the Christmases to come. Someday I’ll share this with you, but until then, whoever you are, wherever you are tonight, I pray you know a piece of this joy too.