I sit at the small booth towards the front of the bus spreading brie on crackers and eating them in between sentences – such delicious punctuation. It is a muggy space, here inside the bus, and there are not enough windows to let in the cool Orlando night. So we rig fans to circulate air, everyone drinks lots of cold water, and Sam falls asleep in his new spot on the floor beside our bed, sweat dampening the hair around his ears.
Our bus sits in a vacant lot beside a church outside of Orlando. We could be the last people on the planet, with our dark window shades and the generator beneath us that drowns out all sound. But then my phone lights up with an incoming message, like Morse code or a pulse from deep space, and I know that we are not the last.
I can see Maile at the end of the long hall, her face glowing white while she writes.
* * * * *
A picture surprised me today, a photo of our chickens’ secret egg stash at our old house. For perhaps three minutes I stared at that pile of riddles, like an archeologist finding proof of some long ago culture hidden amidst the chaos of vines and beetles. That had been our life once. And not “once” as in ten years ago, though that’s what it feels like. This “once” meant simply three weeks and two days ago. Not even a month. Not even a lunar cycle.
It scares me, how fast things can change. We build our little castles in the sand and we dig and we sweat and, with painstaking tedium, we articulate the details. We carve out the moats and areas to carry away the water we know will come.
But the tide always returns, pulled in by a moon we can barely see. And the sand we have accumulated can never withstand it.
* * * * *
Yet somehow we must find the space inside of us to build anyway, to construct these castles in spite of what we know, regardless of their fleeting nature. Because as we build we will begin to realize it’s not about the sand. It’s not about the way the walls melt under the first crashing waves. It’s not about the losing.
It’s about the strength we gain in our fingers. It’s about callouses that begin to layer on our palms. It’s about the creativity and the perseverance and the fortitude infused into each new structure.
It’s not about the castle. It never has been. It’s about us.
* * * * *
The kids hold their books out over the edges of their bunks, showing each other what they are working on or what they are reading. Abra’s hair floats around her flushed face in wispy ringlets. Cade and Lucy keep each of their curtains open to feel the cool air from the fan.
I turn out the lights and follow the single-eyed leading of a flashlight back to bed.
There are days, and then there are days.