The stars bobbed up and down, back and forth. Breathing in. Breathing out. One. Breathing in. Breathing out. Two. Breathing in. Breathing out. Three. Breathing in. Breathing out. One. It was useless. Kalisa rolled over and dropped her hand in the water. He was dead. People are bad. Everything is broken. "Pakala!"
The ocean water lifted Kalisa up and then dropped her down again. The raft that carried Kalisa had all the qualities of one that was pieced together by someone who knew what they were doing, but none of the qualities that showed it was made to last. Kalisa looked around not expecting to see anyone but hoping deep inside that there was someone to talk to. In a matter of days, she had to acknowledge that whatever she was feeling, she could no longer put into words.
There was grief. A feeling of sadness about something that was no longer there. She grasped for words to come to terms with what she was feeling. pilin moli sama. A feeling similar to dying. And similar to killing. Kalisa restarted her breathing exercise, turning it into a two-syllable mantra: ma-mi, ma-mi, ma-mi. She mourned for her father. But also her land. The friendly island that had slipped out of view hours ago. She loved her father, mami. And yet she was responsible for his death.
Then there was anger. Again, no word Kalisa knew described the aimless fury. She chose the word wawa. She inhaled ten times until her chest seemed to burst and her eyes would pop out into the midnight sky. Then she let the air pass slowly from her nostrils. After that, there was only the upright lifeless body on a raft in the middle of the open water surrounded by the gentle sounds of nature. After what must have been two minutes, Kalisa's limbs started tingling. She fought the reflex to gasp for air. Every cell churned the last bits of potent oxygen into poisonous carbon-dioxide. When she turned lightheaded, she let the air back in. This inhale returned her confidence, "mi pilin wawa, mi pilin wawa mute." I am feeling intense, I am feeling strong. She used to tell herself this after finishing an entire lap around the island. Or when she turned over a kettle filled with dirty water and felt proud.
But tonight, it was not a positive feeling. Kalisa directed her anger to her father's moon-group. When the sun fell that night, Kalisa had been standing on the beach pacing up and down. It seemed to take forever for the boats to reach the shore from the moment she could spot them on the horizon. Kalisa's father had led this fishing trip, and she was proud to see that the boats brimmed with fish. She saw everyone jump into the shallow water, including her father. His smile radiant as always when he saw his little girl, jan Kalisa lili mi. They pulled the boats up to shore and started hoisting out the fish, greeting the people that came up to help.
Except her father was not there. She saw him, but he was not there. She ran around and between all the boats calling out for mami. Everybody carried on with their chores like there was nothing amiss. The moment she became certain he was not among the fishermen, Kalisa walked backward and a twig snapped underneath her feet.
She had yelled at the other men for an explanation. They tried to calm her down and explained to her: "telo suli wile e mama mije sina." The ocean wanted her father, needed her father. They told her that all was well, "ale li pona." How could they tell her this, what had she ever done to the ocean? How could they keep so calm and pretend that all is well?
Then she saw her mother overlooking the scene on a dune some distance away. With a dull look on her face, she gazed at the ocean and the setting sun. Then she turned around and walked away. The rising tide of the ocean water reached Kalisa's feet and washed away the twig.
Her anger turned towards her mother. Why did she not care, why did she not comfort her? As people left the beach, Kalisa realized her mom did not turn away out of carelessness. It was a dismissal. Kalisa was to blame for her father's death. She turned to the ocean and shouted as loud as she could the only word that came close to swearing: "pakala-aaaaaaaa!" Kalisa broke down, the web of people torn, her mother broken, their whole way of life fallen apart.
YOU ARE READING
The Toki Ponist on the MountainGeneral Fiction
Like so many people, Joakim combats his inner demons. His latest strategy is uncovering a lost civilization based on a few peculiar words he has picked up in a language he will refer to as Toki Pona. To Joakim, the ancient wisdom of this civilizatio...