mud, straw, sun

Adult friendships are built.
Adobe houses.  
Brick by brick, 
Organic, imperfect, 
We are servants of each brick. 
Scatter the seed and cut the straw.
Wait for rain to collect the clay at the outside bend of the creek
Form new bricks to repair the eroded corner
a neglected spot beneath a window.
What do I do now? 
When disease washes a life away like an out of season storm, 
I can’t even find the foundation, 
not even a mess of mud and straw.

My brain is silent. Coffee. 
The thought of it brings the smell.
Patrick is downstairs. I wonder if he’s looking for a sign.
A trail of code that might comfort.
I hear beans tumbling into the grinder.

I turn to look at the paintings in my studio 
and I can smell Sui’s Chinese pantry
The scent of hot, dry, wooden houses.
A particular Texas summer, 
Clear and bright. Blinding sun. 
Was it wool? I can’t remember.
Flip flops and jeans. 
The window unit rattles on.

The kettle whistle and coffee grinder 
signal the four minute mark
I wonder at the time.
December, just north of the snow line.
My shoulder is tense from the cold and damp of this day.
Patrick brings up coffee.
Silent looks at the painting over the drafting table
“Don’t Ask Me Stupid F@#&ing Questions” speaks from the wall.
He drifts back down the hall.

Again, the dryness of the summer sunroom fills my lungs.
I see him cooking in his yellow kitchen, 
Incandescent, glazed in sesame oil,
Dusted with five spice powder.
“What are you making?” I remember asking, 
Concerned for the future of the onions and potatoes in my bag.
“I don’t know, … weird Chinese food I think.”
In one hand, a smoking, hand rolled cigarette punctuates the gesture.
Other cigarettes burn like incense in ashtrays scattered about the house
He’s talking to me. Asking me questions. 
Wearing Sui’s sweater, but I don’t know that. 
She is not here in the dry heat, … 

I hadn’t known them together really. 
Just a dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
Some surprise that I could use chopsticks.
Her suspicion of me and Patrick together…
That was in the eyes. No language barrier there.
A drive to the airport. 

I’m back in the doorway to the kitchen.
Patrick’s on a volunteer trip.
Rebuilding palapas near an archeological site.
He said he’d call from San Antonio.

Days have passed. 

There is no message. 

That sweater barely covers his sides. 
Steam billows up from the wok.
The sweater is taught between the shoulders.
It was July. It was hot out and in. 
Sui was making her way. 
I marvel at the bags and boxes in the pantry.

No Phone Call.

Chinese writing and strange illustrations.
He has no Idea what this stuff is.
Sky rise apartments in Montreal, 
Government housing projects.
An architect on her way to a career in Hong Kong. 

Biding time, both of us. 

I hear our Border Collie on the stairs.
Outside the window it is snowing.
Moving slower than usual,
A syncopated, determined gate.
I turn to see her navigate the doorway.
My slippers are saddled over her shoulders.
Brimming with herd dog pride.
I realize my feet are still bare from my shower. 
The lining is warm. 

Patrick’s phone signals an email’s arrival.
It is Sui. I carry the phone into the hall. 
He is there. We read it together. It says, 

“Thank you.’