SPRING by Zoë Ruiz with an image by Hiroyuki Ishii

Cherry-Blossom

Jacarandas, jasmine, bougainvillea, and magnolia bloom here. People say there is no weather in this city. Sometimes the petals are small and white and swirl in the breeze and then cover the cement like confetti. Sometimes the petals are round and pink and drop to the ground. On hot days they rattle in the dry wind. Time is passing. I know this because of the flowers in the city and the wrinkles on my face. People say I look young. People, they say a lot of things.

***

Scientists report that in one year the state will run out of water. Friends online share an article that blames almond farms. Late-night TV hosts poke fun at us and at an airport, on my way back home, a man checks my photo ID and jokes, What are you going to do when your state runs out of water? I say, I am going to watch what people do, and he does not hear me.

***

I am in the middle of reading a trilogy about the history of the Americas. The writer, filled with fury and love, wrote three volumes because he wanted us to remember people and events mostly forgotten and almost buried in our collective amnesia.

***

At a work conference, a panelist cites a scientific study that proves trauma responses are passed down through generations. In the study, each time a mouse comes into contact with cherry blossoms, the scientists shock them, and by the third generation, the mice do not have to come into contact with the flower at all. They run just from its scent. This study confuses me. I am not confused that trauma changes our biology. That seems obvious enough. What I do not understand is this: Why cherry blossoms?

***

I hold a dog in my arms. The dog is bleeding, her tiny body wrapped in a blanket. She was attacked, I say. She needs to see someone now. They keep saying this is serious. They keep using the word trauma. We don’t know how much internal trauma there is. He shows me an x-ray. Until we perform surgery, we won’t know the extent of the trauma. There could be complications and he lists them. These could be life threatening. She hands me the collar. So we don’t lose it.

***

For days I do not sleep but before the trip, I fall asleep and dream. Her tail wags as she waits on the steps, ready for a walk, and I wake up and my body is menstruating. At the airport, I throw up in the stall and hear a coworker cooing. She is changing her baby’s diaper. On the plane, in the air, I drink red wine and talk loudly with a woman across the aisle; that night, at a cafe, the wooden floorboards sway as if I am on a boat.

***

I tell people about the cherry blossoms and mice study, hoping someone will answer my question. People say the scientists most likely chose the blossoms because of their scent and I counter this idea with the first thought that comes to mind: But other flowers smell. I forget that the day before the panel, I imagined cherry blossoms and felt soothed. I was in a hotel bed overwhelmed by thoughts that scared me. I inhaled and visualized the petals flowing inside me. I started with my feet and moved to the crown of my head until soft pink blossoms streamed inside me.

***

The writer dies. I read the news and think: But I thought I would meet him. He was seventy-four and died of cancer. Why didn’t I know he had cancer? Why didn’t I fly to the country where he lives and knock on his door and thank him? When I began the trilogy, he was alive and if I continue, he will not be. If I open the book, he will be dead but if I keep it closed, he will stay alive.

***

Long before the drought, when I turned on the kitchen faucet, I thought, The water is running out. It was not a deliberate thought. The knowledge dropped down into me. For years, I’ve had visions of a city filled with trees that bloom pink flowers. The place is rural and quiet and far away. A woman once looked at me and said, The spirits are showing me cherry blossom trees. I nodded my head. Spirits show me things, too.

***

There was a tear in the abdomen. The intestines might be spilling into the blood. We don’t know the extent of our trauma. The damage inside me is invisible. There is no language here. Cherry blossoms stream inside me. I walk into a room and a man listens to me. I pay him for his attention. People ask: How’s work? Are you dating anyone? I try to answer. I do not have the words. People, they say, I just want you to be happy.

 
 

Zoë Ruiz lives and writes in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in The Weeklings, Salon, Two Serious Ladies, and the anthology California Prose Directory (2014). She is the former managing editor of The Rumpus, current publicity director at Kaya Press, and runs a reading series called “readings.”

Hiroyuki Ishii is an artist/illustrator who lives in Tokyo. He keeps updating his work on Instagram.