Mama said, “Don’t touch that!
“That’s a Ming vase.”
[pronouncing it “vaaz”]
It probably wasn’t.
Mama calls things pricier things—e.g. Timex = Rolex.
Her gist is she can’t afford a broken one.
I’ll admit I’m no stranger to breaking stuff,
and not just flimsy stuff– cast iron, granite, you name it.
You could say breaking things is my superpower.
Anyhow, the vase is Chinese and looks old.
But my hand was already on it.
You’d think it would be cool and smooth.
But, it was tingly and, well, not solid.
My fingers seemed to sink into it–
like a hologram or a ghost.
So I nudged it a bit.
Turns out it was solid; it tipped.
I moved to catch it,
but it just hung there, tilted on air.
Well, I had to know how long it would stay tipped.
I stared, wondering if mama would snap a pic with her camera.
As I had this thought, the vase tumbled off its stand.
I grabbed for it, touching it with my fingertips
just as its lip—it was upside-down—crashed into the floor.
Time oozed; cracks spread through the vase and the world.
It shattered in slow motion.
A crackly light—blue and white—crinkled through the room.
No breaking noise, nor the expected holler from mama.
Just white and blue arcs of light, becoming blinding.
Then I was squatting and reaching in another room.
I toppled face-first onto brown floor boards.
The vase was upright, whole, and sitting by the wall,
seeming like a person watching me fall in quite amusement.
The vase’s glistening white and blue stood out in the dark brown room.
Dust or tarps covered everything else.
It was a storehouse packed with fancy junk.
It couldn’t be confused with the temple I’d been touring with my mom.
That was bright and neat, red and gold, and had ornamental dragons.
The door flew open.
I gasped, expecting a whooping, or at least a stern talking to.
I crab-walk scurried when I saw the man who charged in.
He wore an armor that looked like rows of little roof tiles.
And he had a straight sword stuck into his belt.
I feared he’d draw the sword and poke me in my tender bits,
but he didn’t seem to see me—hard to miss as I was.
Calmed by my invisibility, my attention went to soldier’s hand.
In it I spied the spitting image of the vase I’d knocked over.
I thought the soldier would notice the resemblance,
but he didn’t notice the vase on the floor–
even though it was clean and shiny like nothing else in the room.
He put his vase on a shelf with some cobwebby bric-a-brac.
Then he spun, moving back toward the door.
He didn’t get outside before a woman barged in.
She had a lot of hair parked up on top of her head.
She was pretty, except that her skirt went from her armpits to the floor.
She was shouting in Chinese.
I don’t know exactly what she was saying,
but she was angry and her gist was that she wanted the vase.
And it didn’t seem like she just needed to hold some flowers.
Well, the soldier shoved her roughly.
She fell square on her caboose.
He drew the sword, and started shouting back.
His gist was that the vase wasn’t hers anymore.
He pointed the tip of the sword right at her face.
I shouted, but he didn’t hear me any better than he saw me–
my voice like one of those whistles that dogs hear, but people can’t.
I was going to shove him,
but shoving an angry man with a pointy object seemed like a bad idea.
Anyhow, she stood, sobbed, talking less angry and more pleading.
He backed her out the door at sword point.
The door closed to wailing sobs and rattling chains.
It occurred to me then that I was locked in a storehouse for confiscated fancy junk.
I searched my musty new cell up and down.
There were stairs to a loft, and I climbed them.
It was more storage,
but there was a door to bring things up by a pulley that dangled from the ceiling.
But it wasn’t a door, more of a piece of wood cut to cover the opening.
I unlatched it.
It fell smack down onto the head of a green, glassy doggish-liony statue.
The dog-lion’s head broke right off at the neck.
[Establishing that my knack for breaking stuff extends to worlds in which I can’t be seen or heard.]
Anyhow, I looked out to see if I was clear to escape—
forgetting that no one seemed to be able to see me.
There was just the woman—once angry, now sad.
She was kneeling in the mud in her fancy up-to-the-armpits skirt.
She sure was broken up about that vase.
You’d think it was her dog or her granddaddy.
I couldn’t see why she was so upset,
but it only seemed right to give the vase back to her.
So I went and got the vase that the soldier put on the shelf.
[Right then, my plan was to put the vase that came with me in its place, but more on that…]
I couldn’t very well chuck the vase down to her, her all teary-eyed.
So I snagged a small tarp, folded it, and put the vase into the tarp.
Taking the tarp upstairs, I called to the lady.
But she couldn’t hear me—maybe she was just too sobby.
So I took a shard of the lionish-dog’s neck, and winged it in her direction.
The green piece bounced, spattering some mud onto her skirt.
She looked over.
She scurried toward the storehouse, wiping her eyes, when she saw me lowering the vase.
Wouldn’t you know it, that slippery vase shifted in the tarp, falling out the end.
I gasped again, remembering that my superpower worked here,
but the woman caught it, hugging it to her chest.
I dropped her the tarp, and she swaddled the vase in it.
She cradled the vase like a baby,
looking up in my direction, seemingly happy and grateful.
I had to work my nerve up to jump out of that loft,
but figured I should put the other vase in place of the one I’d given away.
I was sick with sad and lonely.
I was stuck in a place where I knew no one and couldn’t speak the language.
Even if I had spoken Chinese, no one could see or hear me.
But an idea formed.
I picked the vase up, and, instead of putting it on the shelf,
I smashed it against the floor.
[blue and white crackly light]
And there I was once again, a tourist in a temple in a far away land,
my fingers barely touching the vase.
I yanked my hand back like that vase was a scalding pot.
Mama said she had something called “temple fatigue.”
So we went for ice cream.
Ice cream is safe.
Ice cream never banished anyone to ancient lands or to an alternate dimension.
At least, I’d like to think that…