Free Euphoria by Lily King

Book: Euphoria by Lily King Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lily King
and not the great swath of time that stretched out perilously after that. I’d have to take them to Lake Tam. Another three hours upriver. Seven hours away from me. My visits, if I made them, would be planned and certainly less frequent. I’d have to stay the night, disrupt their routines. I was ashamed to feel such bald need for these near strangers, and as I sat there in the dark I trained my mind back to my work, though if there was a quicker way back to suicidal thoughts, I did not know it. But earlier in the day, I’d had another conversation with Nell about the Wai, and as we talked I had the idea that perhaps through this ceremony I could tell the story of the Kiona. I had hundreds of pages of notes, but I wasn’t any closer to a full understanding of it. Once elaborate and in celebration of a boy’s first homicide, the Wai ceremony was performed infrequently now, no longer to recognize a killing but in honor of any sort of young male’s accomplishment: first fish caught, first boar speared, first canoe built. Many firsts in the past two years had passed unacknowledged, however, and though I was often promised another Wai soon, soon never seemed to come.
    I shut my eyes and remembered the ceremony as I had witnessed it. It had been during my first month and I’d been sitting with the women—I was often put with the women in large gatherings, along with the children and the mentally ill. To my left was Tupani-Kwo, one of the oldest women of the village. I managed to ask her a few questions, but I hadn’t understood many of her answers. It was chaotic. The father and uncles of the boy being celebrated came out first, in dirtytattered skirts and strings around their bellies like pregnant women wore. They hobbled along together as if they were sick or dying. The women came next, wearing male headdresses and necklaces made of homicidal ornaments and large orange penis gourds strapped around their genitals. They carried the men’s lime boxes and pushed the notched lime sticks in and out to make a loud noise and to show off the swinging tassels which hung from the end of the sticks, each one representing a past murder. The women walked tall and proud, appearing to enjoy the role. The boy and a few of his friends ran to them with big walking sticks and the women put down their lime boxes, took the sticks, and beat the men until they ran away.
    I crept quietly back to get my notebook and citronella candle. Fen and Nell were dark lumps, hanging in their hammocks. Back in my spot in the doorway, I wrote about my most recent conversation with Tupani-Kwo about that day. I was surprised by the energy I suddenly had for it. The thoughts came fast, and I caught them, stopping only once to sharpen my pencil with a penknife. I thought of Nell’s euphoria and nearly laughed out loud. This little rush of words was the closest I’d come to any sort of elation in the field.
    Behind me the stiff fibers of a hammock creaked and Nell came and sat beside me, her bare feet on the top rung of the ladder. She did have all ten toes.
    ‘I can’t sleep if someone else is working,’ she said.
    ‘Done.’ I closed the notebook.
    ‘No, please, continue. It’s also soothing.’
    ‘I was waiting for more words. I don’t think they were coming.’
    She laughed.
    ‘What’s funny?’ I said.
    ‘You keep reminding me of things.’
    ‘Tell me.’
    ‘It’s just a story my father likes to repeat. I have no memory of it. He says at three or four I had a big tantrum and locked myself in my mother’s closet. I tore down her dresses and kicked her shoes all around, and made a terrible amount of noise, then there was absolute silence for a long time. “Nellie?” my mother said. “Are you all right?” and apparently I said, “I’ve spit on your dresses and I’ve spit on your hats and now I’m waiting for more spit.” ’
    I laughed. I could see her with a round red face and a wild thicket of hair.
    ‘I promise that’s the last Nell

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