Years ago, when I was deep in relationship with my first love, who would die three years after this story, I was a hummingbird living in an intoxicating city. Even the smell of the exhaust fumes of the cars thrilled me, it was all heady – the museums, the history, the concrete and the sizzling dance clubs.
I slipped into life then as one might slip into a silk dress that loves every curve of your body.
Only my love’s hands and his sea blue eyes could stop me from moving, as I went from restaurant to dinner party, to meetings to laughter, to South America and England.
One day my love challenged me to stop.
Stop what, I said, applying lip gloss and searching my closet for black high heels, Louie Armstrong crooning us on the record player in the background.
Just stop, he said, unbuttoning as I buttoned. I’m going to take you to an island where nothing is happening.
Oh, I said, putting tissue paper on my too bright lips, there is nowhere in the world where nothing is happening, I replied, thinking I was so wise at twenty years around the sun.
So he challenged me to four days with him on a deserted island, and he chose a tiny island in the Bahamas.
Though hummingbirds prefer to travel alone, I said yes.
To get there, we had to take one big airplane, followed by two small planes that landed on thin strips of land with crashed airplanes on each side of the runways, making even a woman with wings nervous.
Finally, we took a small a boat ride to our destination – a tiny island, where we rented a small home on the ocean with a gray boat docked beside it.
And I was happy, and so was my love, in that blue home with a small front porch and red Bougainvillea draped across it. He watched me read J.D. Salinger and Alice Walker, and marvel at the island flora.
We walked across the island that was just a few miles by a mile wide and met the only teacher, her small schoolhouse, the tiny store that sold gum and candy and popsicles (we brought our own groceries on the boat).
We made love and took the boat out on the blue-green bay and dove into waves and swam naked on beaches where we never saw another person.
And I got restless.
And after two days, when I had read all the books I brought and was tapping my fingers on the coffee table looking for a way back to the city, there was a knock on our door.
The man who brought us by boat had a radio and told us a hurricane was coming, and we should leave. He left the radio with us to help us decide, but he was leaving in the morning, and after that, we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere.
I was saved by the knock on the door.
I thought I had won the bet – he thought I lost it.
We declared a tie as we packed my sundresses and books and sandals. I also packed the ocean air, the night sky, the heady perfume of the frangapani flower and candy from the local store.
Hummingbirds can fly backward, and we took the journey in reverse the next morning, and landed back in the city of culture and exhaust fumes and jazz and theatre, where I could slip my heels back onto my sandy feet.
But that small island lived inside me all those years, just as that man lives inside me still, and twenty years later, I found Kauai.
That city girl is still alive and well, though I’m calling in a move that takes me farther and farther from city, where silence is ocean waves and water moving over rocks and chickens and toads. Where I have to drive my car to get groceries, and every day I can run the beach.
Sometimes it takes a hummingbird years to find their spot, only to find it’s been living inside them all along.
I am still moving fast, just in a different way.