“Hello.” I pick the phone.
“This is Lori. Always Flowers. To let you know that our agent is on the way to deliver flowers…”
“She has already delivered it. Thanks.” I say to Always Flowers representative.
“No Madam. Another one is on the way.”
The door bell rings.
“Hold on a minute. Someone’s at the door.”
With all the snow and ice out there, who can it be? I put my eye on the
peep-hole. A man with a bouquet of flowers. He’s in brown uniform.
“From Always Flowers.”
I verify with the representative on the phone, and then open the door. Cold
air smacks my face and wraps my body. The dull February sky confronts my eyes. I frown, but quickly manage a smile.
“Thanks.” My hand trembles as I receive the bouquet, so I hold it with both
hands, hugging it on my chest so that it does not fall.
“Are you alright?’
“Sure,” I say to Sand without thinking. I now think about my shaking hands as he runs to his car. He is running because of the cold. Maybe my hands shake because of the cold.
With all the flowers adorning my room, there is hardly a space for this new
arrival. One of my Valentines sent twenty four roses. At this winter time?
Unbelievable! But it happened to me. Then what? I see roses everywhere; on the center table, on top of the fridge, on the dinning table, on the toilet tank. I walk around the room with roses in my heart.
I smell roses in my heart,
Like it has never been hurt.
But roses without thorns,
Have never been borne.
With roses in my eyes, I am blind to the wet eyes of the sky as I close my
door and step onto the icy ground. I am slow, so as not to trip and fall, as I make my way to my little office in Lindquist Hall of Wichita State University. I open my computer to record this romantic chapter in the long story of my encounter with the Mid West. I open the file, but it is going. Yes. The story is departing right in front of my eyes, like it never existed. My heart does a somersault. It’s like I hear the ikoro sound, but the huge drum is not here in Kansas. It is far away across the Atlantic, so the sound can only be in my imagination. I hurry out of my office. I see a young woman dragging a back-pack full of books.
I pull her. I drag her. (“Crazy old woman!” She rolls her eyes, I imagine).
She follows me all the same with her bag slowing us down.
“You should’ve saved it,” she says.
(“That’s the first thing you learn in Introduction to Computer 100, isn’t it?” I think and roll my eyes, for real).
She clicks on ‘save’. But the words are going. The lines disappear. Paragraphs quit, without anyone pressing ‘delete.’ She tries to use the file method to save it. The pages are going. Tears invade my eyes. She runs with her bag dragging behind her.
“Are you deserting me, Tula?” I say as her bag disappears by the corner. Only now do I remember her name. She is a student from the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma. She is famous in our Women In Culture class, because of her view on whether to spend a lot of money to salvage the desert or leave it in its chaos since we live very far from it. She said that, “A parched land flowers into abundance and abundance into scarcity, as the cycle connects all in a spider’s web.” We laughed it off as a metaphor from an abstract mind, but I remembered this proverb each time I met her. Right now, it has a new meaning for me in my peril. One moment she’s here sharing the tragedy and I feel the connection, but now she is gone like my file and I feel abandoned in my desert. Can this ever connect me to something good, as her proverb says?
If only I can get back my file. But I can’t stand here and do nothing. I need to find another help. I move, but I turn back at the door. Telephone will do it. I pick up the phone, but hold it.
My eyes hit a poster on the wall: “Children of Iraq.” It gazes at me. I blink. We used it to raise money for war orphans. I gaze back at the poster. My eyes seem to be glued on the poster, as if I am seeing it for the first time. The word ‘children’ triggers a smile as I imagine chubby happy faces. I visualize children at a feast in their parents’ house.
“Munmmy, I want game-boy for my birthday.”
“I wan’ cake with all colors in the whole world.”
War descends on children of Iraq.
In one second the fiesta becomes a dirge,
For bodies bloody and houses smashed.
Summer funeral confirms new orphans.
“Are you okay?” Tula and her bag are back. My gaze shifts from the poster to my computer, and to Tula’s bag “with hard copies of her data,” I imagine.
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine. Just looking at the poster.”
“Children of Iraq. They’ll be okay.” She says. “Your computer will also be
okay. I’ve got hold of CE.”
“He’s on the way.” She says.
CE arrives. That’s the Computer Expert. There is hope. The guru is here. I
notice that tears are running down my cheeks. My hands tremble again. This is incongruous. With CE here to take charge, why should I cry?
“I’ll fix it.” He begins to debug.
“How long will it take?”
“A while.” CE says. His voice is businesslike. My heart misses a beat. I feel an urgency to update my story as soon as possible because my valentine mood is vanishing, but not as quickly as the lines and paragraphs did before my eyes. Tears still run down my face as I watch CE at work. I follow the movement of his fingers, and anticipate good news, but CE is not communicative. He does not look at my tear-filled face. His eyes are on the monitor. I also watch the monitor, hoping that my file will pop up on the screen. I hold my breath. My heart beats fast. I have to leave this place!
I step out of the hall into the slippery ground of misty midday. I count the gritting sound of my navy boots as they make contact with the ice; something to keep my mind away from thinking about the possibility of CE’s failure. I make my way to Rhatigan Student’s Center. There is so much noise here. The restaurant must be full; I can hear the sound of cutlery. Students are seated by the fireplace; holding books to give the impression that they are reading. What the hell am I doing here snooping at fellow students? I make my way back. This time I try to concentrate on the trees and count the number of branches that were broken by the load of ice.
On entering the hall, I hear the good news that my computer is okay, but needs a clean out. So people heard my bad news? Now, they also know the good news. I phone Valentine and almost wish that I did not.
“Tell me when they recover your files from the computer,” he laughs.
I do not laugh. He stops laughing.
“I hope that you have back-up,” he says.
“You think that CE will not recover my story!”
“It sounds like an evil worm attacked your computer. That kind of worm has
more destructive capacity than the largest army you can imagine. Its
technology is demonic.”
“I don’t need a lesson on the profile of a computer worm!”
“They attack the system not just a file. Their aim is to destroy all the files with one action on the system,” he says.
“Only one file was affected. Not the system!”
“I hope so. I really hope so. Let’s talk about back-up.”
I lost everything. There is a lot of investigation on the attack and
destruction of the computer. The particular virus was identified as the
grandson of Mydoom Demon on a vendetta against Microsoft. I do not have any
dealings with Microsoft. He is not one of my Valentines. I don’t even know
whether he is a man or a machine. All I know is that the university spends a lot of money on Microsoft. Why the demon would choose this particular computer that has my documents is what I cannot understand. The investigation reveals that Mydoom came with his Love and a massive arsenal. That was why the operation on my computer was quick and massive. While he poisoned the system, his Love hijacked my email address and ran with it. I don’t know what she will do with it. I hope that she doesn’t use my name to commit crimes. I have reported the matter to the police. They said it is a kind of identity theft; that I should inform my bank about it as well. I lost everything. My peace, years of work, of class notes, of creative inspiration. Years of trusting technology. “I lost everything” becomes a refrain on my brain.
My heart lurches into a summersault. Roses disappear and weeds take over.
Even weeds are better than nothing. You can cut and use them as manure.
Back in my little apartment, I make to flip on the bed and have a good cry,
but the flowers seem to wave at me. I begin to gather them; all of them on the reading table by the window. They look like a crowd of cheering fans. I stand beside them, on the bowel of mother earth, and stare into the bald head of the sky, and hear counsels buried in the hard drive of my brain. I remember that as a young girl, the notebook where I recorded our teacher’s lectures, ideas from books, and my own comments. My notebook was popular with my class colleagues. But one day, it got missing. I told my father to pray for its recovery.
“Aka kwara aku ka aka ji aku.” He said.
“Papa. I don’t want to learn onomatopoeia now. I want my notebook.”
“The hand that wove wealth is better than the hand that holds wealth.” He
translated the Igbo proverb for me. My father died a long time ago. Why does this incident come up? Igbo is far away in West Africa. Why is the proverb coming up in America?
I pick up the phone to talk with my mother across the Atlantic. I stare at the piece of technology in my hand. I know that Mamma will ask, “Is the romance with technology really worth it?” I don’t dial her number. I think. My father’s onomatopoeia now makes a lot of sense. I created the wealth in my computer. I am better than the demon that holds it in its evil clutch. The human will is tougher than the adversary. I drop the phone and pick up my pen to prove it. It has been a long time since I used a pen.
I begin by sketching the tree beside my window and modifying it as the weather changes. There are sketches without the moon and sketches with emerging sun. Now I have sketches with the smiling sun. It has taken a long time to get used to writing with my hands. I now enjoy the action of creating meaning with symbols that I make on the paper.
I stretch on the belly of Mother Earth, the widest part of her body with
little trees and little hills. I sketch a poster titled, “Children of the
Future.” I draw their willpower like a rose with thorns. I inhale the air of corn flowers and think about it all. “Papa, Mama, notes, Valentine, the
children, computer and all, are roses in my heart. Roses live with thorns, so I must live with the reality of having thorns in my heart. Abundance and
scarcity are really connected, as Tula said.” My pen pushes on:
The ruins of all kinds of war,
In our heart, our house, and all,
Hold memories and strengths,
That’ll push us to higher grounds.