I Am/You Are

By Nadine Nakagawa


We fly a purple butterfly-shaped kite down at the riverfront on an overcast day. The tail of the kite dances and whips in the breeze, translating the patterns of wind for us. We lie down on the grass, the kite spool held in your hand above your chest. It is warmer out of the breeze and I can almost hear the story of the wind in the fluttering tail of the kite. I’m thirty-eight and you’re forty-three. 


Standing on the mountainside in Rajasthan, looking into the sunset toward Afghanistan and smoking clove-flavored cigarillos. The scrubby brush is friendly, and the soft evening breeze offers a massage on our bare arms and suntanned faces. The stars blink on, one by one, and by the time we have to leave darkness has blanketed us. Driving back along the dirt mountain road, the lights of the car short out and we use the flashlights on our phones to cut through the richness of the evening to show us a path. I’m thirty-two and you’re thirty-eight.


On land stolen from the Tla-o-qui-aht and Nuu-chah-nulth, I’m sick in a tent. I drank too much while sitting on a salt-bleached log on the beach and now am dizzy and nauseated. I said no to taking off more clothes, but you still slide my underwear down to my ankles. I’m sixteen and you’re twenty.


Walking home from dinner we drown in the chorus of insects. The warm darkness presses up against our skin as we avoid stepping on the path of ants carrying leaf shields above their heads, going into battle. In the glow of the streetlight, we see a sloth holding both her baby and the limb of a tree, casual-like. I’m thirty-six and you’re fifty-nine.


On a rented Vespa, we chase the sunset. Santorini stretches out before us like exposed coral, reflecting the stars. My hair flicks into my face from between the straps of my helmet. Goosebumps dot my exposed shoulders and back, deeply tanned from a day of swimming in the Aegean Sea. I can still feel the heat of the black lava rocks on the bottoms of my feet, scorched. I’m twenty-two and you’re twenty-five.


On a long walk through many neighborhoods we hear the buzz of hummingbird wings, then the sharp peep of a potential suitor’s tail as he dive-bombs a prospective mate. We stop to watch the show: the hummingbird rises like a helicopter, high into the air before swooping faster than the eye can follow. We meander onto a rocky beach to see an otter popping its head up among the waves. We climb up to an old observatory and perch on a rock, looking over the city and the path we’ve taken to get here. It’s a warm day in February, and I’m thirty-seven. You’re thirty-nine.

Nadine Nakagawa is an organizer, activist, intersectional feminist, creative writer, social justice fairy, and city councillor living in British Columbia. She co-owns a consulting business called Ablaze Services and is the co-founder of the Feminist Campaign School. When not working on community projects, Nadine delights in patches of wildflowers, wears flower crowns and dresses that encourage twirling, and can be found hugging trees. You can follow her on Instagram: @NadineNakagawa and on Twitter: @NadineNakagawa.

Photo by Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash