53. “America is the land of uncried tears.”
52. She was this Indian girl ten years younger than me. I met her when she came into the gas station I worked at. She’d been adopted by white Christian parents, had a lot of problems, talked about what she’d really like to have someday. She started coming in almost every night, then she started coming back with me to my apartment and staying over almost every night. It was wintertime. We’d walk back to my place, take off all our clothes and quickly get in bed together, getting close and rubbing each other to warm up. We’d watch old episodes of Fear Factor on her phone. It was good for a couple months and then I had to end it. “I’ll tell everyone you abused me and I’ll raise our ugly half-breed baby myself!” she said. I never hurt her or anyone in my life; later, she’d tell me that she wasn’t ever really pregnant. “I’m sorry,” her little note to me said, “I know it’ll take a long time but I hope that one day we can be friends again and that one day you’ll trust me again too.”
51. This old guy who I used to pal around and go to ceremony with went back to drinking and became homeless and we eventually had a falling out. He came into my gas station one morning, drunk, to apologize, making a scene in front of my boss and all my customers. He’d brought me a copy of In the Spirit of Crazy Horse but I told him that I didn’t want it. His parting words were, “You may be a big deal inside this store but out there in the real world you have no idea who I am. And when we meet up again out there you’re going to learn something and you’re not going to like it.” When he left I took the book (I’ve never done this before and promise that I’ll never do it again) and threw it away.
50. Driving back from Bismarck after taking the kids to the movies, to WalMart, and out to eat, Denny says, “The spirits told Crow Dog he’s going to live to be 98 years old but the way he’s getting around, he looks like he’s probably ready to go now.”
49. My grandpas only met each other once.
I must’ve been about ten and my dad brought my grandpa up to Belden to visit for a couple hours.
Both men were Veterans. My grandpa Zach had been in WWII and my grandpa Taylor had been in the Korean War.
The four of us sat around the TV and talked (I mostly listened of course).
I just remember this kind of slightly deferential respect my grandpa Taylor seemed to feel towards my grandpa Zach, like he was talking with a good man of a higher rank.
Both of my grandpas came to me in dreams for years after they passed.
Heading up North I’d always stop at their graves if I had time, close my eyes and talk to them, tell them what was going on with our family, tell them what was going on with myself, and cry.
One year at the powwow my grandpa Taylor told me, “You love your family no matter what. Whether they’re on drugs or an alcoholic, you love them no matter what.”
One powwow just him and I were sitting on this picnic table together and he started singing, quietly.
“Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa,” he sang. “Is she real or is she mine…?”
48. A dream I had a long time ago-
I’m babysitting my friend’s kids when this old Indian woman comes into the living room.
Come on, she tells me. But I’m watching my friend’s kids, I say. Come on, she says, they’ll be all right.
We leave the living room we’re in and start going down a series of hallways until we come to this big open space that’s like a cross between a campus Union and a mall’s food court. I follow her through the people there to a bench where she sits down and starts talking to me.
Pretty soon, she says, they’re going to offer you two paths. One, she says, goes like this, and then she draws this straight line in the air with her hand. The other one, she says, goes like this, and then she makes this zigzag down through the air with her hand.
Your best bet, she says, is going to be for you to go like this, and now she makes a line in the air with her hand that makes me think of a zipper, that crisscrosses and goes over both options in a best-of-both-worlds sort of way. Right away I get it, at least part of it anyway.
Then, since I have this ancestor who’s giving me some heads up on my future, I decide to ask her a question. But what about love, I say, when is that going to come my way? Not just sex and sleeping together but real, deep love? When am I going to get some of that?
She starts laughing like suddenly she’s just human and doesn’t know anything more than me or anyone else. Geeze, she says, I don’t know about that; I’m not a fortune teller!
Slightly bummed and frustrated, I start to feel the dream coming to an end, losing its integrity. The old woman fades before my eyes, slow, like can only happen in a vision. I get up and go walking. I come to a class that’s about to start. It’s taking place inside a church but all the pews that’re supposed to be inside are weirdly on the outside, set up around the closed front doors. The other students are milling around. I join them and then wake up.
47. After going out with this beautiful half-Argentinian girl that I’d had a sort of crush on for years, I sent her a text, “Are you still up?”
“I am,” she replied back.
“What are you doing?”
A moment passed; I sat on my living room floor thinking about her, about our perfect night, about her face, her body, her lovely green eyes.
“I’m singing a song.”
“The Only Living Boy in New York by Simon and Garfunkel.”
I reached over and grabbed my laptop, found the song and started playing it.
“I’d love to hear you sing that song sometime.”
“I’ll sing it for you!”
“Perfect. I’m looking forward to it!”
“Great! Me too!”
46. I’d never seen sage before.
At twenty-one my friend and I walked up to where my dad and his friend were sitting by our tent on the powwow grounds. He cupped his pipe in his hand (he and his old prison buddy were smoking weed). “You guys should go and get us some sage from up in the buffalo pasture,” he said. “What’s it look like?” I asked. He and his friend described it. Me and my friend looked at each other, nodded. “All right, we’ll be back in a little bit.”
We hopped the fence, followed the dirt road up past the sweatlodge, found our way to the small lake, identified the sage, ripped out and collected a big armful of it. “Are you sure this is it?” my friend asked. “It looks like it,” I said, shrugging.
We went back down to my dad and his friend. They started laughing. “Shit, that’s not sage. It looks like…”
On our second attempt we found the sage, gathered up a shitload. We brought a bunch of it back with us to Columbus, let it dry out in my friend’s garage. “What do you think’ll happen if we smoke it?” my friend asked. “Shit, I don’t know.”
My friend and I smoking sage in his kitchen, really hitting it hard, coughing and laughing, looking at each other like we sure were a couple of dumbasses but at least now we knew what sage was!
Putting the sage away and then never smoking it again…
45. I wake up early one morning at the Sundance up in Crow Creek, wander over to the fire, and grab a chair. My cousin Dennis, much older, an ex-con, gifted singer of every kind of song and guitar player, the guy who invited me to come Sundance with him, soon follows, grabbing a chair right across from me. He gets to talking, really gets going, like he’s an aspiring politician without a chance performing for an audience of bemused street kids; I listen, so young that that’s about all I know how to do. Then Aida, the Colombian girlfriend of one of our leaders, a thin, shy, dark-haired beauty, comes over and joins us, joins me in listening to Dennis lord up his take on everything. He keeps going and going and then I see this sudden widening of Aida’s eyes -the look of surprise at the unchecked obscene- and without a word she gets up and leaves. Dennis continues on and I apply my Sherlock skills and try to see what she must’ve saw and then I see that Dennis has had a blowout in the crotch of his shorts and that his two nuts are sticking out, like a tiny dark fist, just present there between his legs for all the world to see. “Dennis,” I say, looking down and pointing, “I think that’s why Aida just left.” He looks down. “Jesus, brother!” We both start laughing, turning into a big croaking blob of indestructible nutsack Sundance laughter that’ll last for days. “I’m gonna have to borrow some shorts from you, brother. These are the only ones that I brought and I can’t be walking around letting everyone see what big daddy has, you know what I mean? Uda! Uuuudaaaa!!!”
44. Dennis and I driving to a sweat, me staring ahead, navigating rush hour traffic, him carrying on and holding court. “I’m never getting a ride from that sucker again. I called him the other day and he picked up the phone and said, ‘Brother, I’ve just gotten out of the shower and my pecker is ready for a good Saturday night.’ I told him not to ever talk to me about his pecker again. Jesus. There’s something wrong with that guy. Really, I think he wants to do a lot more than just occasionally give me a ride to the sweat when I need one, you know what I mean, brother?”
I never know what stories of Dennis’ to believe and what ones to just immediately chuck out the window.
“Yeah,” I say, cracking up a little at the way he’s painting this possibly imaginary conversation with this other tough-ass Indian. “I don’t know what’s up with that. That’s crazy.”
43. Dennis: “That was the most powerful Sundance I’ve ever been to, brother.”
Dennis the next year: “That was the most powerful Sundance I’ve ever been to, brother.”
Dennis the year after that: “That was the most powerful Sundance I’ve ever been to, brother. They just don’t make em’ like that anymore. Not even close.”
42. I helped this old guy named Myron Longsoldier with his sweat for about ten years. Myron was a true elder; when he prayed the whole stream of his words crackled with the deepest humility, a quality of humility I don’t think I’ve ever heard in anyone else’s voice when they’ve prayed. When I first started sweating with him he’d say, “When the level of humility is right then we’ll do the healing round.” After awhile he quit saying this, quit doing this; I don’t know why.
One time about two years ago, when we were sitting by the fire waiting for the rocks to cook, I asked him, “How long do you think it’ll take for the majority of this pain and trauma to heal up inside our people, so that it’s not defining us so much anymore? Fifty years, a hundred?”
Myron, always gentle and thoughtful in his manner, like to speak always entailed him having to come back from some great spiritual distance where he was lonesomely doing things for our people, answered me back in a way that kind of took me by surprise.
“Cliff,” he said, “I don’t think we’re ever going to be healed from what has happened to us. I think it’s going to be like this forever.”
I sat back and looked into the fire, expecting a levelheaded timetable to work into my own thoughts, not this message of our pain being something inescapable and permanent.
“Hmm,” I said, half to him, half to myself. “Really?”
By Cliff Taylor
Read “66 Things I’ve Experienced As An Indian part 1” here
Cliff Taylor is an enrolled member of the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska. He has written a book on Native spirituality, The Memory of Souls, a book of short stories about the stand for water in Standing Rock, Standing Rock Stories, and a memoir about coming-of-age in Nebraska, Special Dogs, all of which are unpublished. His dream is to see those books in print and to use his words to help his people. He currently resides in New Orleans, where he is hard at work on his next book. Contact Cliff @firstname.lastname@example.org