It is 1998
And as part of my study abroad
I am working in the rainforest
Trying to save the world
And blessed and humbled by my own private audience
With a king
With an angel
With an angel of death

Looking for jaguars - that was the project
When I was lucky I'd find the treasure of their turds
And I usually wasn't lucky - it was usually just greenery
Insects and snakes
Me loving it all anyway
And then one day I met a king
An angel
An angel of death

Soaring thousands of feet away
Soapfoam white
Floating and coasting like snow - on the equator
Wings motionless
Pulled through the sky by its hunt for death
Its hunt for damaged things
For victims
A King Vulture
Latin - Sarcorhamphus papa
Pure white
Hunting for damaged things
Hunting by smell to find victims
And clean their pain away

Eight feet wide this snowflake
This angel of death, the King Vulture
Coasts through the air as I silently watch
And I sit by a tree older than my hometown
And try to make an entry in my journal
After all the entries about panther turds and damselflies
You cannot pass up an opportunity to write about such a king

But as I sit and get past the entries on snakes, on larvae
On canopy trees and water purification
Someone else comes along and starts writing instead

"Was I abused?" someone else suddenly writes
"In that bathroom? It was real, mostly real, unreal but real."
"What did that do to me?"
"Did it explain this? Does it explain that?"

Nothing important happened in the bathroom
An old memory
Of nothing happening to me
Just something I saw happening
To someone else
Who happened to be me

Someone else is missing the point
Someone else is missing the moment
Someone else will never see a King Vulture in the wild again
Someone else is pouring it all out for the first time
On paper, in 1998
Between my own notes on arthropods and trophic decay
Someone else
Who I saw
Who happened to be me
Writes furiously
For the first time

It's annoying
It's not in the moment
It's not my quiet private time with the living cloud
With the angel of death
With the impossibly big, impossibly pure white King Vulture
Either write about that or write nothing at all
But someone else writes more
About odd behaviors
And fear
I am in the land of the jaguar
I am right to be afraid
But someone else is afraid of something else
Of what happened in the bathroom
What I saw happen to someone else
Who happened to be me

I will write nothing
No one else is allowed either
I watch the king, the angel, soar for hours
Silently judging who lives and who dies
Hunting by smell
For the damaged
For victims
Hunting by smell
For someone else

I kept my journal from 1998
My reports were applauded
Talk of publishing
But I kept it my own
And I never showed the book
To anyone else
My story

"Don't think it hasn't been a little slice of Heaven just because it hasn't!" --Bugs Bunny