Trilha Sonora Desert
1. Galaxy Around Olodumare – Alice Coltrane
2. Only Him or Me – Townes Van Zandt
3. Polly Vaughn – Shirley Collins
4. Reynardine – Shirley Collins and Davy Graham
5. Thank you Master (For My Soul) – Donny Hathaway
The winter air here is refreshing and rejuvenating, not cold and bleak like where I came from. Sitting in the garage with all the old caboclos and the afternoon sun casting long shadows on the other side of the street. Every week I understand a little more of what is happening here. To my back a hundred clashing colored objects scattered across a few tables and workbenches, in front of me a midday feast of camaraderie and spontaneous bursts of song. No, that’s not right. Nothing is spontaneous. Every motion, every note, every spun rhyme emerges from a center just out of reach. The object of our inner gaze a moving target blurring around the edges. Unreachable by incontinent prose like this.
Every morning I climb the cobblestone hill outside my house and try with titan effort not to think of that day in February that will always be a winter day no matter how warm the sun, of climbing the cut stone pathways away from the endless frantic party down below, trying to put a call through on that damned telephone with nobody at the other end.
How to enter this world of hers whose proximity mocks me, shining a pale light on the social distance that separates us. She walks into a room and voices grow quiet, eyes turn; she dances across continents and oceans as if they were city blocks, while I have trouble deciding which bus to take. I remember well my friend’s cold advice trying to snap me back to the reality of the moment, “Aren’t you being a little egotistical thinking you could satisfy a woman like that, that she would be happy with just you, in this world full of opportunities and futures and men falling over her.” I was agonized over a thousand enumerated and itemized hurts cataloged on scraps of paper covering the desk, the floor, the windowpanes, yellowing with age as soon my pen leaves the page. I was agonized and jealous of all the friends and webs of relationships, the busy schedules that left no place for someone new. She thinks I am antisocial because she believes my friends to all be phantoms that I created in my excess of leisure and sloth, characters of fancy with which I’ve populated my sickening sentimental landscape, with unlikely names like “Bruno” and “Bertrand” or “Esteban”, people she has never seen, will never see, hell I barely see them and perhaps never will again. I am sick of this transient life. Are these nomadic manias the bedrock that blocks my putting down roots? But would that, too, be a lie, a way to disguise the twisted gardener in my breast who plants seeds that cannot grow, who rips loose the fruit of his own labors and throws them to the ground in sadistic, angry spasms of his arms, twitching free the soil and tendons of vegetative life. Would I just be dressing him up in a uniform to disguise his purpose – the landscape artist is also the undertaker in this half-acre of heaven. He has salted the earth and stands with shrugged shoulders when I ask him why there is no harvest this year, both of us knowing the useless conceits that led us here. Helpless to do otherwise in our lockstep dance of St.John, the scarecrow gardener and I.
Time passes so quickly and yet barely at all. Nothing much changes but I feel older all the time.
I am at the terminal waiting for the bus to leave with a few thousand dollars hidden in a duffle-bag under my seat. I chose my place carefully by process of elimination, using the number of cockroaches in each row as my criterion. I ended up in the second to last row which, while seemingly bereft of cockroaches, was terribly close to the rear entrance and guaranteed that sleep would be difficult on this trip. Probably just as well given my cargo of contraband and cash. I will have to pass through two more terminals before I get to where I’m going. I wonder if today is the day I get robbed, knifed in the gut, left bleeding like a stuck pig in my shabby but roachless bus seat. The thought does not bother me much. We do what we can to avoid that knife but it is coming someday nonetheless. I think back to that day years ago, so many years ago it feels like a different life, taking a Greyhound bus from Tuscon, Arizona, to Lexington. Crossing the Sonora Desert with an ounce of cheap Mexican brick weed stuffed in a backpack inside of a hollowed-out perfumed candle. The bus being stopped in the middle of the night by border patrolmen somewhere near El Paso, who boarded and walked slowly down the aisle and back again looking for anything suspicious. But anyone riding a bus though the middle of the damn desert looks suspicious. I wondered if they were real border patrol. You used to hear stories in those days of buses and cars being stopped by guys in uniforms they’d bought at some military supply store, who flash an ID at the drivers so quick they have no time to ask questions. I thought of that as they took two guys off the bus; I wondered if they would ever be seen again, on either side of the border. One looked like a teenager, the other a rather grizzled desert rat, both of them of the indeterminate physiognamy that results from living in the scorched terrain of arid places that produces men and women who belong to no nation or race.
I realized lately that I like a woman in uniform. I want to become part of her world some way. Any way. Everything about her is too exquisite, too good for me, so naturally refined and unselfconsciously grace filled. Of course I idealize her, I worship her because I don’t really know her, because she is unknowable. The gap between ideal and actual are meaningless in these moments of complete abandonment, leaving everything to the sketches of a courtroom artist. She can be a customs officer, an architect, a journalist, a gardener, a soldier, a designer, a revolutionary, a pacifist, an athlete, a head of state, a head of household. She asks me what I do – what do I do? Such a simple question and my stammering holds absolutely no conviction. An hour later I think of a thousand clever and charming ways to answer her questions and attempts at conversation with me, writing them down on napkins and scraps of stray paper to cover the desk, the floor, the kitchen table. Was she asking because she really wanted to know or because at that moment there was nothing better to do? Is there really much difference anyway between the two, is it not the epitome of false-modest-hubris to even ask the question? Is she thinking about the message she received on her telephone just now, waiting to be read, or perhaps of two hours ago when some guy asked her for her number. It’s none of your damn business, you know. The narcissist with a heart of gold. You useless fuck, rationalizing away your inability to assume your place in this mechanistic modernity, as if the universe gave one distracted shit whether or not you could make casual conversation with an intelligent and beautiful woman.
Why is the air so heavy in here? It is difficult to breath, as if I am suddenly ten thousand meters above the earth in the space of a heartbeat. “What is your focus?” The words leave her full, sensuous mouth with the turbid slowness of sap from an overripe mango. They move across the room towards me as I press myself tightly against the sofa, hoping to avoid their impact in my eardrums, feeling like my chest might explode at this altitude.
What is your focus? My eyes glaze over. No focus, no, just a generalized glossing of all that comes across my path. The alchemists of another time would transmute all this dross and detritus to the white light of gnosis, scorching out the impurities in a crucible of awareness, penetrating insights and the marriage of the sun and moon. But not me. I can only reduce them to their most simplistic, banal caricatures. Random stones I found along the way because their shape caught my eye gleaming in some particular way that reminded me of you. Bits of string and ribbon and glass beads, anything your fingers might have touched in your passage through that brief time. I am a guest in your house and you have no idea how many months I’ve waited to be this close, separated by rooms and hallways and windows painless and mute.
The winter rains bring a respite from the heat. The air here is not so cold it burns your lungs. Not like where I came from. The skies here are not bleak. From where, then, does it find its entrance?