Saturday, August 4, 2012

If our lives consist of thought, in the strictest sense of that term, then very few of us are alive. Fortunately, we have the senses to distract us, to wave us on past the fencerow and toward the entrance that looks as if it were transplanted from a region where stone is plentiful and cheap, but where the residents are sick and tired of being told what to do by the rich owners of the quarries. Everywhere I turn a sickly sweet scent like lavender, only without the unpleasant associations loaded on lavender’s back by its historical place in both literature and film, assaults my nostrils, makes me wish I hadn’t strayed into this part of the country thinking I was straying into another. Getting lost is something we do when we don’t know how to read maps or determine for ourselves what is floating about in the night sky above our heads, which is no easy task, believe me, even after you have been trained. Perhaps this is why I try to keep my eyes pointed straight ahead and a little to the left so as not to run the risk of glimpsing something that calls out to be deciphered. It’s not that I resent landmarks and souvenirs, not that I am looking to establish strict philosophical principles in a landscape where even the standing cactus plants refuse to take on human shape in the moonlight. It’s just that our time is so limited and the distances to be covered so great! If, upon arrival, you stand directly in front of the gate, a series of electronic beeps and noises greets you but nothing happens. You could stand there all day. Fortunately I have some rope and an idea how to use it, an idea derived no doubt from reading too many Zane Grey westerns when I worked at a desk in a cubicle on one floor of a building where, as near as I could tell,  everyone else was doing the same thing. I thought, after a mere month or so, that I would be forced to pull my own fingernails out if someone didn’t come along and do it for me. I didn’t really know what their motivation might be, but I certainly knew mine, and at that time I rarely separated the two. On the other side of the gate, as you might have expected, a garden, a carefully cultivated oasis stretches away to the left and the right and when I bend to take a drink from the spring in the middle that seems to make the whole thing possible, someone shoves a gun in my face. Mistaken identity says the woman dressed almost entirely in black once I have put my hands in the air and she laughs as if I have just repeated my most clever memory (or joke or story or all of the above) from the past involving someone sitting on a rocking chair on the deck of an ocean liner in the middle of the ocean and moving her hands as the deck itself pitches and rolls, moves her hands in such a way that you can’t tell if she is trying to keep her balance, or if perhaps she is blind or simply requesting something from you each time you pass. Chopsticks. A watch with a leather band. If you stop to clarify, to ask her directly what it is she is up to, she waves you away with a barely audible grunt, as if your very existence disturbs her. As if she wished you would be so kind as to vanish immediately down the same ladder or peach-colored hallway from which you originally emerged.

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