American dispatches

30 October 2011, 11pm, between Philadelphia and D.C.

There is an intimacy to the last row of a tiny puddle jumper in the dark of night, the arm rest up, a loveseat.  Me and the boy with the big knees, who smelled like fresh-air and rouged cheeks.  Sitting so close, I memorized his knees and shoes, his fingers turning the pages of his book, but I never saw his face.

1 November 2011, Washington, D.C.

We walked to a bar in Bethesda, crossing state lines, following a main thoroughfare, not a highway but the type of road found in suburbs that serves as a highway and causes a lot of traffic.  Even this late in the evening the traffic was bad, people on their way home from work, eager for a meal or sleep.  In the dark it was easy to make out the shape of a white stag galloping the length of grass hemmed in between a chain-link fence and the road.  It ran at top speed, bucking its considerable crown, maybe an 8-pointer, trying to figure a way into the preserve on the other side of the chain-link.  I don’t know where it came from, but on our walk back from the bar, hours later, it was still running.  I was worried that it would get tired and frustrated and accidentally run into the road.  The traffic persisted.

4 November 2011, sundown, Charlotte, NC

Watching from the plane the autumnal blush of the northeast, the paved tongues unfurling in front of homes in planned communities, the beautiful detritus of haphazard cemeteries, littered with broken graves, small but distinguishable from the air. The red sun marking the difference between the pink below and the blue above, setting the clouds on fire.  A sunset so simply wrought, like a piece of art in a hotel room, but alive, something you expect you won’t see again in just that same way. Which is probably what impressed the painter.  Anyway, something I would not have seen but for the geographic mess of re-routing.  And then through the clouds it was gone.  A fleeting glimpse settled into dark.  When I think again of Charlotte, I’ll probably forget I’ve seen anything of it.

9 Nov. 2011, Nashville

After so many hours spent in airports and in planes, all of these cities and towns, destinations, Denver, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Providence, have become little more than a name on a map to me, measurable by the two hours it takes to get there, which could be five, which could be 50 minutes.  On one hand, it reduces every city to the letters in its name, robbing it of what makes it unique.  But on the other, it makes me feel somehow closer to them all, makes them feel realizable.  I sat next to a woman from Wilmington, an Evangelical man from Nashville, a man who works for the government from Lafayette, CA, a businessman from San Antonio, a doctor from Toledo, a young man from India, reading in Hindi.  Everywhere is possible.

2 December 2011, Ft. Lauderdale, FL & Houston, TX

It seemed that everyone we encountered in Florida was from New York.  Snowbirds, retirees, emigrees.  I met a man in the Fort Lauderdale Airport who had moved from Vermont two years ago.  “You’re not from here are you?”  No.  “No one’s from here.  It’s very strange.”  He was traveling with his 2 and a half year old daughter, Tess, and took care to give her pigtails.  They were on their way to Alpine, UT, to visit her great-grandparents. We watched each other’s bags, spoke for a half hour before boarding, saw each other in passing in Houston.  And that’s that.  These ephemeral encounters with faces somehow familiar are disorienting, like seeing people from disparate parts of your life together in a dream.  I will never see these people again; no matter how small the world is, that’s assured.


One Comment

  1. perry shimon

    beautiful prose

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