Sunday, August 22, 2010

What I Wonder

What would the choice be? If lights were coming down, blinking and spinning, twirling with red, blue and white like psychedelic lollipops from beyond the bluest parts of the sky. What would I do?
The grass is swaying in the wind, rustling from side to side in the abnormal breeze. Mailboxes are popping open, the fridge door opens and slams shut every second. Nothing is how I know it. The books fly from the shelves, every loose-leaf bit of paper is airborne. None of this makes sense. When the blender whips through the air of my kitchen and the night sky beyond the window is alive with colors I have yet to discover, what will I do?
Maybe I start to run with all the adrenaline my body can find. Do I step back from the porch into the safety of the doorway, moving slowly into the hallway while my hand latches the flimsy lock? Will I run to save my life, this life that I think of as so valuable and precious. Unique and unlike all other lives. Would you find me under the blankets, breathing as shallow as possible though my chest beats out like hands on a tin drum. What would I do if The Other came to me with flashing lights, red and blue lights and hard gusts of hot air?
I see myself running, jumping over chain link fences and scraping my knees as I fall clumsily to the ground. I can see a tiny scared body hiding in the dark of a closet, my eyes closed and mouth rattling off a small prayer. I feel fear running through me like monstrous rivers, seeping out of every finger and toe.
I see these visions and ask myself, what would I do?
Would I walk towards the ship, my fear held tightly, controlled by a will forged in years of practice.
I walk towards the ship to see what lies just beyond the top of the metal stairs. I walk, hearing an inner voice, ‘Look,’ it says, ‘see what will happen.’ Can I take that step? Will I die? Will I fly? Will I ever look back and see their faces, looking towards me with fear and curiosity.
Or maybe I will take a tiny first step and glance back, seeing all that I have left and sacrificed. Will they hate me? Will they ever know what has happened to me? They will know that I went with a smile, holding hands with the Other, happiness and wonderment radiating out of me like a brilliant sun.
Maybe like now, I will step forward cautiously, taking backward glances, stepping forward, little by little, until the door opens. I walk slowly towards the space lit from inside, but it could shut at any moment. Will I act quickly enough? Will I curse myself afterwards when it closes? Will I walk towards that light, those things that my mind can still not define?
It is the Other, and I reach to try and grasp it, though it slips through the language I have learned. Will I learn new sounds, a simple pentatonic language with clear signals? Without words, will I be able to push my essence through the sounds without concept till they find other ears.
I do not want to run with fear, but my feet seem to carry me away. They are brains with tennis shoes that move on impulse. They run towards small solid corners and little boxes. I see myself running, but I do not want to be that character. The human defending the human. The machine defending the machine. I do not want to play that type of role.
But I have not come far enough. Fear still shoots through me like comets, coming and staining my body before I even realize the atmosphere was breached. Unless I work, I will be the hysterical woman shouting for the world to return to normal. I want the dishes and the clean rugs. I want the plants in their proper pots and the fence in the yard. I am that woman, though I get glimpses of the other one. The woman in dreams that smiles and hops on the back of a bike. The woman that takes the hand of a stranger, calling him by name. I am that woman too, a little of each. A lot of machine, a little bit of amazement that lies hidden under the metal plates and gears.
I need to poke holes in the armor. I need that rustoleum and that pickax. I need to make it crumple. The amazing voyage is here, in my backyard and beaming into my room. It is already here and I need to step towards that brilliant, skin-burning light.
I will leave those kids and pets. I will sacrifice those familial ties and the life of shopping and the mall and beer drinking. It will fall like dead skin and I will walk up the metal platform, holding onto the hand of the Other, watching in amazement as the door shuts and we rise into the dark night. Moving forward and up, towards a new home in the stars.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Deer Hunter

Everything was known. The limits of the rural town punctuated in the center with smoke stacks, the babushka that walked slowly to church every afternoon, even in the snow. The tiny grocery store that was stocked and always full of etched recognizable faces. Everything was known. There wasn’t a stone he hadn’t seen, not a person he couldn’t call by name. Those friends he had known since infancy, boys he had grown up with until they were full chested men ready to serve god and their country.

He could walk the streets of the town blindfolded. He could walk from his house, down the narrow treeless drive and go down the hill, knowing exactly as he was passing the Mason’s house, walking steadily as the street sloped until the shops of downtown appeared, he could smell them, could imagine their worn shutters and screen doors. Following the street, he could walk towards the edge of town delineated by the raised train tracks that created a tiny tunnel for the semi trucks that hurtled through town towards the plant.

Every breath he took came from that air, every sip of water fell towards his sink from the mountain chain in the distance. Everything was known. His friends with their worn out jokes, the clear beer glasses and the familiar bar. The seasons shifted, colors changed from orange to white to green to yellow and then back once more. Trucks came and went, paychecks were delivered and cashed. It was a familiar rhythm of gentle movement, but everything seemed to stay the same, it was all known.

But sometimes they escaped. Filling the car with the bodies he had grown up with, bringing along their guns and cans of food, they would drive recklessly to the purple mountains, going up and up the curving slopes until the air was thinner and colder, until thousands of trees did not appear to be the same and instead looked different and new. He would walk with the only man he trusted, climbing boulders in clear silence while they tracked the signs of antlers and nibbled leaves. He saw her walking through the trees, evading him, almost. He went towards it, taking her down with one shot, because even the other bleeds.

He drove back recklessly to the known, down the dark slope towards the familiar lights of the bar. There was blinking neon sign with its comforting welcome, the pool table, the waiting frosting mugs, that smell which was so familiar he could no longer distinguish it from his own.

And then he was taken away. A big jet engine and a uniform and god and country gave him the ride. He went to where the syllables all sounded different, where bodies lay for the flies and even babies were red targets. There the familiar memories crumbled and the smell on him changed. He couldn’t walk blindfolded here, there was jungle and bombs and soaring bullets. He managed to keep his breath and mind and was eventually flown back to the known.

But when he saw the smoke stacks and roads and faces it was not the same. They were the same, but he was different. A part of the other remained in him, hollowing out the familiar and turning it into images that rubbed at his heart, touching it all the wrong way.

He drove towards the mountains again, doing what he knew, what he had always done. He brought his gun and his cans and walked slowly and quietly, just as he had always done, following the nibbled leaves and the traces of antlers.

When he saw her, a wide body and dark eyes staring back at him, he did what he always did, raising his gun. One shot, that was what he always wanted. But the other stared back at him, and this time, he saw. He had been changed and this time, there was no need to shoot.