Friday, December 19, 2008

A Walk Along the Coast

On the northern coast of New Orleans sits a massive lake. In the absence of a great storm, it is a peaceful thing that blends into the sky along the horizon. It keeps the air humid, and in the night its vapors condense over the city, forming the thickest fog I have ever seen. It is a cloud that refuses to dream for the sky. It slithers over the land and stifles the 9th Ward in an opaque muggy blanket. It takes away all that was visible from the dark. Cars are simply two lights until they emerge from the haze 20 feet away. If telephone poles extended further into the sky than the light bulbs that burned upon them, we would not know. The fog shrinks the world to simply that which is immediately before us, an external manifestation of my worst moments of narrow-mindedness.

We walked this landscape, me and the Howellhouse.

We walked along the northernmost road that bordered the coastline. North of it were simply the train yards and the water itself. On this road I saw remnants of The Storm as well as the simple quirks of a given city. Houses with boarded windows. The spray-painted Xs that indicate the results of a Guard search. On a fence, two wooden planks and some crudely hammered nails formed a cross. A pink plastic horse sat upon a pike erected on a street corner. I quietly marveled at this topographical status. But the distinctions of the terrain quickly fell from significance when I saw the dish.

It had its back to me. I saw first the metal latticework that held the large parabola in place. It was perhaps 15 feet across and sat atop a thick post of complicated hinges and steel hydraulic tubes. It sat in the midst of other dishes of various sizes on a seriously overgrown grass lot. I don’t really know why the site of it didn’t fade into the invisibility of the commonplace. But when I saw it, I was struck by how desperate it looked. The fog made it such that there were no stars, no moon and no sky above it. But it reached into that unknown. Like it hoped for contact with something it could not see or feel. Like an unknowing widow waiting for her husband to step off the last ship to come back from the war. Like the ghost of that soldier, wondering why his wife does not see him, but believing that she will if only he holds out his arms for a bit longer. I sighed, not know if it was possible for me to be as patient or as hopeful as a metal antennae listening to a closed sky.

All walks come to an end, and soon enough we were making our way back. Close to home, a figure emerged on the desolate street, leaned up against a house and quietly took a pull from a cigarette.

We mumbled a halfhearted greeting as we passed. His drunken voice came forth with a senseless question that communicated only the madness of deep inebriation. We kept walking and did not look back. But he spoke on and his tone became angry. After some moments we noticed that the volume of his voice was not fading as things do when they pass further into the distance. He was following us, taunting us as we walked. We sped our walking pace. Then his taunts became threats. Now she, like all of the women I know, does not need defending or saving. But I could feel a desire to protect as I prepared myself for violence. The preparation is more of an act of acceptance. Like the suspension of disbelief when walking into a movie theatre. I acknowledged the possibility of a change, that things were going to go differently than I would like them to in a rational and peaceful world. I sighed and thought, okay, I am as ready for this as I can be of anything that I do not want. Then, without interrupting my stroll, I picked up a large stick. I felt its weight and adjusted its position in my hand. A dead branch that could soon become a bludgeon. Seeing my preparation, his threats reached a crescendo. We walked faster. Somewhere between Desire and Piety- the streets, that is- my reluctance for conflict became a serious case of I wish this motherfucker would. Then the voice went silent. I looked behind and there was only the barely visible street. We were alone again.

Back at the crib we ate homemade vegan soy ice cream sandwiches.


VentCover said...

As I have been navigating a similar circumstance of impenetrable fog, I have been dogged by a similar feeling. "At what point does possibility cease and reality happen," I often ask myself. Some say that you will crash if you ride a motorcycle. In a finite statement you're given an ultimatum that you seemingly cannot escape from. In discussion, you once explained to me the importance of having a reply for every action, whether it be spoken word or deed.

Yesterday morning I did not realize that I had narrowly evaded the car coming into my lane at a high rate of speed until the action was taken, and my tires gripped the road at the wrong angle, wrong speed, and wrong direction under wrong conditions. My response was ready, just as yours was; uninvited, definitely unwanted, but almost automatic. The car's headlights faded behind me, just as your angry man; ubiquitous gates that we all pass through, seemingly unscathed..

Tara said...

Completely unrelated, but this made me think of you: