If I started walking right now, I could make it to the end of the road long before sunrise. It would be so quiet, and I’d wander past familiar signs and sleepy houses and stand outside the empty gas station, just watching the silhouettes of cars as they whispered through the pale night.
Or, I could sit crookedly in front of my laptop, fueled by orange juice and exhaustion, desperate for words but completely unable to find them.
I wrote this poem the other day:
tell your stories to the guard dog
underneath the kitchen sink
he won’t understand, but you don’t mind
’cause he knows how to sing
you’ll trade your voices in the darkness
while the pipework leaks
and both of you will wonder
at the way the echoes ring
In addition to that strangeness, sometimes the many strangers that wander my mind will insist on speaking up at three in the morning.
“What if I’m all too tired of the world?” the woman interrupted suddenly, her smoke-stained breath burning the boy’s eyes. “What if there ain’t a single new thing left to notice on the drive from here to home, and when I get there, there ain’t nothing but the same old quiet to greet me? My boys left to find something bigger than an angry old woman and a trailer park, so what? One day they’ll be listening to the silence, too.”
And, well, there was this night in Florida where the lines of reality felt blurred, and another of my strangers somehow found himself trapped inside the memory.
He sat on the edge of the curb, shoes resting against the white line. He was listening.
Behind his bent figure, an elementary school was partially lit in the darkness, some after-school event coming to life inside its walls. He was looking the other way, though—at the purple moon that was just beginning to peek over the edges of the palm trees. Beyond, he could hear the ocean.
At the end of the street, two boys tossed a basketball back and forth, the slap of the ball against damp pavement ringing sharply in the silence. In the distance, police sirens wailed, growing fainter by the minute.
He was the shorter of the two boys at the end of the street, breathing hard, sweat glistening in the light of the streetlamp. He was the pale, ringing laughter that drifted from the open door of the school. He was the purple moon, now partially shrouded by silver clouds. He was the whole world, anything at all, as long as he never had to return to himself.
On the day that I figured out how to listen to the radio from my phone:
There was a sink full of dishes and the hum of some unknown radio station in my earbuds. After the rock music and flashy car commercials ran their course, there came unfamiliar voices – someone ranting in a passionate tone about the brokenness of the world. A woman called in at the end of the program, her voice nervous but happy. “I know my husband is listening to this while he drives home from work. He probably hears me right now.” Maybe he was smiling as she spoke, his hands against the steering wheel, feeling the comfortable warmth that comes from being known.
Written with half-closed eyes and an equally tired mind:
It was nearly dark when I went for a run with Laura. She beat me back to the hayfield gate, and we stood grinning and breathing hard in the dusky blue light, and the sky felt different, like every cloud was edged in some sort of shadow that you couldn’t stop staring at.
And now I’m on my stomach on top of a sleeping bag in a tent in the backyard. Laura slept out here with me last week, but she opted for a normal bed tonight, so I’m alone in the perfect darkness. I had so many things to say, words at my fingertips that I was planning to release as soon as I was by myself, but now the noises of a thousand summer nighttime creatures and soft music coming through one earbud have chased all of that away.
I’m not exactly sure what all of those words were, and this post is a self-centered mess, but the act of writing it kept me company for a little while. :)
*slams down empty orange juice bottle and exits the scene*
ah, but fortunately / I have the key / to escape reality
– john prine, “illegal smile”