moon is a place, is a place, a place where men have been, left their awkward
footprints and that lonely flag that at first refused to stand. I forget
this sometimes. Iíve wondered if they still see the moon as a place, not
a grapefruit, not a thumbnail, not a light lit for lovers or murderers.
Do they see the face of an old man, the face of a beautiful woman wearing
blue lipstick, or is it merely terrain now? Did they forget as soon as
they came back? Itís just the moon again, itís just the moon.
Thereís a man inside the helicopter that
is flying over my neighbor-hood. A manís hand that guides the searchlight
that has twice now grazed my window. Itís very late and Iím sure he is
tired of searching, tired of being up in the air.
There was someone on the other end of the
phone I was just speaking into. She and I live in different times, different
dots on the map. More than road between us so we say goodnight to the
receivers. The phone grows cool lying next to me. Itís just a phone again,
itís just a phone.
He said, you have to promise me that no
matter what happens you will always see me as a human being. I agreed.
I said I havenít seen you as anything else. He looked almost offended.
You have to promise me some-thing in return, that you wonít fade, not
on purpose. He knew what I meant. (People fade all the time. They wake
up one morning and the burden of self is more than they can bear. Generally,
these are the people who build levees to manage the rage and flow of life
that their intelligence affords them. Sooner or later all levees break.)
Weíve had conversations about this. Weíre always talking about the delicate
nature of the mind. Weíve used many analogies: reflections on a still
lake, a spiderís web, I like sand paintings and he says ďOh, donít say
sand paintings.Ē He and I have a different sense of metaphor but we both
agree a strong wind and we could lose ourselves. Not on purpose, not on
purpose. Thereís a lot to be said for thinking outside the box, yet I
donít believe we could ever fit the ocean in a paper cup. What Iím saying
is, you think too much about your own fragility and the whole thing starts
to quiver, the lake turns choppy, the colors bleed, the spider is washed
out. (Some thoughts shouldnít be finished.)
From way up there, from his point of view,
weíre just lights in a window, citizens nestled safely between two locked
doors. Itís inevitable that he sees us this way. Heís not a robot. Inventory.
This is his job.
There is a place in the town I grew up
in that certain locals call The Blue Hole. Others call this place the
quarries. Both are accurate. It is a quarry and the water that fills the
holes is extremely blue and, of course, ďbottomless.Ē In the summer, flocks
of teenagers go there to swim and jump from the cliffs that surround the
water. Iíve spent more days there than I can count, walked the narrow
path through private property with a towel under one arm and beer under
the other. Yet only once did I spend the night there. Myself and two friends
from school decided to camp there; we brought beer, sleeping bags, and
one of those huge flashlights. We laid down our things at the spot weíd
chosen and wandered down to the shore where we shone light down into the
deep water. And there we saw them. Eyes. The glowing eyes of very large
fish, hundreds of them down there, barely moving. I thought of all the
times I had swam there and had no idea what was below me. They were under
there the whole time.
Iím lying on the roof of my house. Thereís
a girl lying next to me. The night is clear and cool so weíve brought
blankets. The light from the stars is millions of years old but Iím thinking
of transitory things. Lying on my back, stars are all I can see, stars
like the eyes of fish at the bottom of a lake thatís deeper than anything
you know. I live in space. This thought gives me a chill and we pull the
night, the blankets, and our bodies closer. My head on her shoulder now,
I trace a constellation from her silhouette. I feel this world could throw
me off, instead it rolls under me. I swim in this lake. This world keeps
Depending on the traffic, it will take
him twenty minutes to drive to work, more or less. Heís early, pours a
cup of coffee and then another for his wife. He canít find his keys. She
says ďYou need to have a place where you will always put them, a hook
or something.Ē He finds them where he always finds them and sits across
from her at the kitchen table. She tells him about the day she just had,
a boss sheíll never understand, how much longer it took her to get home.
He wants to keep listening but now he has to go. He grabs his jacket,
kisses her lips, and leaves for the night. At work he signs in, walks
the tarmac, adjusts his headset and runs through a checklist. Heís flying.
Sheís screaming something through sobs,
it doesnít sound human, sheís begging him not to leave. Her face twists
from sorrow to rage then back to sorrow with every box he stacks by the
door, with every piece of clothing he removes from the closet. ďI canít,
I canítĒ he says, thatís all he can say, carrying and stacking the boxes
almost mechanically, like a robot. Sheís grabbing at him but he doesnít
stop. Heís walking from the closet to the front door, arms empty, arms
full, and she starts to throw things. Candles, CDs, then plates. They
shatter against the wall. She wants to hear anything but the sound of
her own crying, the sound of him not. (All of those with large hearts
smash them like plates against the wall, hoping they will break. Eventually
we all find someone who can catch the plates before they hit, not that
we ever stop throwing them.) He turns on the porch light and carries his
things to the car. Itís over, itís finally over.
Dispatch, over the headset, screaming and
the sound of breaking glass. Heís given the general vicinity. First pass
over reveals nothing. Second, a man dribbles a basketball down Park, a
couple lying together on a rooftop, a man carrying boxes to his carónothing
out of the ordinary. Thank God, he thinks. Now I can go home.
More and more lately Iíve been having trouble
sleeping. I lie in my bed and listen to myself breathe, the way I listen
to the traffic, like they have no right, making all that noise. Counting
cars, counting breaths, thinking too much. (Once I saw a spider spin a
web and die right after.) I think it is more than just the mind that is
delicate and I know thereís a place in me, made for meóI forget that sometimes.
I forget that the man in the helicopter just wants to go home. I forget
that behind every pair of headlights is at least one life in progress.
I forget that the moon is a place, that it always has been and would have
been even if no one ever went there. That people are people whether or
not I ever get to know them. I forget constantly. That a life is worth
something. A life, these lives, mine.
Thereís a space between us but itís different
than you think. It isnít a void and it isnít a chasm, itís just a simple
misunderstanding. I am not foreign. Iím not trying to be incomprehensible.
Hey, itís me. Iím standing here. Iím just standing here trying to see
what you really are.