Some days my only exercise is a walk to the top of the driveway to smell the air and scan the horizon. Today, this Saturday morning, is different. I will change the spark plugs on the car, buy tequila and lotto tickets, and maybe visit the storage unit—a ritual push against the tourist traffic, that, which brings me to, we need to move…it’s like one really needs another world, but we shall have another house instead, somewhere…as soon, as soon as…evermore as soon as…as soon as I relax, they say…and let the good things in…
America was building prison camps. “The people in this country have no heart,” the young brown-skinned mother wept as the blackshirts finally released her daughter. Reunited but not safe, they both faced deportation back to violence and death unless they joined the thousands in the desert or in wire cages inside concrete caves, where the lights were on all night and frightened children weren’t allowed a hug, not even by their parents. It was like being kidnapped by the very gangs they’d fled.
Imagine, if you can, being beaten and raped on your way home one day. Bloody and sobbing, you stagger to the doorway of a stranger’s house. But instead of taking care of you, the occupants arrest you and lock you up. You don’t even speak their language. You have no idea why you’re handcuffed or how long you’ll be there. If you have a child or spouse, they may be taken from you and you won’t know where they are…
When I was fourteen years ago in Texas, I fell asleep delivering papers early in the morning and crashed into another car at the curb. My face was cut and bleeding. There was blood all over. I got out, walked up to the closest house, and pounded on the door. “Help!” I yelled, completely out of it and raving. The porch light soon came on. A woman in her nightgown stuck her head outside and screamed. “Please call the police,” I said, “and call my father, too.” (My worst shame was, I’d wrecked the car—a ’58 VW—and the old man would be mad. He wasn’t, though.) I might have given her the number. I guess she called him or the cops did, but either way, I ended up at the base hospital where an Air Force doctor stitched my eyelid back together and sent me home. I missed a couple days of school and wore a bandage on my eye for days.
No one refused to help me. No one locked me up.
I’m old now and I’ve seen a lot. We live in a wreck of an old adobe on a dirt road in a neighborhood where young brown children waiting for the school bus look just like the others at the border. They wear the cleanest clothes and no one’s scared or crying. Every day I read about the goddamned fascists treating refugees like vermin and I lose it. In my country, my America. If these people showed up at my door, I’d give them food and water, let them use the bathroom, call an agency or church to help them, drive them to their relatives, anything I could. I’d be proud and grateful if my government would handle this, but I would do it anyway because the pain is killing me.
On this very different Fourth of July, I feel only anger at the lies and cruelty that know no bounds.
We may be better than this.
I honestly don’t know.
The latest video from Joe King Carrasco. Google him and search at YouTube to learn more. The subject matter is obvious. Crank it up!
It was long, a kind of dark gray (“black”) speckled fabric, sleeveless, reaching to her ankles. She wore it often back in Maryland and afterwards, when she was teaching, too, I think, but it was long gone in our movings, cleanings, and impulsive weeding of possessions that were spoiled and no longer right. I remember her in it with her sandals and the pretty hat, the straw one with the wide brim and the yellow ribbon, the one she still wears on warm days, her signature, her love. Both the hat and dress had come from a little store in our old home town run by a friend of ours. Shopping was a matter of walking several blocks along treed streets and dropping in, like visiting a member of your family and leaving with a gift. The other day she declared out of the blue, “It’s important to remember who we are!” I heard this as a cry or prayer that stretched across the years—almost simultaneously she mentioned that she’d tried to find the dress again and failed.
That wasn’t a surprise. What was came the next morning, when she said that she had looked again and found it, finally, after all this time—a miracle!—and put it on to boot. The way we live means books and clothes can lie around in stacks, rolled up in drawers, covered from the dust or not, “why bother” in the twilight zone between depression and good sense. But there it was and so was she. The apparition shimmered, radiating hope. When that dress was a common sight, we had a home and money coming in like clockwork. I was just as lost as ever but it didn’t matter because we were safe and stable on our two and a half acres in the country, in a house we owned with all our things. She has a studio four miles away now. In the old days, I’d fall asleep in the cool air of the screen porch while she played piano just two rooms away.
It being Wednesday, I had business: “Would you like to ride in the truck to go buy lotto tickets?” My thing, usually a solo trip, but this time she said yes. I always take the truck because it sounds so good. She wore the black dress and her sandals and the big straw hat.
The air was wonderful the way it is here, cool and dry despite the brilliant sun at 7,000 feet. We rolled the windows down and rumbled slowly past the dogs and dead cars and the trailers, gravel crunching underneath the tires, to the pavement and the highway with the mini mart where I buy gas and gamble twice a week. I almost never play the radio in the Dodge, but now I did. A local hippie station in a trailer out behind a brew pub on the mesa hit me with the Beach Boys while her daddy took the T-Bird away, then followed up with Cream and something else I hadn’t heard for fifty years. I felt like we were on a date. The breeze rippled across the long black dress, the V-8 throbbed, the sunlight sparkled on the leaves and cars and buildings. I pulled to a stop at the red light by the Ranchos P.O. and didn’t mind, because I knew I’d get to push the pedal down again and hear the dual exhausts on green. The big thing, though, was what I felt at that exact moment, a time and space warp of “all right.” I felt okay, like I belonged right there, and it was summer and just fine. I haven’t been like that for decades and was high for hours afterwards.
She held my hand that night while we watched Maddow on my laptop, her skin so soft and warm it almost startled me. What came across was gratitude, and where the bloody hell has this poor bastard been?
The raccoon knocked the platform feeder down again. It doesn’t take much, just trying to climb the 2×6. He’s wrecked it so many times, I stopped trying to nail it back together and learned to prop it so a scrub jay wouldn’t crash it but a squirrel might. This has raccoon vibe all over. Three whole days ago it was—I haven’t touched it. Everything is dead here, boys, don’t light a match. Haven’t seen a bird for days.