Where My Head Lately Is

The present ache is not physical, but metaphysical perhaps, meaning that the symptoms are likelier to be furrowed brows and drawn-out silences than anything requiring Ibuprofen. It seems to come, this ache, from an overabundance of existence. Do you know what it means for existence to feel like a burden? Not in a depressive way (though it can go there), but in an overwhelming way—a feeling that’s not really an emotion, yet is still big to the point of restlessness, when all you can do is stare into nondescript places and try not to embarrass yourself by spazzing out in public.

So I drive and stare straight ahead as if wearing blinders, aware of the gray-brown treescape falling away on both sides, but not needing to look at it. All is a soothing, comforting gray. Even the noises are gray. More and more, these days, I want to leave the radio off. Coasting down I-65, I feel, oftener with age, a compulsion to quietness—a need to listen to the road sounds: tires at high speed; the double-knock of wheels over changing pavements; the motor’s quiet roar and the thin, dry clicking of my vents on low. Rounding a curve or banging through a pothole, a loose thing in the back loses footing and topples against the inside of the car, sounding like an animal trapped and pawing for escape.

When I listen like this, I think I’m getting closer to the texture of existence—the part we lose from being on auto-pilot; the part we drown in music or conversation. Listening when there’s not much to listen to: this is a valid way to center oneself. And I’m the type that needs frequent centering.

My Exposed Root

Coming of age in northwest Tennessee means I will always have a root exposed to those mown cornfields along Highway 22, as you approach Reelfoot Lake—a root sensitive to the bite of a January ice storm, and to the yellowed-out severity of a meager existence among the bluffs (an existence I only imagined, yet it seemed ripe material for stories), overrun with the ghosts of Chickasaw Indians; a root sensitive to endless backroad roaming, often under cover of night, when the mystery was thickest—when the taste in our mouths and the fire in our brains urged us into country cemeteries in hopes of communing with the dead (which we almost convinced ourselves happened); a root bare, like the bald knobs of cypresses, where unspeakable ice sculptures materialize from the winds whipping off the lake; a root exposed to the midnight sounds of unseen, distant animals—coyote laughter drifting across bean fields and who-knows-what splashing in black water.

I cannot deny the imprint of those experiences, coming, as they did, when my young adulthood was forming. There’s a voice in the rural solitudes of northwest Tennessee that speaks only to me, and I don’t need to be there to hear it.

Part 4: Guess Who

I’m sure I forgot something.  Always do.  This is happening.  This has happened.  This has happened!!  I didn’t know this would be the day.  As good a day as any, I suppose.  But it’s like I always think when I hear of a fatal accident:  they didn’t know that this was the day they would die.  They just got ready for work like they always do.  They had plans and loved ones.  Plans for those loved ones, plans with those loved ones.  But then I comfort myself–restore some equilibrium–by remembering that people just live, until they’re not.  They’re conscious . . . of being conscious.  No, not usually.  It’s something else.  Nobody thinks about dying, at least not in any sustained way.  Maybe if they’re terminally ill, but even then, don’t we have a nagging optimism that things will work out in our favor?  I do.  We don’t want to be one of those who thinks, “That will not happen to me.”  But we do, at least until something really floors us.  Even then, though.  As long as we’re still breathing, there’s hope, right?  Anyway.  Circular thinking.  Enough.

photo (3)

 

Things to do.  I have to break the news.  I have to . . . “MOVE!!  There was NO one behind me!  WHY?!” . . . Don’t have to do it right away.  Is this freedom?  At least until the money runs out.  Freedom for an afternoon.  Interim between slaveries, what it amounts to.

 

I’m going to miss this turn on purpose.  Good sense of direction.  Has to cross a main road at some point.  South.  Traffic not bad yet.  Afternoon fog.  Odd.

 

* * *

 

Only one here . . . “Ice in the trees is melting.  It keeps popping and crackling above me.  I feel like it’s gonna crash on my head.  Sounds like it’s raining, too, even though it’s not.”  Better not hit ‘send.’  She’ll know I’m not at work.

 

* * *

 

No one here but me, the ghosts, and the deer.  How strange for rain-sound to be quarantined in the woods.  Isolated noise?  Roosters–two of them–crowing a few acres away.  Sun ignoring them.  Rain patter on my right but not on my left.  Stubborn fog, thickening here and thinning there, but not lifting.  Horse-hooves on pavement.  Other side of the hill.  I am not alone.