“The air at 1000 feet!” J exclaims
I look to the right outside the passenger-side window into a blue crystalline cove of water with clay formations holding sparkling pools. I say nothing, but I too am amazed at what we found right near us. To the left is a huge tuft of brownish grasses and the air is vast in the landscape. I feel a palpable hope. We are cresting a hill in a car. We have escaped into a paradise. J is smiling. The sky is a vivid blue and everywhere I look is a sparkling water, or a formation of clay. We are walking now. There is a large conch-shell shaped formation that juts up on one side It has huge loopy openings. I hear a familiar photographer’s voice saying a technical term from photography. I float up to get a different angle. Looking down the long dusty road we came from in the distance, I think I make out a white bus coming. Then I see colors in the dust which are people everywhere, and up in the high clay cliffs, people running in Jalibiyas and turbans all coming for us. Some are carrying vendor boxes. We head back. We sort of run too…Its exciting. A short wet headed man looks up at us. He has skin the color of a muddy river, and he is wearing a nightdress or a Jalabiya.” Happy New Year!” J says. We are making a run for it. I don’t know why we are scared.
We push through double doors and are in a subway corridor. J slides in to sit at a bench near restaurants. Two large African American men in glossy eighties Baseball jackets are sitting in front of us but I don’t look at them. I am looking at the food. I noticed some enormous grilled scallops. You are upset about something irritating your mom did. I sort of tune you out and listen to the people around us.
Children are complaining about their orders. “Smaller shizzazz stew.” A boy said in a bored voice and sends his bowl of goulash back. A doe-eyed girl has a chunk of lard with black things in it on her right shoulder. As we talk J says he has to go set up for the hootu ritual. Says he will do just about anything for Lars. This doesn’t make much sense, being that my brother Lars doesn’t do rituals that I know of.
I recall that we were home, I wondered if I smelled like sex. I was dressed and ready for work and thinking I might not go. Still, I went to work at school on a Wednesday, even though I didn’t work on Wednesdays. I had gone into an office where my old principal was sitting in a roly-chair. I was stapling my credit card readout like one does in waiting tables at the end of the night. I asked her for the tape and began to put it back in the drawer until I realized it had been to the right of the computer keyboard before. I felt as though she was disappointed and shamed me. “Its wednesday, I didn’t have to come to work.” I said, in my defense. “I was surprised to see you.” she replied. Earlier I had sat in the back of a class, broken up a fight even. In the classroom, I had asked a question about having a cultural day. I was braiding a left chunk of my hair as I spoke, and forgot my question, so I asked about hair braiding. I wanted to know if we could all braid our hair like Dion. I could see the students in front of me. I could feel my blond hair in my fingers. It was an awkward question toward the end of class. I could tell the teacher did not appreciate the distracted opening into chaos. A few rows up, a girl I haven’t seen in more than fifteen years was saying she would like to have her hair braided too.
When I left the classroom, I entered a place of smooth dark glossy over-buffed floors and brick walls. I saw that under a ladder, a box of wine had broken. A few Latina women tittered about the spill. I smiled even though the specific funny word that raised her eyebrows meant nothing to me. There was a cleaning up and everything seemed cleared away and pushed back to reveal space. It all had to do with a man with a forgettable name.