Thursday, January 13, 2011

On the couch, a winter sojourn

Afternoon. I open my eyes and see the edge of the comforter and the slatted blinds and the maroon edging on the lace curtains. White wintry light filtering through. The house soundless and still.

What time is it? I guess half-past two but it could be later. 

In a groggy stupor, I study how the strings lace through the eyelets on the blinds. Whoever conceived them was a genius. I remember blinds of olden days—I almost smirk at this but my face feels frozen into a mask of clay—broad metal slats that rose a ruckus whenever raised or lowered. Mini-blinds are certainly an improvement though I wonder why blinds only come in bland colors. Imagine them with works of art by Wyeth or Matisse, by Rembrandt and Van Gogh, or decorative patterns and wild colorful floral pastiches, that when closed would add another dimension to a room. It seems odd that nothing like that was ever invented. I’d buy them in a heartbeat if the price was right.

I’m reminded of the time at work I pulled on a string to raise a very long and very heavy window blind. It was down on Rio Grande Avenue a few blocks from the foundry where the rat ran over my boot, a dark, smelly hellhole that never failed to turn our uniforms black as coal. The company owner was occupying the room but told me to do what I needed to do, and so I did, but the blind didn’t do what it was supposed to do, which was raise smoothly to a desirable level. Instead, the whole thing separated from the wall and cascaded with a ferocious clatter to his desk, scattering books and pens and papers and raising a cloud of dust that had been gathering since the building’s erection. 

I hadn’t thought of that episode in years. Why now? 

The comforter is a warm cocoon. I could get up and be productive but why? The couch is world enough.


My eyelids flutter open. Same view, different light. Fading now, silky, the color of snow.

I’m back in Las Vegas, N.M., the lights of a liquor store spilling onto the street. It’s our last night there, dark and velvety, I recall, though it might have been rainy. We drove the main drag several times and stopped at the liquor store to buy a quart of beer though we barely had the money for it. Leaving was a terrible ordeal for I had grown to love the town as well as despise it. Too much violence and death, and our alienness could never be ameliorated; we were strangers and outsiders and would be so even if we remained until old age claimed us. Or a bullet—there was always that chance. 

Leaving was bittersweet, and full of rage. More than anything I wanted to drive over to the house of the crooked cop who stole my guns and blow him away. I wanted him dead. I wanted to watch him die, and assist him in the endeavor. Barring that pleasure, I could only hope that his imbecility might lead him to insert a pair of three-inch magnum shells into the fine old Damascus steel side-by-side he thieved and blast away. It’s doubtful anyone was that stupid but Americans are rapidly lowering themselves to a standard that would make it seem a brilliant experiment in alternative thinking.

To imagine the world then, our world, was a wonder. My God, we were young, and ignorant, and scared, and filled with dread and something like excitement. We’d bought a Denver Post and pored over the want ads and found one for Denver Burglar Alarm, and decided to leave on an exploratory visit. To study the lay of the land. I was filled with anxiety because of an earlier visit when I’d driven Lynne (or was it Shosh, or both? The details have become fuzzy) to Boulder. On my return, I was mired in a traffic jam of epic proportions, and vowed never to re-enter the city limits of Denver again. That I was returning on such short notice with the intent of making it a home was all the more disturbing.

But what was it that I yearned for? The town itself? At best it was a figment of my imagination, at once a small Hispanic village steeped in tradition and laden with history, and soaked in blood, too. Vigilantism was a longstanding and honorable tradition dating back to frontier days, but it was merely the next phase of a troublesome evolution. (Indeed, vigilantism reared its head while I was there with a letter addressed to certain citizens asking for assistance in eradicating drug dealers. The letter gave names, addresses, clientele and drug offerings with a final plea to quietly—a key concept—remove them from the gene pool. A police captain told me with some satisfaction that dealers vacated the town en masse and probably wouldn’t be back anytime soon. So detailed was the information provided that it could only have originated from the police department. When I asked the captain if that was the case, he just smiled and said, “Of course not.”) 

The last time we saw Las Vegas was also a marvel, for it seemed prosperous and thriving if not depressingly poverty-stricken, festooned with graffiti and smothered in traffic. The Lota Burger was so crowded that I refused to stop and so made the final two-and-a-half hour jaunt to Albuquerque hungry and irritable. The plaza was filled with small shops and bookstores but parking was impossible. Even a run to the generator plant seemed more daunting than it was worth, though I would have dearly loved to see it again. I have many good memories of the place and not a few bad ones. We left without having the pleasure of revisiting bookstores I once relied upon for sanity.

It couldn’t have been the town, or the people. We had no friends to speak of, nor did we associate with any group, organization or church. We were newly married and wanted nothing more than our own company, and I have to say that 37 years later little has changed except that we have many more friends. I suppose we weren’t there long enough to construct a home. In six month’s time we were gone.

The past is just that—past, I remind myself. And snuggle a little deeper into the comforter, and wonder where I’ll end up next. It’s a winter afternoon, snow is falling, and I’ve dreams to dream.


Deb said...

Dream on.

Carol said...

Just noticed the world map ghosted at the top of your blog, Tom. That gives "Dispatches from Kansas" an interesting of-the-world feel. I like it.