Oct. 26, 2014
The sky was black when the bus arrived at the station in Cincinnati. By the time I made it to the sidewalk, it was a deep navy behind the red neon of the horseshoe casino sign. I didn't have time enough to test my luck.
Inside the terminal, there was a white lady on the news who said she didn't have Ebola, but was angry that she had to LIVE in a tent for a few weeks. For me, live, as in alive, was the operative word, she who had seen so much death, who had faced the scourge, had saved lives and returned with a cool forehead. It was hard for me to understand why she wasn't consumed in ecstasy, why her plastic tent wasn't fluttering with Tibetan prayer flags — polychrome, jubilant. Why she hadn't welcomed the stone people to dispose of the final tattered vestments woven of her fears and doubts. Why she wasn't glowing, ascendant.
When the intercom beckoned us back, the sky was much paler. The delicate blue bordering on white reserved for sea ice and some women's legs caught bare in the cold atmosphere. between a robe and the sheets, the moon and the night. The nipple-pink apex of the sun swelling pierced the limitless soft blue horizon. All around were the ellipses of the Appalachians, geological punctuation suggesting what the mountains behind us had yet to say.
When I left Atlanta at 7:30 p.m. last night, the Earth had already shunned the demanding attentions of her lover, the sun, for the distant admiration of the stars. The night was warm, and there were at least 20 men camping outside the Presbyterian church. Lenton was on his way to Chattanooga for an orientation. He wasn't yet guaranteed the job. He had spent years trucking — over-the-road — working seven days a week, not seeing his wife or daughter sometimes for six weeks at a time. Every now and then, when he's sleeping, someone starts knocking on his fiberglass shell. That's not a good thing. He never knows who it is or what they want, a lot lizard, a junkie, or someone with a novel thirst.
He knows well enough to wake up and pull his 45,000 lb. load 30 or so miles to disconnection.
The new job, if he gets it, will be in-town.
Lauren, my shrink, said G-d will make a space for me to see my girls, because it’s in all of our best interests. Lenton so far has been able to support his family only by being away. I decided I didn't have to wait to pray for him. Like breathing in so hard, yanks the breath out of you eventually again, so were my silent prayers as we chatted.
He and I were the only ones talking, until Chattanooga. Then bus dipped into a shallow puddle of halogen light and Lenton dug himself into the evening. The bus and I moved on silently.
I saw the Alps for the first time in 2001. Well not actually. I perceived them. Then too, it was dark. The sky was black and the mountains were black against it. But they felt different through the train window. The mountains throbbed against my skin. The mountains devoured the yellow lights in the towns and on the tracks. The sky doesn't do that. It encourages each light to reach as far as it can — to stretch its skinny fingers to the extremities of every pasture.
But the mountains accepted each light, absorbed each tickling yellow as they do the silver stars. And all that light made the black mountains pulse in the darkness, quiver against the window, warm in my empty hands.
Maybe it was because I was no longer hovering above or standing on the Earth but embraced by it, I could hear my bones whispering to me.
Between Atlanta, where the Earth begins raising its voice in song, and its wavering coda in Cincinnati, I could see nothing, yet had intense visions. The Earth was singing to me on every side, rocking me in her arms.
Lenton probably already out of his hotel room bed. Probably sitting in a trailer-classroom somewhere. Probably drinking thin coffee with a sharp edge.
Kaci Hickox maybe raging against her hermitage. Hot-headed but fever free, panicked but breathing.
And I am coming home from home the long way.
The Earth gives as our mothers have given. Whether they wanted to or not, whether they were good or bad, empathetic or not, our flesh was ripped from theirs, our bones the pebbles of their crumbling peaks. There is nothing we are that they are not. Even weaned, we are nothing more and nothing less than G-d and suck.
And even as the sun now hovers over flat Ohio, my eyes cannot see what lies ahead, but my bones are murmuring we will see each other soon.
And the bus rolls on — in the direction of the pines.