Thursday, November 27, 2008

Picked Up A Hitchhiker Last Night Who Asked: "Do you like these mountains that you see before you?"

Some strange and wondering silence, making its way toward a sound. Or, with the way we turned and went from each other, I’m put into the mindset of making a piece, not a peace, for I have a storm in me and nothing can heave it ho. In running, I am made whole, but not with these two funny broken toes, hah. Ankle deep in an art, I have this way of working that makes wondering a thing on the page. Then a wound exits and betrays hearty nonsense. Something to conceptualize and make into weird sentences and move forward without a map or gun or clock? Last night I picked up a hitchhiker, I don’t even remember his name, and I did most of the talking. Which wasn’t much. I mentioned a few things about myself (live in Tucson, visiting friends in New Mexico, etc) and he asked me: Do you like these mountains that you see before you? I said yes, they are beautiful. And a little while later he asked: Why are the mountains of the west so yellow? I particularly liked this question and it made me think of dried grasses a lot and long and for the rest of the daylight I was conscious of watching the dried grasses and their varied lengths on the plains of Eastern Arizona and Western New Mexico. And some time later I said, Lately I’ve been thinking about when it was that other people’s expectations for my life became my own. At what point in my life was it when I agreed to want the things people wanted for me? And, as a corollary to this, at what point in my life was it that I stopped thinking about what I want and I started thinking about what would please others. And what do I want? What is me, who wanders through the halls of my very own mind, who whispers words of half-encouragement to myself in the muffled timbre of an artist? I didn’t say all that, some of it is my own re-swirling of the stuff we chatted over. But after I said my bit about other people’s expectations, he asked, How long did you live with your mother and father? I said until I was eighteen. I asked him the same question back and he said, I lived with my father until he died, when I was 39. Then I lived with my older brother until I was 54. And then he hit the open road. Christ, the courage of that. I said, So you know about other people’s expectations. He nodded for a long time. I asked him where he was headed and he said east and I said: Back to Maryland? He said: Nope, I’ll never go back to Mary-Land. He accentuated the first two syllables in a way that made me hear it as The Land of Mary, which I don’t remember thinking about before. Strange. He’ll never go back to Mary. And he wore very good, or what looked like very good boots. He was kind in his way, definitively turned deeply inward, a calcified shell of self-protection around him. I was conscious of his initial tension, as a traveler must be when his lot is tossed into the Random Hat and it could get pulled by anyone. I felt myself a little tense, too. He was a big dude. But I quickly realized he was tired. And I thought, this man must have been sitting by the side of the road for most of the day (I had picked him up at 4pm and he’d started in Tucson, only an hour from where I found him, that morning). So I made a very willed and conscious effort to really relax. I tilted my seat back a bit, took one of my hands off the wheel and put in an old Van Morrison CD. Within minutes he was asleep. I rolled on, happy to provide a brief rest for a man who needed it. We rode almost three hours together, mostly in the silence of mellow music, him sleeping and me reading the yellow grasses of the mountainous West. I dropped him in Las Cruces on highway 70. He’s headed east to Texas. We shook hands and made our ways.

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