“Giving the speed of sound the slip; has cracked the air like a penny whip.”—John Updike
I hate flying, but I love the sound of jets overhead. I love the sounds of interstates when I’m in a motel room in some barren uptown. Like urban fireflies, cigarettes glimmer in the parking lot on a Thursday night when all the salesmen are fast asleep. And I love highways when I wake up on a Greyhound and it is first light in the heart of nowhere, when I’m at a truck stop whose retro-wonder I’d drink in if the bus wasn’t leaving and I had more than five minutes to finish breakfast and brush my teeth.
It’s a safe feeling, somehow, to be nowhere. And the sound is the only thing that makes it safe, the assurance that there is a plan that everyone else is going too.
I love the military base near me. I could never live there anymore, but I love the sounds it makes at night as a pretty pink sky sweeps away the contrails. I love stepping out of my small and slow life into a place where if I crumpled up and died I would be impossible to differentiate from a lost plastic bag of refuse tipped out across the gutter of some dirt filled wash with creosote and no human faces. Hey, the whole high desert, the residential blankness; the calmness of simply not existing.
To the casual observer I look no different from any other person, just another gray face in a gray world. But to those of us who have endured the forges there will always be an unspoken bond, and I will identify the pale pockmarks of my friends as if they were my own reflections. There is no universal insight magically granted to those who have been raised in the military, but my time there guarantees one thing – I will never be connected with those cold souls who risk nothing and therefore gain nothing.
Hummingbirds emerge in my yard and I wonder where they came from. And I don’t finish the thought because I go inside and they evaporate. I am so fleeting, with my spirit chasing the passions I dreamed up, and I tear like roaring jets towards nothing. It feels good to rush toward nothing. But it feels best in the core of that squall, when I hear the rushing all around and I am standing still, flickering like a cigarette and aiming my guts at oblivion.