Saturday, February 19, 2000
@ home 1955hrs
I didn’t get out of the house until late today. Nearly five o’clock. The sky was still bright but the briskness, missing in the last week’s unusual warmth, had already begun to settle in. Before I left, I was sure to grab a light jacket.
My main objective was to burn an hour in the local chain bookstore before coming back home, picking up my brother and sister, and taking them out to a movie. The first hour, as all hours spent in a bookstore, whipped by leaving me debating whether to buy the book in my hand or wait for another time. I put it down.
I was already so close to the theater that I decided I might as well buy the tickets before picking my siblings up. I drove the short distance to the mall in which the theater lie and was mildly surprised, although I shouldn’t have been at all, by the packed-to-capacity parking lot. Fortunately, I found a parking space in the first row I ventured down, albeit one about as far from the entrance as possible.
I walked through the parked cars, my hands in my pockets to shield them from the cold, on my way to the entrance, correcting my bad posture as I went. Across the street from the entrance stand two or three metal benches. I noticed two guys with slicked-back hair all done up in the current high school fashions sitting and smoking cigarettes on the bench I would pass on my way to the doors. I’ve always expected what happened next from people like these. And they rarely fail to meet my expectations.
As I passed, the one sitting (his friend standing with a foot propped on the seat of the bench), said, in the most menacing voice he could muster, I’m sure, “With his hands in his pockets.” And laughed. I paid no attention, and as I reached the door, I could hear him laugh his stupid little laugh again. I held the door open for a couple before entering, but never looked back.
I hate walking through malls, especially on weekends. People like the guys outside travel in packs and pairs. Pairs and packs. Their power lies in their adolescent ignorance and sheer numbers. And they always end up at the local mall. Also, they tend to completely piss me off. After checking the prices at the theater, I decided hitting a matinee tomorrow would probably be a better idea, but I didn’t want to walk right back out and see that guy again, so I headed over to the outrageously-priced-and-miniscule-selection record store. As I walked over, I noticed many more packs of his ilk in the food court. Personally, I think they stay in the food court because their allowances only provide enough money for them to eat.
When I finished my quick browse of records and movies, just long enough for me to think of a suitable reply if that guy happened to still be sitting out there when I left, I headed back out toward the parking lot. I’d decided what I should have said and what I would say if he was still sitting out there and said something again was, “Ah, another high school mallrat.” Sometimes something so small and honest can be unusually effective. Especially with people, as he obviously is, so caught up in appearances. I was a bit dismayed to find that, unfortunately, he and his friend were not there any longer. I’d probably passed them in the food court on the way out. But I’d never know.
That little encounter left my blood boiling and my soul with a need to distance myself from all this human, this American, fakeness.
I drove north out of the city mostly because I knew the road better. West puts you in Hill Country rather quickly and the roads narrow. North keeps you on relatively flat ground and a four-lane. Darkness fell around me as I stop-and-went through Cedar Park and Leander.
I kept on 183 looking for an abandoned road to turn off on so I could pull over and sit alone in the night air and smoke a cigar. The first county road I turned off on, CR 2403 I think, was winding and smooth. It made me think of life except for the lack of bumps in the road. It connected back to 183 a bit south of where I had first turned onto it, so I turned right and started north again. I soon passed where I had first turned off on it.
I passed a leg of the San Gabriel River, cemeteries, and farms. The land, for the most part, was cleared except for small bushes and I could look across it to where the moon was beginning its rise in the east. The moon was large and pink when I first saw it just above the horizon.
I passed a road that, although also lined with trees, seemed to give one a good view of the moon over the open fields. I pulled a u-turn and went back south until I found the road again, another county road (the number I can’t remember), and headed left down it.
There’s a little town (and I mean little–like a church and a couple houses), Andice, in what I would call the middle of that stretch of road. On the 183 side of it, I’d say, if my memory is correct, there was only one house. On the other side of Andice there were probably three. I pulled over somewhere between these three houses on the far side of Andice.
The wind wasn’t moving much and the stars weren’t yet out when I first stepped out of my car. The automatic light in the car, lit when I opened the door to step out, had turned off by the time I got my cigar sufficiently lit. I stood puffing on it in the middle of this forgotten, lightly pot-holed road.
I don’t remember exactly what was on my mind, mostly just observations and light feelings. The moon was losing its pink hue as it rose. It’s nice being alone watching the smoke I breathe out float away. There’s a plane flying up there somewhere. I wonder if anyone else is looking at the moon as I am right now. I wonder what that broadcast tower over there far away with the red flashing lights is used for. Certainly cooling off out here, my hands are cold.
Only one car passed during the time I was out there. I didn’t even hear it until it was upon me, and I jumped out of the road just before it passed.
Many times I looked down the darkened stretch of road not illuminated by the moon from which I’d come for no particular reason. I listened in the darkness. I could hear the cars passing on the highways and interstates nearby, the dogs barking on the farms, voices drifting from somewhere or another.
Mid-way through my cigar, the moon finally disappeared into the embrace of a cloud that had been lingering above it waiting to capture it in its inevitable ascent. I guessed I wouldn’t see it again before I left, so I watched until it was completely hidden behind the cloud. I was wrong. The moon reappeared not too long thereafter, and I still had a quarter of my cigar left to go.
I listened some more, watched the moon rise, looked around me, above me (the stars had appeared in their infinity), and at the ground below me. I finished my cigar and stubbed it out on the ground beneath my feet, killing all the glowing orange-red dots.
On the drive back, I thought how nice it would be that one day I would be a part of all that. Those trees, those bushes in the field, the air. I would finally be something much more beautiful and, seemingly, meaningful. Something alive and happy in its being. Something less restless.
Then I realized that so would that guy from the mall. That kind of killed it for me.