i saw the scene unfold

Sunday, September 17, 2000
@ Buchanan Dam, TX        1515 hrs

    Drove over here today with Annalisse, George’s ex-girlfriend/roommate.  Came here last Sunday, too, alone when I felt like my body was trying to turn itself inside out–serious depression.

   Fall is in the air, you can feel it, smell it.  The wind is blowing ripples on the lake.  The dam is maybe a hundred yards from where we sit on a pile of large rocks under an old oak tree. 

   The water is bluer than the sky.  Darker blue, anyway.  On the far side of the lake lie hills, and above those hills the sky is white with a tinge of dust brown until your eyes climb higher and find a pale blue sky, further still to a blueness with immense depth.  A depth that makes you wonder if something important isn’t hidden somewhere up there by that refracting light.  Between the blue and the blue, or the blue and the black of space lie the answers, maybe.

   The dam was built many years ago during the Depression, I remember reading the first time I came here almost a year ago just after I got out of the Air Force. 

   There’s a peach-colored building off to my right with an elevated open-air observation deck where I usually scan the length of the dam and look out over the lake.  I remember my first time here I walked the walkway along the top of the dam and could hear and see where cracks allowed it to leaked onto the ground below. 

   Annalisse is sitting about four feet ahead of me using another rock as a desk and drawing with oil pastels.  She told me last night how she felt that as much as she likes going out on the town and being with people when it really comes down to it she prefers creating art with other people.  Doing her thing while they do theirs and just be together.

   Usually I come here and there’s no one around, but today there have been quite a few others.  Worse, they’ve all been loud.  I don’t understand why people come out to view nature and man’s beauty only to yell at one another.  Seems to defeat the purpose to me. 

   I wonder if, as you get older, you come to appreciate beauty in and of itself more.  Not a beauty in which you can get something out of in a capitalistic manner, but the beauty of simply being.  Like this body of water, this dam that many men’s work and exhaustion and sweat and, probably, more than a few lives went to build.   When I look at it, I don’t see it as a piece of machinery that takes in water and pushes out electricity toward my house–I see its being, it is.  Can beauty, majesty (and their opposites) be beautiful and majestic without having further use?  Or are productivity and meaning always a factor?  Can beauty truly be its own reason for being?

   What makes some of us search for beauty and yearn to view it with our own eyes, ears, noses, mouths, need to caress it in our fingertips, attempt to understand it while others shy away from it, fear it even, as Michael Ventura posits?  Why?  As in The Thin Red Line, why do some love truth, kindness?  Truth and beauty?  Even the horrible truth must hold some kind of beauty if only of its being honest.  War may be beautiful in its honesty about men’s inherent malice, his loyalties, his physical ability, his moral and immoral fibers.  War may just be the conflicts we fight everyday in ourselves on a grander scale.

   Peace and this lake and the drifting Southern accents from the observation deck and the winder rustling the leaves and that bird above me squawking every once in a while–what is that?  What is peace?  It can’t be man’s invention.  Can it be nature’s?  Does nature battle with itself (if we take man out of the equation)?  Can the constant killing and renewing of itself be considered a type of war?  Or does war and peace only come with our cursed consciousness?  Do those words really mean anything?  A grunt on the frontlines can be held no more responsible for the actions he takes to survive than the lion or the eagle.

Monday, September 18, 2000
@ work (Pecan Park)    1414 hrs

    Wendi called yesterday while Annalisse and I were at Buchanan Dam.  My cell phone was out of a service area so I didn’t get her message until a few hours had passed.  I didn’t call her back.  Still haven’t called her back.  She knew from our conversation at Ruta Maya the night before that Annalisse and I were taking a day trip to Buchanan Dam and Killeen.

   Funny story (not really) — Saturday night, Annalisse and I showed up at Ruta Maya at around ten or so, I thought I smelled Wendi’s herb deodorant while in the tobacco shop purchasing cigarettes.  I did a quick scan of the cafe are and didn’t pay it much other mind.

   Annalisse and I sat outside on the Lavaca Street side of the Ruta Maya patio and smoked a cigarette each while I sipped on a Wendy’s root beer from earlier.  Annalisse wanted to go for a walk, so as we walked past the Fourth Street entrance to Ruta Maya, I ducked inside and threw away the empty cup.  Coming back out, I saw that Annalisse was already on the other raised platform near the entrance of the Irish pub, Fado’s.  I hurried to catch up, but had to pause at the stairs leading from the cafe’s platform down to the short ground level sidewalk to let some well-dressed ladies and their pet boyfriends pass.  That’s when I heard, “Hey.”

   I turned to my left and saw Wendi leaning against the newly-installed railing with her massage chair set up in front of her.  In my hurry I had completely missed seeing her–I had been wearing blinders on my sprint to catch up to Annalisse.
“Are you ignoring me?”
“No.  I didn’t see you.”
“Yes, you did.  You saw me from over there,” she said, pointing toward the door I’d gone through to throw away my cup.
“I swear to God I didn’t see you.”
“Whatever.  Are you mad?”
“No,” my anger had turned to apathy a few days before, “are you?”
She kept looking away and rolling her eyes, which did kind of bother me.  First you accuse me of ignoring you with malice–even now, when you most deserve it after pondering aloud the question, “Well, what if I didn’t want to see you?” at your house last Tuesday, and driving me to walk out and leave with not a civil word past “hi” said between us–and then every question I answer or ask is a stage for mockery. 

   Fuck it, I thought, I don’t need this, but I didn’t say it.  I want to be the decent one.  Instead I kept looking for Annalisse in the crowd that had gathered to watch a band perform between the two platforms of Ruta Maya and Fado’s. 

   A few more nonessential phrases were said before I hurried to catch up with Annalisse, who has never liked Wendi since she broke the screen to one of the windows at Annalisse’s house when George was staying there.

   Annalisse and I went for a long walk down Sixth and up Red River, putting the third side on the square by taking Eighth and finishing it up with Congress and Fourth back to Ruta Maya. 

   Wendi was still there when we returned.  Annalisse suggested that maybe I should talk to Wendi while she went to look for a roommate, Carol, so we could head out to Zilker Park for a drum circle they were holding out at the Rock Garden.  I stopped and talked to Wendi–little was said of worth, how do you do’s that seemed to repeat themselves over and over again.  She turned away to talk whenever another person walked up (part of her job, I suppose, but the conversations seemed to go on and on).  Each time that happened I’d either walk away to make the rounds of my other friends there–Kevin, Danny, Spin–or turned my back on her and looked out across Fourth Street with my arms on the rail. 

   One time after having just returned from talking to Kevin, she asked me what was wrong and said that I was acting weird.  I wondered if she were making reference to my not being and looking depressed because she wasn’t paying any attention to me.  Instead I as rather happy, albeit a bit tired after that walk, and walking between groups of people I knew rather than just hanging around her the entire night waiting for something (inevitably bad) to happen. 

   A person wanting a massage finally came up and I left to let Wendi do her work.  I sat at a table with Danny and Karl on Ruta Maya’s Fourth and Lavaca corner to wait for Annalisse and Carol to show up.

   The night was late and dark but the lights inside Ruta Maya and the other pubs and clubs in the warehouse district spilled enough light into the street to seem as if it were only dusk rather than past midnight.  Through the fake orange glow of those tens of light bulbs shining out onto the patio, I thought I saw Wendi looking at me while giving a massage to the girl who had interrupted us.  It could’ve been my eyes playing tricks on me in the night, or it could have been wishful thinking of her finally being the one yearning for me in that fall-smelling air.  Either way, Annalisse then Carol returned and we left.  I didn’t say goodbye to Wendi.

   When I received her message the next day I wondered if she were calling because she knew I’d be out with Annalisse having fun on a trip I’d originally invited Wendi to go on the weekend before–another telephone message I’d left for her that went unanswered. 

   I find it funny the way people wish to avoid any sort of confrontation.  They’d rather treat others horribly and then act like nothing ever happened, expecting the target(s) of their irresponsibility to feel nothing, especially not any sort of anger or bewilderment.  God forbid they should expect some sort of explanation, and an apology is completely out of the question.

   I can’t stand that.  I’ve confronted Wendi about the way she hurts me, I’ve asked her if she enjoys making me feel bad, enjoys playing games.  Incredulous “are you kidding’s” and “of course not’s” were the order of the day in responses from her along with vague explanations of a need to find herself still. 

   That’s fine.  She’s getting all the time from me she needs to find herself now, but she’s not getting any of my time without giving a bit of her own in the process.  I’m very wary of jumping back into that manhole of wanting to see her again.


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