The Swell That Must Break

Been in bed too long, not sleeping, doing little or nothing but rolling over.

The sheets are orange and the walls are blue. It is a Good Thing, like someone paying attention to order and not being timid.

Sick, as a state, is near to losing-it. You have to be careful. Reality shifts with the up and down of sweat, cascading against the sides of your body. Your body which becomes a ship and becomes its own sea, driving hard from the palm of the wind.

It gets lonely here. Only enough room in the boat for one, only one lifejacket. And who would you wish to inflict this on, anyway? what company to invite on a journey of discomfort and your own dried stink against your skin. A storm battering against the window–after your soul or your faith or maybe just the change in your pockets. Better not to find out.

Outside the door of my bedroom, the family is quieting. The baby will have been asleep now for several hours and the teenager is no doubt on the enormous internet social network/privacy violator that shall not be named, even by those of us so afflicted. Sick is a shut-in, next door crazy. If only you could touch something, right? The temperature of a cold raindrop or warm cheek. Proof that you are not lost after all.

Welcome Home, New Germs

10:30. sick with a cold. it’s a reassuring sensation, in a way–the same tired, the same sore throat and foggy head. This sense of balance in that my body remains my own, even as the ground slips far far under my feet.

This is a quiet part of the second most populous city in the world. We’re not close to the airport, but all the same, I hear planes going up or down every couple of minutes. not deafeningly, just a quiet rush; this too is comforting, a familiar object, an airplane. How many times have I lain in the long damp grass under a clear sky watching the white trail beyond an airplane write itself long against the smoke of clouds?

Or sat inside of one, in a too-small seat, tracing a fingertip again the plastic interior layer of window pane, watching the world reappear, relieved and apprehensive at the promise of landing?

Infection can have this way of creating displacement from one’s own body–so it’s useful to remember the sounds and physical experiences that run like a cord along the length of my life, tying me down with firm sailor’s knot, no matter where I think I am wandering.

The city is not a monster when you can remember that each of the bodies in it is a person. each tied down like this: sight, sound, sensation.

–when you can forgive each and yourself for being subsumed in this, for not noticing or for noticing too little.

The successful connections are like little gasps of air before going under again. So you have to learn how to have bigger lungs. and to remember even when you are thirsty for air, that you will break through, that you have before and it is out there, just waiting for you. Like a ripe peach with a soft orange skin that you reach for and grab and can feel its weight and soft hairs against the startled nerves of your own warm palm.

Like the voice that falls out like water as the solid fruit slips into a plastic bag. The voice, your own or someone else’s, and then eyes not your own. A smile or just a real looking. Then you can hand over a coin, take the bag and keep walking. And trust this. the air and the airless, your body containing all.

Romance with Microbus

the peseros here line the streets and go in fits and starts, drivers leaning hard on the horn, passengers in the front seats aiding with additional directions and critique (“go around him”, “all clear”, etc.). They are green mostly and shaped sort of like bullets. At rush hour or on busy routes, people hang out the front and rear doors and a lot of times they only slow enough for you to scramble for a grip on the handle and pass forward your change. You can get out whenever you want and often this will be in the middle of stalled traffic. The peseros are cheap and run according to a complex logic dictated by privatization–there aren’t maps posted at the bus stops, but there are laminated signs in the window, neon lettering on black, that tell you where each is headed, though not how.

Something about cities is that they want you to learn them by feel. I only know the Distrito Federal in disjointed pieces and by the worming colored lines of the metro. I walk a lot here and wander when I have time. You can tell so much by the prickle along your skin–who is safe, who is not, where you are not wanted. There is almost always a point in the day where the idea of having to talk and form ideas and listen and respond makes my eyes sweat. This is when you can run away and the body of the city will receive you, as if it is you mother or maybe a porous & relatively indifferent outer circle of hell.

Peseros are for running away, sometimes.

Yesterday: a green bus, southward? a pink-on-black sign, reading, “San Angel” and another, orange, “Barranca del muerto.” The young guy next to me, maybe 19? singing along in perfect english to Busta Rhymes and then R. Kelly–bad pop radio. I watched him out the corner of my eye, showing off. Wondered if he was from the states or had worked there or had grown up there. Or maybe had gone to a fancy english-language school in the city. People are mysteries and no one is a tidy story with beginning middle and end. Instead we are these ragged tangles of meaning and truths and memories. Riddles that curl in on themselves. So I gave up and listened to him in that quiet, separate space that is created by another language. and no matter the words, a mother tongue is reliable. sense made of the world in one fell swoop.

It’s a blushing feeling, to be so comforted by what is on one level an aggressor–the English language that bears with it the demands of sublimation and erasure and getting-out-of-its-way. And yet it is also a place I know to surface. The words and meanings I can tell you the shape of, each with its own history, etymological, personal, and then on the scale of conquest. How language is, at its heart, the product of necessity–an organism of sorts that grows out of these small cries and grunts and the scraps of whatever we have been left. Pick a word, any word and I’ll tell you a story. all of it, in my possession.

After the pesero was a long, curling street that I took because it was called rio something and you can always follow a river. It wound through a wealthy-looking neighborhood, a silent acreage encircled by a network of car-filled thoroughfares. The streets were cobbled and the houses and apartments pulled back from the road–the whole place like a medieval gated community. Eerie quiet, like a sneaking-up. like alone in a tomb of closed faces.

Later the streets flooded and then there was a river. Grey-brown and angry, although less than a foot deep. There are signs on the metro that say 50% of floods are caused by litter. I always wonder what causes the other half. Rain? Rain is always what I think, although the real answer is probably much more municipal.

Now it is late and I am supposed to go to a party a girl from my painting class invited me to. Parties are dangerous places. full of small talk and strangers and drinking because of needing to do something with hands and mouth. But I will go, I think I will go, because terror is character building, therefore necessary.