Tag Archives: biography

In the Twilight, chapter two

13 Nov

from November 19, 2007

           I drove through the morning. Overcast and grey, it was more like a continuation of the night than a new day. The landscape was quiet, few cars going anywhere, no houses, no people. It was good.

           The windows were down and though it was cold the wind felt alive against my face, and made the day, the whole trip, less unreal. More so than the sleep the night before, the wind made me feel whole again.

           The road wound through a lightly wooded area. The town was far behind and whatever was ahead was far ahead.. The trees were grimly clinging to their last leaves and the brown limbs shot over the narrow road. Can’t I get away from all this?

          Grey sky, brown dead trees, moving higher into the mountains on a road no wider than a service lane. I was ascending, strangely.

          I had filled the tank the day before and it was still more than half full. A sign said there was GAS FOOD LODGINGS 1 MILE ahead, and I decided to pull in. I’m not sure why I wanted to stop, but I had been driving for a few hours with only my thoughts and maybe I felt I needed some fresh air. Maybe I needed to stretch my legs. Maybe I just had to stop.

          The rest area was built along the road and overlooked a valley formed by a deep cut where the mountain split and grew into two peaks. It was small and almost looked closed but I saw lights in the parking area. The day was so dim that the lamps were needed. I glanced at my watch. It was near noon. I pulled up along the low railing and got out.

           “Ow!”  It hurt to stretch my legs after sitting for so long. My mind was active but my muscles had gone to sleep. Usually the other way ’round.

           I rubbed my legs and, after a few minutes to get the circulation back, walked, slightly sorely, to the rail and looked into the valley.

           The fog I thought I had left behind in town had settled into the lower parts of the valley, and as a result many of the features were hidden to me. Don’t have my camera anyway. But by squinting I could see a steeple just peeking out of the mist and the shadows of some small buildings. “It darkles, it tincts,” my mind dredged up. I could see, or thought I could see, a large building nestled near the bottom of the cliff’s face. There may have been some lights on inside, I really couldn’t tell. It was foggy and a long way down.

           Strange. I never saw any signs. I drove right past it. How can I miss a whole village? It seemed so Lovecraftian that I laughed. Nice view though.

           Smiling for the first time in days I walked back, past the car, across the tiny lot and the two rusty RVs with Mid-Western plates and sooty windows. A little girl looked out of the rear window. No, I realized, it was a doll.

           Why am I smiling? After all I’ve been through? This is what I left behind.

           There were three gas pumps alongside a store so small and old I was sure it had to date back to the 1920s, at least. I wondered why it had never been replaced.  At least they could have paved the place. There was dirt being kicked up with every step. The brown dirt and the chill air made me think about the trench coat I’d left back in town. I didn’t want it.

           I stepped into the store and it took my eyes a few seconds to adjust to the dim light inside. While I stood there blinking, I heard a voice speak to me. “Here for a visit?”

           “No. Visit where?”

           “You’re from New York. Cop?”

           I realized that the shopkeeper had read my sweatshirt. NYPD. “No. Not from New York anymore. I just stopped to stretch my legs.” Once my eyes had adjusted I looked at the old man behind the counter. About sixty years old. Thin and grey-haired. Gaunt, with thin glasses and a sweater that looked almost as old as he was.

           “Great view. Looking for a souvenir? Postcard?”

           “Uh Uh.” I didn’t want to talk, but I was the only one in the store and the shopkeeper was determined to make a sale. I walked over to an ice chest (no big Snapple  fridge here) and pulled out a bottle of Coke. The shelves had old nick-knacks that were probably supposed to be local-made but weren’t and some snacks, maps, magazines, and sunglasses, T-shirts, and postcards.

           “How’d you like a genuine Indian blanket?”

           “No thanks. Just the soda.”

           “Well, if you’re sure. Fifty-nine cents.”

           “Fifty-nine?” Was Coke ever that cheap in my lifetime?

           “Let’s make it an even fifty-eight.”

           I paid the man and then I felt no reason at all to leave.

          “Tell me about that town down below.”



In the Twilight

13 Nov

from November 18, 2009

           As I walked through the grounds I stopped once or twice to kick at the dirt. It had only been a few weeks but the change of seasons had hit hard. Green grass was gone, replaced by brown hard earth and brittle dead leaves. The trees were near-dead skeletons and the stones loomed cold and gray.

           Black, I thought. This isn’t supposed to show the dirt. But the length of the black trench coat was spotted along the bottom hem with dots and splatters of brown sod and grayish-black mud.

            I eventually made it back to the car, right where I left it by the main road. It was also splattered with dirt. “Hmm.”

            There was no one around this time of day. The sun was setting. It was cold and getting dark and this wasn’t the friendliest place at night. Not that it was any better during the day, but at least you wouldn’t accidentally trip over a dead branch or a broken stone.

            Won’t be back for awhile. Damn.

            I took off the trench coat and tossed it in the back. Coats that long just get in the way when you drive. So I started the car, didn’t turn on the radio, and drove out. The road was also dirt, and unmarked and unlit. Figures.

            Eventually I made it out (after a wrong turn or two) and drove onto the county road toward town. Now I turned on the radio. The news was on, just missed sports and traffic was next so I changed the station to some music I couldn’t identify and finally just turned the radio off again. “Shit.”

            The road lights were few and far between but the road was straight and empty. A truck loaded with logs rumbled past going the other way and I had to pull over to allow a van full of old folks to speed ahead of me. Why are they in such a hurry?

            The glow ahead grew bright and the town loomed out of the darkness. The mountains rise behind the town and cast a shadow so approached from this direction, even at twilight, the town usually seemed to be in darkness, so the lights were bright and usually on at even at midday.

            Well, I wasn’t in a hurry and entered town from the west, passed by one of the town’s only two stoplights, and parked in the diner’s tiny lot. The senior citizen van was already parked three spots over, close to the door. I got out. It was chilly but I left the trench coat in the car. I didn’t want to carry that dirt into the restaurant. I had some on my shoes but I did my best to brush it off.

            Millie was behind the counter. She waved. I waved back and sat in another section, across the diner and away from the old folks. The other waitress brought me coffee, as usual, and I didn’t drink it, as usual. I ordered some eggs.

            While I waited I walked over to the counter and took the top paper off the pile. It was the morning edition but it was the local paper and nothing ever changes there and so I read it anyway. Sixteen pages. The antics of the mayor. High school sports. Local gossip. (Millie was in the column, sixth paragraph.) Pages and pages of ads for the two grocery stores, the bookstore, Jenny’s Laundromat, and even a half-page of personal ads.

            I read it cover to cover over my eggs.

            I’m not sure how long I was in the diner. I only wore my watch when I went out of town, not often, and I had nowhere to go. Eventually the old folks left, my eggs were eaten, and Millie was wiping the counters and trying to start a conversation with me, hoping to explain how the gossip column was wrong.

            “It’s OK Millie. I didn’t bother to read it,” I lied. I left a tip and went out to my car.

            The lot was now empty and most of the few stores on main street were closed or closing. Only Jenny’s Laundromat was open (All-Nite! said the sign.) and I headed over to drop off the trench coat. Jenny really did run the Laundromat and she always wore her “Hi! My name is Jenny!” name tag, even though everyone knew her and the only other employee was a black man named Lorenzo.

            Jenny wanted to talk to everyone and I waited until she had a phone call so I could drop off the coat, get my ticket, and leave while her voice was being used elsewhere. Jenny.

            I really didn’t want to go home. Other than to sleep there was no reason to. But there was nothing to do in town (besides talking with Jenny) so I went home.

            The TV was off and I kept it that way.

            I tracked in some of the dirt. Shouldn’t I have walked it off by now?

            For some reason it was hot inside even though I never use the heat and I opened some windows and a nice cool breeze came in. I didn’t mind the cold, I slept under a heavy quilt. I put away some things I had left around and eventually fell asleep. I know I had some dreams but I don’t want to remember them.

            The next day was Saturday. I put on my jeans and sneakers, found an old NYPD sweatshirt and just got in my car and drove.

            I took my watch.


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