Whiskers from palm fronds; cigarette butts; Miller’s deceitful ‘High-Life’ splintered into gleaming flecks among the oil-stained asphalt detritus; almond-sized pigeon scat; someone’s loosed screws, bolts and air-filters; open, shit smeared swaddlings abandoned, face-up, to dry in the sun; cracked and rotted wiper-blades no longer able to free the slightest drop from a windshield; one soiled, New Freedom panty-shield laying interestingly close to a Lifestyle’s spermicidally lubricated, ribbed ‘for her pleasure’ condom envelope; palm kernels, dying, drying, baking on the unfertile, black, cracked expanse of the Navajo Hotel’s cul-de-sac parking lot.
My tired Toyota ambled onto the property, came to a stop and coughed that familiar diesel chug eruption that told me there might be less miles remaining in the fraying, stretched-out timing-belt than I had originally thought. Quiet. It will be a little harder to start when I want to leave, but it will start; it always does. It will shortly remove me from this haven of prostitutes and modern-day pirates and drug-runners. It always has.
Unfolding from the little car, I stretch my legs and take an unhurried account of my surroundings. While I turn and reach back into the car to collect my badge and notebook, I continue to look around the buildings, checking-out which doors are opened or closed, trying to find one whose number is still affixed or not painted-over, just trying to give myself a point of reference in case any shit happens. A couple years back, one of my less observant partners stepped into the middle of a pharmaceutical sales meeting. On the ‘board-room table’ was all of the hardware necessary for maintaining a safe transaction, one in which none of the ‘muthafuckas’ was going to get the best of the ‘otha muthafuckas.’ It is an unconscious voice that tells me to keep my eyes open.
Slightly down the road, and across from the recently remodeled Ramada Reservations Center, sits a mid-to-late-twenty-ish-looking businessman type of guy waiting for the bus. He is constantly looking up and down the street, the famed ‘Van Buren’ of central Phoenix. His knuckles are near white with holding his briefcase overly tight. Standing now and taking a tentative step into the road to peer even further, he is searching for what must be a late bus. His lilly-whiteness is loud and his discomfort would make him a likable target for any less than conscientious street thug who might happen to observe his shuffling feet or hear his overly-loud beating heart. He is anxious to get onto the tardy bus and make his way out of this part of town. Does he really not belong here or did he do something that he is going to regret later? Did he just participate in that age-old ‘opportunity of indiscretion?’ What’s up?
A few years ago, while taking a sociology class, I imagined what it would be like to approach a complete stranger and request an interview about any particular subject, a little bit of real life ethnography conducted right there at the bus-stop. I thought it would be a fascinating way to get a glimpse into the mind of the man or woman from the street, projects, barrio, bus-station, or whatever. What made them into the person that I would now behold? What would be their reaction to me? Would they talk? Would they tell me that they were too busy to be bothered, or would they engage me in a rough hour of banter and miscellaneous bull-shit that wouldn’t amount to a pocket-full of lint? Of course, there would always be the possibility that they would tell me to ‘fuck-off’ and leave them alone.
I know that I am a stranger to you, and I understand that you might feel uncomfortable talking with me, but please, listen to my question and then speak to me, freely. If you are still uneasy, try to see that you really have nothing to fear. Since I am a stranger, how will I know what is a lie and what is the truth? How could I know? How can I judge you when I don’t know you and don’t know where you’ve been and don’t know what rotten or wonderful things have made you the person that stands before me? I can’t know these things. Think about it…you’ll probably never see me again, so it doesn’t matter that you tell the truth. Revealing to me, a stranger, the innermost part of your soul holds no danger. Please, won’t you try?
Do you see an utter sadness when you behold the face or life of someone who had not been as ‘blessed’ as you have been? Do you hear the ringing of the unfairness that underlies the most deeply rooted foundation of human existence? If you searched your soul and came to the point where you could only be honest, how would you respond? Would it hurt when you looked into their eyes? Would you ache to the core because you wanted to do something that you know you haven’t the power to do? I ask you this because I wonder at it myself. I sense that the entire context is wrong and that there is not one shred of fairness and I don’t know what to do with this feeling; I don’t know where to go with it. I’m only asking you to share the truth, your truth, that’s all. What do you think? How does your inner-soul agonize when considering their un-blessing?
Are we right to assume that there is no Supreme Being? What level of fairness has He meted out to us? Is He even there to do something so human-like? Does the absence of fairness also indicate the absence of His unerring holiness? Is it wrong to declare that He doesn’t exist just because we can’t see His hand in every single thing and in every facet of life? Or are we in error to assume that He isn’t there simply because everything isn’t as rosy in the rest of the world as it is in our own little part of it, or vice versa? I don’t know the answer; I am only familiar with the disparity of the blessing. I only see the results of what has happened as a consequence of what I’m told is, or was man’s ‘original sin.’ The entirety of humanity is now being held accountable for one man’s errant ways? Oh, Preacher, speak; answer my longing to know! Is all of this the result of a bad choice, one wrongly made decision? Tell me you’re kidding; tell me it’s a joke, an ill-timed revelation of a conjuring from the infantile history of humanity where snake teeth or sheep knuckle-bones were shaken and tossed to predict the future or read the past. Tell me, Preacher! Please…!
If the child had been butchered ere it breathed, would that have been less cruel than to allow it to live through what he has no choice, now, but to endure? Is not enacting death sometimes more humane than letting the life continue, or begin? If I had been given the choice by an All-Knowing Force to choose to have my life so snatched from me before it was even mine to possess, or to live it in a hellish, nightmarish existence, which would I have chosen?
Now, behold the child of golden, brown-sugared skin with gelled ringlets bouncing about his crown, clad only in a diaper and bare feet. Somehow he has become wise, at only two years, to avoid the oil stains in the parking lot. This tiny man navigates through the broken glass and beer cans to follow his daddy across the parking lot to some other door, some other portal to a ten by twelve hovel called a hotel room. The hinges concede and allow the many times painted-over door to swing open and release light into the stale air of the over-heated room and thick odor of sleeping bodies. This shitty life has gone past the comfortable point where we would stick our heads under the covers and smell the warm body of our self or loved one in bed next to us. The smell of clean sheets and often-bathed bodies’ oils mingling with the scent of slept-in flannel pajamas is a comfort to the soul. But when it’s mixed with compounding days and weeks worth of wear and scarcity of water, there builds an odor that is at once repelling and engulfing. You are simply surrounded and taken in to the den of whom or whatever it is that has been hibernating there. Halt your breath and still the unease in your stomach and experience the life of someone else. To be continued….
He snapped alive with a sulfurous urging in his hallowed place, reflecting then on those around him. He pondered, considered, and postulated about what they and he might be. “What am I that, or who, is able to exist only softly, attached for life to my waxen, wick-ed anchor, knowing only what…I don’t know. Of what am I comprised? What constituent parts have been arrested to make my whole? What molecules render me soft enough to flee like a thought in a slight breeze? What have I to do, but to live and reflect? Who is to know? Who. In a dark room, were I to be placed upon a post to shine from its center, would I be as bright as if I were placed next to a mirror at the side of the room, with only half of my light being real and shining as from my soul? Is that solitary, yellow dart of my being enough to light in half, though reflected, as though from that post in the middle of the otherwise dark room? What design orders this? Why do I live only anchored here and not aloft in the sky? Why do those around draw away from me as if in fear of harm? I am a solitary, gilded whisper of light, shining upon those from whom I am ordered, without will, or otherwise. My stepward cousins and unrelative conflagrations burn with an unintelligible force, magnified and multiplied beyond reason, my small frame. What soft caress would touch my delicate skin? What gentle lace would adorn me? In the place of never-thought would it live beyond my kiss. It is unknown. For it is, and not being. If a scientist were to analyze my being, would he find only the mist of paraffin, or the shadowing remnants of tallow, rendered from the fatted calf? What am I? And why does my touch bite? I cannot win friends; I cannot feel the embrace of another. If I am drawn nigh unto my own kind I am lost and shall never be regained unto myself. Am lost.”