My last trip through Germany was intense. There was the weather: October, cold and rainy mostly. Then there were my parents: fragile, sick, needing help. For a while I was sure, we would not make it to my nephew's wedding, a seven hour car ride up north. But we did! We celebrated through the night, our hearts full of love and gratitude. Then we drove back to my parents' house. The next day I spent ten hours on trains to Berlin and arrived just in time for the annual weltreporter meeting. "The vanishing world" was our main event, discussing the future of foreign correspondents. Nothing lighthearted and not a lot uplifting here ;-) Three days later I was back on a train to see my parents once again before my flight home to LA. A vacation it was not.
Back at home I sat at my desk looking at familiar houses across the street, birds in the bushes, and cats on the prowl. I started writing. My memories from this trip boiled down into a story-dream.
"Hang up your coats, enjoy the ride," says the conductress. "Here we go." I hang onto my armrest. I focus on the fields of harvested corn race by. I unwrap my liverwurst-pickle-sandwich and take a big bite. Then I delete thoughts, plans and memories with one blink of my left eye. Fog moves in. Layers of future, past and present.
"Hopelessness is the path to presence," a message pops up on my screen. Mind readers are hiding on my wrist.
"Emptiness is never real," my mother - who never speaks about these matters - says in a fly-by. Is she in heaven? I thought she was alive at the train station, buckled over, thin as a hazel bush branch. Years still in her, stubborn years, resigned to giving up control of her body, but not her life. "There's always something on a chair you can take upstairs," she says. "Never walk empty." Now, that sounds more like her.
My bones assemble in an unfamiliar order. They are stacked like pastel velvet toy cubes with numbers and letters on them that don't make any sense. The baby playing with them does not care. "I would like to fly," I tell her, "No! I would like to drift and float. Better even: I would like to melt into something." The diamond on my hand agrees. It wants to sparkle formless in a river rather than keep existing as one more first class rock shown off under phosphorus lights at summer fairs.
"Noch jemand zugestiegen?" Voice without body says. "Anyone joined us?" I don't look. My ticket is my life and if I'm headed in the wrong direction I want no one - and that includes myself - to know. "Your cookies crumble," a lady with purple hair says to no one in particular, but I immediately feel guilt. I should not have brought sweets in the first place. Empty calories will do me in before a rooster counts eggs in his house. I always start these messes. Fixing them is one of my specialties I want to take off of my lapel as soon as I'm back home.
"We need more baseball in this country," my neighbor says. A fat, doughy faced former soul miner with anger hiding just behind his puckered lips. "And you, I see," he says and stabs his naked toe into my chest. "You! You are one of those highly educated liberals. You listen to Bublé while you drink sour bubbly." His laughter almost shakes the train off of the rails. I want to hit him with the baseball bat I carry in my back pocket day and night for protection.
"We are all pebbles and rose petals, don't you know?" I respond and close my eyes to images of girls dancing in red skirts bare chested through a desert. They carry whips. They drive cicadas through the dusk. They sing gregorian choruses with devil tongues. They disappear into a mute tornado holding hands.
"Buckle up," the conductress says. "We experience high turbulences." I lift my hands into the air, drift off my seat, melt through the window glass into an ocean wave high as the planes that slice blue skies. "You're right," I say, "I'm sailing. And don't wait for me."
"Turbulences" will be published in my first collection of poems and short stories before the end of the year. I'll keep you posted!