Last night, on my way across the concrete sprawl of Central Phoenix, I encountered a scene straight out of some 1940s dystopic novel. The sky lit into an orange-black mass where funnels of smoke formed and people wandered around bus stops in 115 degrees, waiting for the bus… maybe just waiting. Sirens and helicopters stabbed at any kind of silence and bled into white noise. The streets were dirty. It was a mess. I watched the slow motion surrealism at the intersection in my jeep – now without air conditioning – waiting (and sweating) for the light to change and I could once again be moving through.
For someone who loves being in the stillness and retreat of nature, this scene is jarring. It occurred to me, in the cacophony and chaos, that there are very few of us who are willing and able to leave the noise and crowds for an experience to know ourselves without familiar surroundings and many distractions. Babies scream. Dogs are left in backyards to bark through day and night. Traffic hums. The heat here even seems to make some kind of sound – the exhaustion of overworked air conditioners, the muted phone conversations of people hermetically sealed in their air-conditioned sedans.
The noise is almost like a cover for a deepen truth none of us are willing to face. Could it be we have lost our innate senses? Have we stopped listening to the wind? Do we know what our skin feels like in July or how certain places contain intense magic and mystery? Do we run from intuition?
At the office, fear dominates. We fear not getting enough or getting more than we can handle. We fear getting laid off – the next best employee scooping our promotion. This fear stays tantamount to our misery. It has its own sound: in rumbling, upset guts, in whispered gossip, in our hearts constricting under high blood pressure and lethargy-borne diseases.
At home, we talk on phones at imaginary connections. When not on our phones, we blast TVs from two rooms away, play music… distract ourselves online. Then we drop into bed with the weight of insomnia and too few hours of sleep to hit the repeat button the next day.
In love, we seek the tide of desire. We escape into the flower-blood romance – the pulsating glow of sighs and cars. We sell ourselves to marriage, to encounters, to sexual fears so spoiled in their claustrophobic expressions we do not even begin to know them.
“What do you want…really,” I ask.
Inside, I turn answers of my own around some imaginary playground where children, the children I – maybe – someday – want – sing their child songs.
I turn lovers into fables. I make myths of men – their diamond promises and vampire kiss.
In the heart of Phoenix, I believe I am always leaving on one of the planes flying in and out of here.
Outside, the lights of the city blot out the star-scape. I wish for one night of darkness. I watch my neighbors walk their dogs. It is late and the desperate voices talk over dinner… hushed, wondering….
Let’s get away, I whisper.