Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I Stepped Into The Wasteland
I stepped into the wasteland this morning. I knew, walking into the cold, fog-filled morning, what to expect. I had lived in it for many years. I had walked the trail. Followed the well-marked lines and over the highlighted boundaries. And though I expected it and had some vague sense of the death scent and dim florescent lights, it was stronger than the memory. The building was a wide one story square. We stood in quiet order, spilling from the open double glass doors to the edge of the parking lot. The sun had not peeked out from behind the clouds, and a woman close to me stood clutching her paper cup of coffee. The young man next to me, covered in a large black hoodie, kept a small bottle of orange juice in his pocket. I held my large jar of tea and goat milk close to my heart. “It’s not so bad,” I told myself, the line is moving fast. It’s nice to be out in the world with my tea.” I focused on the warmth of the glass, reaching me though the black wool jacket. The minutes passed and more joined the line. This was a necessary evil in a world of rules. Of bureaucratic technicality and parking signs and permits and details that required our money. We stood in line. The boy in the hoodie coughed and spit into the small pocket of ivy within the cemented sidewalk. I made a face, slightly disgusted at the sound. “Man, you know how close that guy came to hitting me? This close!!” There was an old Cadillac parked illegally in front of some parked cars. Two black youth stood by it. One talking loudly, the other just listening. I turned to the old man behind me. “It’s moving pretty fast.” “What’d you say?” he asked me. “The line is moving pretty fast.” “Yeah, it’s not so bad.” We talked for another twenty minutes while the line was slowly categorized by the gate keepers behind a desk close to the front door. The old man had moved to the city in 1950 and bought his double flat for $11,000. He said it was a lot of money at the time and that to buy it, he spent all his reserves, he could have bought a lot more properties in the neighborhood, in what is now known as Million-Dollar Hill. I turned to wish him good luck on his driving test, but he didn’t hear me, he was already focused on the black woman behind the desk, the woman that would give him a number. I held a small paper ticket in my hand. B042. They had just called B020. I took a seat, the old man chose another spot. I tried to read, but instead I looked around at the many rows of plastic chairs that lined the building. Sitting in almost every one was a bored looking human. This was the necessary evil. The bureaucratic monstrosity that moved like a leviathan without feeling, content only to take the living breath out of all that entered. I looked around again, unable to focus on the letters on the page, on the letters that could take me to another world, in fact, into a galaxy very far away, but there was too much in the room. Too much impatience, boredom…too much. I studied the people standing by the windows of the bureaucrats, the people who had come even earlier than I. B026! It was the cold unfeeling voice of a robot. A female sound that never felt joy. I felt myself becoming impatient, I closed my eyes and brought my attention inwards. “We should have called…” I heard the woman behind me say. “I know,” agreed her boyfriend. My eyes opened. Yes, I should have called. I thought about it so many times the day before, I just never did. Was it to snuff the suggestion? I looked around. There were no happy faces. The people slumped in their hard plastic chairs. This was a necessary evil. Necessary, but soul sucking. I watched the girl standing in front of me. She was tall, with long slender legs, but something seemed a little strange about her body. I scrutinized the contour of her shape through her tight jeans. Her feet were exposed in Coco Chanel sandals, worn for fashion on this cloudy day. I watched her, realizing that she had no hips, she was nearly a solid line. The lines made by her tight panties showed through her jeans. A small leather bag hung by a faux metal chain from her shoulder. She turned and looked around the room, making a face, one she must make often. I closed my eyes once again. I pulled my attention in. B042! It had been an hour. “I’m happy to see you!” I said with a smile. The woman behind the desk did not look at me. She was a small, portly Latin woman. She wore a pink short sleeved sweater. I looked at the small gold pendant on her neck, hanging from a thin gold chain. I couldn’t tell exactly what it was, but assumed it was religious. “What can I help you with?” She took my forms, I gave her my plastic card, a promise of money contained within its shape. I took some new forms and drove into the city. Hillsides covered in houses greeted me. In the heart of the city, there was traffic. There were a few still sleeping on the cold street. I searched for a place to park and entered another building. More lines, more people coughing. There were more numbers and more waiting and no one wanted to be there. I tried to find his eyes. How would he look at all this? I felt a smile coming from deep within me. For a moment, for the tiniest brief moment, I look around with his eyes and not my own. It all seemed a little pretty, a little humorous. I might use these people later, in a way they would never think of. The monster Samoan woman behind the counter. The other giantess who refused to give me a parking permit because of a technicality. The bureaucrats that were lined up like cattle behind glass windows. I stepped into the wasteland. There were rules and regulations, there was the desire, the desire of something inhuman, that thing wanted life. It took it. It took life with all the waiting and boredom and protocol. I closed my eyes and pulled the breath within me. I looked around. I remembered the day when I was on the street taking photos and everyone was beautiful. “Maybe it’s because you’re really seeing them,” my friend said. For a moment, in the small room, I looked into the wasteland. There was a man with one regular shoe, the other was a high platform. “His legs are different sizes,” I thought to myself. He was beautiful. I looked into the wasteland and saw a flicker. Both remembering and forgetting in nearly the same instant.