“She” has become “they” these past few months.
“It’s interesting to think about community oriented cultures. They can mentally distance themselves from others without physically moving away from them.”
The woman saying these words, and longing for this ability was small in stature. She was quiet and reserved and had a raspy, deep voice that seemed to soothe more than anything else. Freckles covered her face and fuzz covered arms. When she raised her arms you saw that she made a conscious decision to use her time in more productive ways than shaving her body hair. She was a scientist. She was calculated. Yet that voice contrasted with her calculating behaviors. Her hair was cut short mimicking the nature of a Mohawk. Her name was Gene.
She had only known one other Gene in her life. Her grandfather. Well technically his name was Eugene but nobody that she knew called him that.
She found herself missing those she lost young. Now that she had the ability to learn from others and talk to others despite her awkwardness, what she wanted more than anything is learn those lessons she missed out on as a shy child.
She listened as Gene and the others surrounding her spoke about this ability and how they craved it. They moved on to speak about love and sex and work and Ebola and how bizarre the mixture of these things were.
She began thinking of the armadillo road kill she wondered at as 13 others slept in the back seat in Tennessee and the man with the easy voice in the jazz band they watched in New Orleans and that moment she was floating down rapids with her feet up because that’s what she thought they had told her to do. She wondered if she would have swum eventually if they had not instructed her to, or if she would have allowed herself to float to her own death.
She came back to the conversation and they were talking about Europe. Where to go. Where they’d been. How amazing Budapest and Venice and Berlin are. They moved to Africa. Their dream to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. They moved to South America and Patagonia.
She thought about Suphan Buri and Book and her students and the two wonderful coffee people in front of her apartment and how beautiful she found that place and those people. It wasn’t a destination on people’s bucket list. Nobody would be able to say how stunning or magical it was. But that’s how she would describe it to people when they asked. She would say “It was amazing.” That would be it because she would fumble over her words, in the past, trying to explain, so now she uses “amazing” and allows them to use their own imagination.
“Have you done Joshua Tree?” the girl to the left of Gene asked. She was looking for the chance to say that she had with a little tilt at the end of her sentence. A tilt of accomplishment. A tilt of arrogance. A tilt of inadequacy. Everybody wondered if anybody else heard it, but they all remained quiet. They all had that tilt at one point in their lives.
She left the house full of people and drove towards her hotel room full of emptiness. She listened to music that was filled with emotion. She did this when she wanted to find herself again. She had a tendency to get lost in anxiety in these crowded hot months of summer. Music always helped her find her way. She was excited for that moment in her double bed with nobody around her but her white sheets and the sultry, melodic voices of her leaders through that dense summer air.