The Lotus Eaters of Mars
There's an old-timey windmill that stands over the road, where it turns off into the woods and curves around past the lands where the cows graze beyond wire fences and small houses sit at the ends of tarry back roads, farm houses and modified sets of two or more trailers conjoined into homes.
The windmill turns with a slow creak, the wind is light, and it's dark, near midnight, there are few cars, just the blinding spread of headlights every so often through pitch dark, passing and leaving. The rush of wind and roar of an engine, sailing off into the night, down the bend, and around behind the trees, echoing on a primordial landscape of wooded brush with sounds that have only existed for a little over a century of the world's history. And the roads wind out like a black circulatory system through the night, spidering out into the woods, ensnaring houses and filling stations, corner stores and bait-shops.
My parents live just a few miles away. And Lake Lavon is just down the road, a large concrete bridge running over it towards McKinney, the grey spindly branches of submerged trees sticking up out of the muddy water. I come here sometimes when I'm depressed. There are footsteps now, mine, echoing through the dark as I walk along the road, as my feet take shape and my body fades with them into existence. My flesh, my bones, eyes, hair, woven together in my imagination over my memory of a place.
There's a crumpled can by my feet now, it might be Budweiser, or Coke even, it's markings are faded, the color a rusty oxidized streak, it's almost flattened from car tires that have past over it, over the months and the years. This beer can is ancient. I kick it down the road with me as I walk, past the windmill as it creaks, towards the direction of those cows and the small country homes. This place isn't necessarily the sticks, it isn't some lonely town forty-five miles from Amarillo, isolated, dislocated, not way out there in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre south. It's about five or ten minutes from the strip with the Super Target, a Dick's Sporting Goods, JC Penny, a smattering of bars and restaurants, and all that. The nice residential neighborhoods and subdivisions that occupy every available square mile, the high school, my elementary, and middle school. My parents live just outside that, in a big house, with internet and a pool and flat-screen TVs, all the comforts of home just a few miles from the hustle and bustle.
Where, when I visit, in my mind or on two real feet, having taken a plane ride or an extended 16 hour road-trip, I can survey the two-acre property out back with a glass of wine in my hand, ruminating. Like some ridiculous modern caricature of Shelley or Byron, and I love the way it feels, the freedom to be superfluous and over-the-top. A reaction so absurd none of life's problems could have possibly warranted or anticipated it, where nothing painful can touch you. I miss this place, I do. Not what it is now, but what it was to me. I miss being a teenager with my friend Brandon, we'd ride down these country roads, where I'm walking right now in my imagination, and listen to the soundtrack from the David Lynch film, Lost Highway. Using our imaginations to creep ourselves out, feeling that movie magic come to life right before our eyes with the proper poking and prodding of our minds and environment. I miss being able to write and breathe freely, without this anxiety that I'm getting older and my creativity is becoming more and more of a burden than a blessing. I used to experiment with my stories and my wordplay really freely, I'd read Cormac McCarthy, Haruki Murakami, William S. Burroughs, and Kurt Vonnegut, and just play, in the context of these worlds they created, take the trails they'd blazed. I can hear Johnny Cash and Iggy Pop echoing out from somewhere in the country dark of my recollection, from some old transistor radio in nobody's shed with the decrepit sheet-metal door just enough ajar for me to hear this dream radio play in the distance.
I remember a time where everything felt new, where I'd write things and not get upset with myself, or be so harsh about it, for thinking I could do better and that I don't have this or that skill to properly do justice to the thing I want to create, to actualize the vision. Even this, this little vignette, began as an attempt at a story in an environment familiar to me, and has ended as little more than a creative essay, because I didn't have the courage to try and tell a satisfying narrative. I copped out. Look at him, walking like a ghost through my mind down the road. If I keep going, I'll eventually come across these beautiful secluded neighborhoods with big houses and bright lights, hidden away in the dense tree cover. If I turn around, and fold space and time with my imagination as I walk, like some mental warp drive, I'd follow the bustle of suburban America, through denser and denser population centers until I finally reach Dallas. There's so much construction here; oil money, medical money, sports money, so many things happening. I can't even contain them all in memory, they stretch, elongate, become unreal abstractions, dreams.
I keep walking, if I go just a bit further I'll reach a crossroads in my mind, maybe Robert Johnson will be there with his 10 dollar guitar, waiting for his time with the devil, to sell his soul so he can play the blues. It's not out of the realm of possibility, I did have a dream about him the other night. Anything could happen, I don't know where the Hell I'm going, I don't know what interests me, what I want, I'm caught in a tight snare of infinite possibilities. I'm still young, even though I feel older, I'm creative, the people I talk to seem to enjoy my company. I could do so much if I just knew what I wanted, or how to go after it. That critical voice inside has scrambled me up, like it always does. Confused me, redirected me in circles after my own tail, left me exhausted and distraught. The voice of judgement, the voice of your own private wrath.
Out here there's no judgement but my own, I guess like always. It's getting very dark now, past midnight, as time lurches forward at an accelerated pace. The hours wind around the clock and daylight flashes above in days that last an instant, like cracks of sudden lightning before it is night again and the moon swells from out of ragged grey clouds like a hot white bulb. The cities and towns and fields of nothing all run together and twist in spirals towards some inevitable conclusion in my dreams, on the bridge between memory and experience, where fantasies grow and change. Hopefully some new day will peek over the horizon, like an eye through a keyhole, and I'll breathe easy again.