Monday, November 25, 2013

White noise

I was on the plain. The land was mostly flat, with some bumps and rises between the few, bare juniper trees and pimply groupings of rocks. My camp was up against a larger boulder, a larger piece of dense, red lava rock. I used my pick to carve a depression in the rock against the ground in which I built a fire so the heat would reflect better.

The night was dark because the moon was gone. I ate half a can of sticky kidney beans and half a can of syrupy peaches and stretched out close enough to the fire to sleep on top of my sleeping bag and not freeze. When the wind kicked up later and the fire became a loose pile of embers then I'd slide under the the bag and huddle closer. But, for now, the breeze on the back of my neck was welcome with the flame pushing out at me.

When everything went away I missed the big things first. Hot showers, or hot water I didn't have to boil, came first. The world was dirty and I was too. Dirt stuck to me like my ragged clothes stuck to me like everything stuck to me and it was miserable. I missed my cell phone. The world was still at my fingertips, I suppose, but it was a whole lot smaller and more visceral and I depended utterly on it. Email and social media and inane-but-beautiful videos were reduced to figments of memory, and when I wanted to remember individual pieces they all ended up blurring together into an amorphous unit of what life constantly was.

Mostly I missed white noise. The sound of a dryer loosely spinning hot socks on a rainy day. The low hum of my refrigerator in the night as it kept perishable food cold enough to enjoy days or weeks later. The gentle in-out of someone you trust enough to let them sleep at your side. Now everything was soundless like always except for the wood popping and hissing in the fire. And I liked it that was because it meant I was alone and safe and nothing would be complicated or dangerous.

I slept on the ground and dreamed of a big bed, and breakfast cereal, and the morning news with inane anchors desperate for ratings to justify their opulent contracts and fancy suits, and washing machines and dryers, and the sound a can of shaving cream makes when you shake it up and press the button on the top and white lather explodes into your hand, and the whirr of an idling engine as you wait for something, anything, and you can't stand the sound so you switch on the radio and all you can find is commercial after commercial but you listen anyway because it's better than endless white noise.

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