“A doctor once told me I feel too much. I said: so does God. That’s why you can see the Grand Canyon from the moon.” —Andrea Gibson
My words feel so clumsy. I spend hours and hours in cafes where the walls are made of wood, stone, plaster, brick, I write on tables, I sit on the ground outside, I compose in my head as I walk, I use pens, or pencils, or keyboards, but the problem is, the things that must be expressed no longer dwell in my mind, they exist in my heart. As soon as ballpoint touches notebook, I’ve missed the mark, yet I write and write and write and maybe if I keep going I can carve out enough of the concept that it can be expressed calligraphically after all, but the more I write the more distant I become. Sometimes after showering I trace my finger into the steamed mirror, this is when I feel closest because I don’t have enough space to say the wrong thing, I have to condense it into so few words which contain so much, and anyway no matter what I write my fingerprints are left behind, and it helps knowing that when I open the bathroom door the cool air will quickly erase whatever I have etched. So my words are useless now and I sleep in a field and look up at the sky the heavenly inkwell and the shard of moon keeps rusting and what am I supposed to say about that?
Back in the cities, I feel somehow cut off from myself. I’m reading Travels by Michael Crichton. “Modern city-dwellers cannot even see the stars at night,” he writes. “This humbling reminder of man’s place in the greater scheme of things, which human beings formerly saw once every twenty-four hours, is denied them. It’s no wonder that people lose their bearings, that they lose track of who they really are, and what their lives are really about.” The falling sun touches the horizon and kindles a celestial conflagration that ignites the clouds like an out-of-control wildfire. The blaze is extinguished by darkness but the sky still holds that eerie polluted orange city glow even beyond midnight and the lonely moon looks down so sadly. I ache for the mountains, for a place where I can drink from the streams and where stars haven’t been driven to the brink of extinction. And I think I know how to find this hidden place. But if I went there, how lonely would I be? How long before I began to ache for the poisoned cities again just so I could find companionship in sharing a coffee-space with a handful of strangers as we people-watch each other and wonder about the unspoken details of each others’ intimate lives? Today, in an Austin, Texas café, I watch the barista grind the dark African beans through which the water will percolate into my mug. I wonder if I like coffee so much because with each sip I am drinking an epic voyage.