I am looking around for my picture of a naked lady not because I am a pervert, but because my artist friend wrote the directions on how I can get out of this city on the back of some nude painted by a great master. I am an uneducated artist and I know not the painter or the work.
I miss the exit for the tunnel and have to make a U-Turn back in the right direction. I am trying to listen to Zeppelin on the radio but once I go under all I get is static. I keep staring off into the strobe-lit darkness, waiting for the end of the tunnel. I think of the movie “Daybreak.” They are doing construction down here and all of us are on the same side, two-way traffic whizzing past each other. I hope I get through before someone goes claustrophobic on us.
Earlier I got gas at a Crown station where two white boys behind bullet-proof glass took money from a long line of black folks and me, though lately I have had a hard time figuring out what side of the partition I am on. I am in a different city now then what I am used to and all of the presets on my radio are useless. The familiar stations have a hard time getting through. Favorite songs like “Cinnamon Girl” fade in and out until all I wind up hearing is the beginning and the end.
Before I left the house of my friend, her German Shepherd started barking and three black boys walked by. We looked out of the window and she said, “Oh, it’s the kids.” Then, as if in explanation, she turned to me and said, “We’ve had a lot of break-ins lately.”
It is a strange thing. We like going to the woods to hang out and be on retreat for brief periods of time, but we are too afraid of the forest to make a home there alone with the darkness and the trees, too anxious to remove the curtains and blinds from our windows and leave our inner rooms exposed to the wilderness outside. We stay in the city where there are a lot of us, but we are still afraid. Except now we are afraid of each other rather than the trees and the empty spaces between them.
Either way, the fear is always with us. We are afraid of what we see and we are afraid of what we cannot see. Wherever we go, there we are and there are our fears. But the bottom line is we are afraid of ourselves and the empty spaces that linger within us.
Perhaps once we face them and find some peace to the civil war within, we will learn to look into the eyes of the person standing in line with us at the gas station, smile and say Hello. And in so doing say Hello to ourselves.
December 15, 1998