Out of fear of jeopardizing a nascent acquaintance, with someone who understood “small talk” as being the conversations we have on the subject of our size relative to Earth, and its size relative to the universe, I agreed — to hop through puddles, and over the tracks; to lower my defenses against soiling my new Oxford flats.
Running, we hit a wall of brambles that fell open, and swallowed us whole, when my leader uttered the magic words: this way. On the other side, a cemetery, a grove of blighted poles–uncut. “This wood is still good,” they said, “but timberers know that the humankind are superstitious of catching diseases (that do not spread) and living in haunted houses (where none but trees have bled).”
I associate this adventure, from which I am now six months removed, with the feeling of fullness — a mind full of metaphysical questions, stockings full of stinging nettles, and the potential for a future full of invitations to eat ice cream with a friend. Stepping out of my comfort zone, and into the footprints of that nomad/nymph, was the first move of many that led to the making of this hole that I am now using to scratch my toe without removing my shoes. In retrospect, it was worth it.
The Oxbow Nature Study Area, chartered for the animals, by the people, is a watering hole for creatures who enjoy watching and being watched, while pretending to be thoroughly invested in some thing or another — often taking field notes in their Moleskine notebooks or surveying the range of edibles within walking distance.
It is public land, one of the few remaining places where we can play for free. I know a guy — I’ve lived here long enough to know a guy — who practices flute under those minimizing cottonwood spires, making music for an audience of his peers: the growlers, the quackers, the imagined masters, of cloud castles in the sky.
Despite being too frugal to buy toilet tissue, when it’s easy enough to swipe a roll from the diner over the hill, I ritually sacrifice $2.29 for one 10 oz. mug of coffee. I treat the cafe counter as rented studio space. Consumer etiquette tells me that I can loiter for two hours before purchasing a refill becomes obligatory.
But…there is a place for people like me, a preserve for poets who’d rather perch on the periphery of society than participate in basic exchanges of cash for caffeine. A place closer to home. A place that my memory recalls as the most romantic / Romantic setting in all of Reno, Nevada. Oxbow is convenient and cost-effective and cast in natural light, but I do not go there.
Now, sitting on the dock that leans out against muddy waters, into the marsh, a tributary of the Truckee River, I listen for the question that belongs to this place, on that day, when they asked it. Then, my answer was a snake in the reeds, meandering, a thing that made us wonder which end to be afraid of.
“What is home, Kayla?” A “w” question, but not the one I expected.
I said, “Home is a social convention — more dated than dating — four
walls make a box, two adults and two children in a box make four people.”
There’s some pleasure in being (or performing as) the type of person to intellectualize a concept that others know intuitively for fact, i.e., red means stops, green means living, but more in having a queue of single words answers to fill all the blank, uninterested faces at any given gathering of acquaintances.
Now, I am wanting to say “here” or “you” or some other small but mighty thing. I am wanting to express my truth, which is love, which is gratitude, which is healing, but they are not asking. Out of respect, let no mean no; let silence mean no; let me listen. Let an other have their turn in the sun, their pirouette on the big, flattop of a rotted-out stump.
This time, let me ask the questions.