Eating Alone

The report is flying with white wings and the day is a lock; brilliant sunshine coming through the glass.  Armies are fighting in the paper and that is only a facsimile of flip flops and guns, but I get the idea.  General Green is marching on Monrovia because his microwave is broken.  None of the child soldiers are willing to tell General Green about the solar cookers the Dutch left behind.  That would be a good way to get shot and anyway, the General is in the middle of a year-long blood lust.  None of that is for me.

We land in the dark.  Early morning airport metro is mostly empty, except for a woman looking like Hollywood big silver; in the Panavision version that makes heads wide, kitchen matches explode and motorcycles speed past camels on the old Damascus road.  I can feel the ticket setting my fingers on fire.  She is a slightly hard, mostly pretty woman in black high heels, miniskirt, and sheer brocade crop top.  Her profile is a jutting, tilted face, a bottle turned up, hair falling down her back, and a feather in her earlobe.  The hair seems imported, possibly strained from a Swedish river with headwaters in the Lapland.  She offers me a hit of the pinot noir and she asks where I am going.  I take a long pull, not bad.  Thanks, I am going to Foggy Bottom via 14th Street, I need to see my mentor.  Okay, she says, do you have time for breakfast?  I say no, I need to practice my lines: big scene.  Yeah, but honey, you can’t get it any bigger than with me.  I make one of those expressions where you nod and purse your lips and slightly raise your eyebrows and the whole effect is, right, I get that, but well, you know man, I just don’t know…more nodding and then I say, yeah, that would be nice, two eggs over easy with a side of butter and little sizzlers, but I really can’t.  I offer a final blank stare.

At the next stop she gets up and says, goodbye lover.  We shake hands and as she draws away, she scratches the inside of my palm with her middle finger: the universal female reaction to missed opportunity and a somewhat nicer way to give the middle finger.  She reminds me of my hotel maid in Nepal.  I had asked her to go home and feed her child and then come back for a shower.  We ate room service for free since she knew everyone in the kitchen.

I arrive to the briefing late.  Too bad and I don’t care.  I’m tired and ready to be fired. Analytics for the oblong table, unknown factor of men in the back, overhead won’t work, and the coughing becomes a distraction.  Somebody asks for ten copies stamped need to know.

Every step we take is hard; one after the other as life passes to our left and right, ahead and behind.  I don’t know you and you don’t know me, except in the moment, and my zipper is down and my pen has leaked in the pocket of my shirt.  The diorama is moving in a circle, and we come back in the night, standing outside, looking in at the light, listening to the vinyl pop and crackle.

Seahorses used for erections, childhood forgotten, daughter sick, company in trouble, sleepless nights as usual, comments left by strangers from L.A., and Srebrenica is 105 kilometers from Tuzla.  It takes a lifetime to get there.  Few understand what I mean.  Not even people from there.  Oh, they can estimate the time it takes to drive, but my rule of thumb is a middle-aged woman walking.  She is not good looking enough to have been raped by animals or maybe she is just lucky.  How long does it take her?  About 15 days…right after she saw her husband, son and father shot dead.  The Serbs killed the men and boys and then herded the grandparents, women and children together like aborted dreams and all of them came staggering by the thousands, unable to wail and moan; their tears ducts stopped up with grime and wet bone.

Cold fields are hard beds in the big cemetery and we move among the shivering refugees; they breathe like amplifiers in the ears of diplomats.  We build a fire and a reporter asks if this is a major disaster.  I tell him I’m the wrong person to ask since in my book disasters are relative and anyway, the sun is going to explode or the comet will come crashing and when I die it will be the end of everything.  I am a god and like all gods, I never know when to stop.  The reporter asks for a few observations for attribution, something good for his editor.  I tell him I’m not crazy enough for a quote.  Well, I don’t know about that he says. We are silent for a few moments and then I tell him to knock when he wants out.

The fire light jumps around and we stand there warming ourselves, waiting for the dawn, and the rise of 40,000 saviors.  They smell of shit, piss, and death.

Later that day, while looking out on the valley, I sit down to a meal of fourteen dishes filled with local and imported foods.   I eat alone like a rich guru who has a following of rock stars and Hollywood actors.  We all must live in the moment and for better or worse, it is all we have.  Right?

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