Rumurs of Bagels, Harrisonburg,VA
In a home where ten college students live together on the mountainside above Harrisonburg, VA, I am home for a day into a night. Tomorrow? We met at a small diner in Harrisonburg. The Little Grill. It is a co-op diner that is full of aware faces where wanting to know their world is cutting teeth in the back of their mouths. They want to know the height of God. All the whys of being full when people are the most empty sit in their laps. Smiles are hats here in the resturant. Everyone is wearing a different cut and brim, yet nobody looks silly. My bulk is leaning forward to look smaller, less intrusive as I come in fron the noon day sun. Aiming for a corner instead of a little chair, I increase my chances of looking like I am not carrying the world, and we're all going down. The room is all energy as many faces wait for me to settle for the customary few seconds new faces recieve before the silence is slaughtered in a series of eager questions that barely prime off, before another round is fired. I love this eagerness to know. The three college women from the Eastern Mennonite University are the first to speak to me. They sit close to my table where the floor lifts up onto a small triangle stage in the corner. Only one small table and their three chairs fit on the six inch tall platform. They are perfect for the mount. They are are art majors, as I once was. It is on their clothes, in their hair. It is in their rapid eyes. They are three cats preening their fur with just a touch here or there every once in a while as they talk. They are three towers too. A second is a long time to be surrounded in silence. Everyone begins speaking at once. Where one mouth begins a thought from the micro stage, another carries it through like close siblings do. It creates a running light humor.
"Would you like to come home with us,"inquires Katie, as straight as a line from a script, minutes after she has my sketch in her mind?" She is serious. Perfectly.
I am off guard. I just got into town. I've only walked eight or ten miles so far today. It is such a good day for walking. My body is in the groove. Nothing hurts.
"Sure!" In one word I am less stable than Katie was in all of hers. This walk is not a power position. I relearn this dayly. I can not ask to know a people, simultanously telling them who they are. I have become a light on the table. Less. I will move as they move, or I will change their picture as I take it. Amanda is an animated life sitting between the two towers of her friends. Amanda is taking my picture now. It is an exercise on light, and shadow. It is a picture of my mouth sipping coffee out of my titianium cup as the steam curls around my head. Am I supposed to swollow? Amanda is up, down. She is a smell in my head, then she is on the floor with her camera lens up like a snorkle. We all keep talking. This is our normal. We are aware that new angles give new answers This is our medium. We keep talking, only slowing a slight pause when the film runs out.
The three women are electric. We do not talk about anything. We spark on that. We arc on this. When we hit a desired series of words, or adventure, the lighting in the room changes. As we all drain our third glass of water to remove all traces of the food I'm sure we ate, yet that got overrun by words, we are on our way out the door to Becka's Volvo wagon. Becka smiles through her green bangs as we all pay our fare out of the resturant. The real tour begins. I have forgotten the college rush for life. It is contagous, but nobody covers their mouth in hopes that we'll all catch it. In minutes we all are talking about all the great things we'll see,and do in life. And we will. I have the coveted front seat. It is an honor. Crow Dog is sitting up all kinds of proud in the back seat next to two pretty college women. I see Crow Dog grinning in a quick angle flash of the mirror. What a green ham.
A plastic man in a green hola dress dances on the dash in front of me. He is not smiling. He is not frowning either. With every wiggle from the dash, I try to see everything. It's a college car. It is a great college car. We drive around town until north is south. We drive until I know only the women in the car, laughter, and the univeral mingling of strangers just outside our shell of rolling nowhere that could be from a thousand places as easily as here. Eventually I am brought home just like a big chair found in front of someones front yard. It is rare that everyone 'home' does want to hear my story just like I am told they will by a new friend on the side of a country road before I am taken home. Alot of new college faces I have just met want to pick my brain. We unwrap words over and over. New faces all bright. I am drunk on thoughts, ideas, the refreshed ability to stand up in a living room and run my fingers across the sky. Amanda is in the kitchen making a chocolate cake do crazy things in the oven I have never seen a food product do. Amanda is worried about a fire coming out of the oven. In the batter there is a tide. There are bodies moving under smooth black soil that smell like cake, yet spews black strings of batter around one edge of the pan. We all try to be encouraging. A lie is a lie. We all leave the kitchen with our smiles on mute. Kaytea moves in and out of her activities. She is a strong presence with a tight wit. She has short dark hair, and dresses mod and lively. Kaytea is easy to like. Her strenght is a flat paw without nails.
Becka with the green hair has just spent her future college money on a new used bike. She tries to smile her uncertainity away from a overstuffed chair she sits in across the room. We watch her knowingly, with supportive brows above our eyes. Choices are hard. The new bike is nice. For now though, college is over for Becka. The three women delivered me. They are back to their Friday afternoon tasks. Now I am property of the house. We make food together. Kurt and I walk to live music back down in the valley at The Little Grill. The music is loud local talent in three bands. Even though Kurt and I sit up front on the floor we keep our ears.
It is a great late night walk home. Kurt and I are new friends that walk the dark mile together as police cars cruise by, silent sharks looking for prey. A dark tail flashes in the night, then escapes back into shadow. We talk about the new world, as my mind hums electrically. It is as easy to be here in this moment as sitting back on a good couch. Kurt is a thousand old friends. Kurt is brand new. When he asks a question I really dig my nails inside of myself. I don't want easy answers. Moving over old ideas I begin touching on new thoughts. We move over ideas together when they are large. A stranger stops in a van offering a ride. He is insulted that we won't take a ride on this pitch black back city road. He asks over and over. He is too eager. Kurt asks what I think about taking the ride in the white van. We are in a good now. A ride would kill this moment dead. Maybe more. The van argues on. The van is gone. I feel that something evil has moved away.
The day began so differently. I had forgotten how retarded my hands become when the night spends hours chewing at any gate I leave open; a zipper left undone, a tent vent left too wide into the wind. My breathe is falling snow all over my face when I wake. During the night my breath became ice crystals affixed to the tent walls again above my head inside the tent. Whenever I move, down comes the snow, in a light movies try to capture, plucked violin stings try to emulate. It is early. Already, I know it is a great day. I know it will be unseasonably warm. I have begun to sneak more fat into my diet. My mind is stoned on the wealth. My feet nudge one another to wake up. My bladder makes my stomach look full, but I delay the moment by rolling over one last time. The sun is climbing on the tent now. There is no going back into the sleeping bag now.
Quickly, all is stowed in the green bag. I am a greensack through a rusted wire fence I didn't mean to bend to break. I am four miles away from last night's camp with ice in my water bottle nudging my lips as I try to drink the heavenly cold water without wearing it. As I open a snickers, a brown pick- up yanks off the road right in front of where I sit. "Oh no," I think.
The man is a series of happy words coming around the truck though when I look up. His legs are as fast as his words. I am a slow draw with a cold unloaded gun of answers. I stand leaving my candy bar unbitten but open on the grass. The retired mayor from Mt. Jackson is putting his warm smooth hand into mine. A hand obviously worn more from taking out of his pocket than from collecting wealth in. He tells me how he thought I was a hobo, a man down on his luck. I explain what I'm doing, wondering if he is believing me. I don't believe me. I'm thinking now that it shows. A twenty is put in my hand. How bad do I look, I wonder? The money is wonderful. The money is a few hot meals I do not have to weigh finacially. My heart wants words though. I want to know this warm man. My heart wants to listen to a mayor that cares so much about people, he stops his truck in a rush with money already anxiously set aside in his pocket. I want to know this man now driving away; a man that worried in bed last night to his wife because he had passed me for days, and he hadn't yet stopped. Mr. Jordon was already miles away as the last of the candy bar went dow with an ice water.
The bikes with my new friends rolled off to gather bagels from dumpsters some miles off. It was to be a fresh take right after the bagel store closed. We all gave a list of our favorites as if a fantasy cast of parents would petal our hearts to bagel round joy. No bagels came back. I do have the image of my half dozen friends rolling off on mismatched bikes on an adventure with all of our eager hearts wishing them truely the greatest sucess.