To the South

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On June 21, I woke at three o’clock in the morning to the sound of music from my computer playing something “I had last played.” I woke early enough that I wasn’t groggy exactly, but rather had that jittery edge I used to get when I woke in the Army at four o’clock for four-thirty muster.


I made coffee and packed my bags and I’m still unsure if I packed when I need to pack. I do need to get a new suitcase because it is beginning to split. This is the suitcase my mother bought for me in 1988 when I went to Bellingham for a drama conference and it is the suitcase I’ve used ever since. I used it in 1989 in June when I flew to New Jersey to go to Fort Dix for basic training. It’s not an expensive suitcase, but there have been many improvements in basic luggage function in the years since ’88. My suitcase doesn’t have wheels or a long extendable handle. I believe these are now standard features. Other features that I can see are going to be important due to the security of the airports that will be needed will be handles and straps that can be folded into the bag.

I took the bus to the airport because it was only a dollar twenty-five compared to twenty five dollars for the airport shuttle for thirty dollars for a taxi. I left the house with my bags on my back and walked down the street. I have always liked leaving the house this way, on foot, walking through the quiet neighborhood and then down to the gravel path passing alongside the arterial, empty at this time of the night. The street lights hung over the five way intersection. I could see Puget Sound through the trees, a greenish sheet of water and clouds over the Olympics, the faint beginning of light. The birds were busy making noise.

I usually leave the house in my car. At first living in the suburbs, I would try to walk places. But there aren’t any places near my house. There is a vast, feral field abutting a sewage lake where a wild man lives. I have gone there in the daylight to pick blackberries, but it isn’t a place. At a further distance there is my daughter’s school, a track, a playground, a cinderblock barn with crumbling asphalt floors and peeling paint on the outside. At even further distances there is Saltwater State Park. Gradually, I have accepted that I have to drive to get anywhere and by car. In my car I am close to many things — but it feels like I am moving myself out of my natural self into something else when I drive in a car. A car for instance has drink holders, which I utilize. I put coffee in travel mugs in the drink holders. A car for instance has a stereo, which I use.

On foot walking to the bus, which would take me to the airport, I could feel the cool air welling up Puget Sound as the land cooled during the night and warmed the air, carrying it up. I could hear the half dozen species of birds that live in the green belts and wild margins between lots and subdivisions make their early morning calls.

I stood at the bus stop and could see from a mile away the bus coming. The bus was full of day laborers. The official uniform of these workers of people on their way to work on a bus passing through the suburbs at 4:30 a.m. was a cotton jumper with a hood, baggy blue jeans, and paint splattered work boots. The vast majority of these people had dark skin. If they were white, their skin had tanned into a kind of deep rusty brown. If they were Hispanic their brown skin had tanned into a kind of deep rusty brown. A woman in a nurses’ blue scrubs sat next to with the morning’s paper that I had already read Tuesday online as the stories were posted to Seattle Tiimes.com — two American soldier’s brutally murdered the story said. When a soldier is at war with a country, the enemy does not engage in murder. The killing of the enemy is an expected and even required act. To not kill the enemy if I remember my military training correctly is not an allowable option in war. As horrible as it is, it is difficult to apply the standards of humane treatment when we have discarded the basic covenants of the Geneva Convention.

But I was far removed from this conflict, although the people on the bus where were half asleep were perhaps far closer to the war than I was — since they had the possibility of actually having to go to it sometimes.

Security at the airport had improved even since the last time I was there several months ago or rather because I had to deal with lines on a Wednesday morning I was aware of the increased efficiency both in the virtual aspects of the airport and the security. I had a tiny slip of paper printed from the computer. I checked my bag and showed my ID and that was it.

Passing through security, everyone had their ID out, their shoes off, their cavities prepared fro the probes and the line passed through the metal detectors. The awkwardness of stepping into a sphere where we were being examined as a potential threat was gone. We assumed we could be a potential threat and that everyone around us could be a potential threat. The man in front of me who was Middle Eastern said to the security guard who was black as he checked his ID, the middle eastern man said, “I am one of those guys.”

The security guard smiled and waved him along.

While I drank my coffee for the flight in an over lit, primary color space of red and blue and yellow associated with the airport gate Burger King, a man in dilapidated snake skin boots sneezed. The sound echoed in the empty space. Bless you a man said from the other side of the room.

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