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From The Mexico Station, Report #4

by Duke Miller

"Just relax. Look into the distance and tell me. Get it off your chest. Act like you're Germany or Japan," he said.

And so I did. I forgot about the pandemic. I became like Germany and Japan and spoke these words:

"Let me introduce myself Doctor. You are a doctor? Well, we are always trying to rise above ourselves, see what it looks like over there. I left the United States in 1975. Floating through my twenties and then on down the river, trying to avoid the rocks. I was glad to be gone. I grew up listening to my mother say, 'I feel like a Jew in Germany.'' I grew up helping my father when he fell down. The Japanese had destroyed part of him, but he had rebuilt his spirit with precious materials from a dream. I remember thinking that my sisters were cardboard cutouts that my parents moved from room to room. One was younger and one was older. The older one and her friends, used to dress me as a girl. They stopped when they noticed my penis glowing like early morning ripples on a lake. I lusted after one of her friends and kissed her split apple in a bough. My younger sister was a little doll with sticks for legs. We would laugh and she would say, 'I'm going to marry you someday.'"

"I grew up a social isolate, intolerant of most things around me. I loved my first dog Bo. While you are dying you won't remember many things or people, but you'll remember the name of your first dog, and then you will breathe your last. Most people who read my writing think I'm full of bullshit and I agree, since words are very imprecise. I am continually trying to write something other than pure bullshit. It is difficult to open your heart. It is impossible to recount the truth. It is easy, at least for me, to write emotions. It is a style only important to me. That is why so few people can read my words. I write for myself. Think about all the bad writing in this world. If you could put bullshit books on a scale and weigh them out, you'd have a biblical number. The number would surpass the weight of the world balanced on the shell of a tortoise slowly treading on the night, looking for a place to rest, a spot to put the earth into the grip of gravity."

"You really feel this way?" he asked me.

"Yes, I do. These are the thoughts in my mind right now."

"Okay, that's wonderful. Your mind is a bit like a dictionary fluttering in a tornado. Now, tell me something of history."

"History … of course, but I will need to talk about the pandemic."

"Good, whatever you wish. It's your time and your money. I'm like a cab driver with a meter and a high-priced degree."

"History is the reason I love Mexico. The pandemic is history returned to Mexico and I get to watch it up close. I am a person who is genetically predisposed to history. Let me explain: I believe that all people physically lean towards either the future or the past and that the present is nothing more than the ghost of gravity, an infinitesimally fine line that is a vibration, an invisible wave that feeds upon our cells which are genetically mutated toward yesterday or tomorrow, attracted to the tick of the clock we just heard or the silent one to come. The present doesn't exist for me and that puts me at odds with meditation, psychiatry, and religion. I can't be saved, because I'm not here. There is no living in the present, there is only the tendency or probability to occupy either the past or the future.

"I'm a past kind of guy. In fact, I think the present is biased toward the past and it is one of the reasons that so many people are uncomfortable with the past. They often get trapped in it, they get accused by others of living in the past, which for many is a bad state of mind. The past gets criticized because of all the depressing and hurtful things that happened back then. Rapes and torture, death and starvation, accidents and disease, mistakes, hurt feelings, all of these are a very big part of the past. I understand there are many good things, but the bad is the trunk of the tree, the good is the leaves. We are standing at the base of the tree, trying to wrap our arms around the girth, but the older we get, the larger becomes the span and we can only soften the bark by forgetting the details.

"We take the good memories for granted until it is too late and by then the past has swept us away. I always anchor myself firmly down to the floor or the ground when I think of the past. It stabilizes me and keeps me from going insane. The past often causes people to kill themselves or hurt themselves or others. The past can be a terrible thing if you can't handle it."

"And you can control it?" he asked.

"Not really. It has gotten me into a lot of trouble. I tend to act on the past, as if it were alive and breathing, which it is. I just can't prove it. Maybe someday, someone will and I'll get a mention in the Nobel Prize. I'll be dead by then, of course, firmly in the past."

And it went like this for an hour. He tried and failed to hypnotize me, in fact, I think I put him to sleep. My stories often have that effect upon people. I never told him of my six years in Africa and how the trees soughed magically and were high enough to touch the clouds or how when the storms sprang up they would blow away our tents or how the lions in the bush sounded like they had metal chain stuck in their throats. Neither did I tell him about the perpetual drought and the die-off of the big ground animals and how the Rift Valley was beyond injury and the rivers were mere trickles. Nothing to be done now.

We are too stupid, too religious, too grasping. I remember Peter walking past a waterhole at night and how he tired to stay upwind and soft as he made his way back to camp and he said wide-eyed that he would never go to watch the sunset again. Lions, he said, were ingrained in all of us and the type of fear they invoked was part of firelight. I never told the doctor about how I would leave Teresa and be gone for days, weeks, or months and when I'd return, for the first few nights, I'd wake up and not know where I was and she would always tell me I was home. Africa was our bed. I'd give her the general picture, but never the details. And so it was also with my therapist, who was napping. I didn't care. I talked and talked, but never told him about the details. Someday I will, if I can just get through this new epidemic. I live in the past and my memory is sterling. This is not my first or second epidemic. This is, in fact, my third.

Time waits for me in footfalls upon the path, unseen, untold, a ghost who I know well, but I must make my way.

Without sound or sight, can I read the starlight, no direction for this task of windows and curtains, looking past the rings of dust, hoping to return through the magnetic waves.

And she sleeps there, her hands beneath her face, folded against the night, she breathes for the moment, and it is real, it is my past, more important than my fitful shivers.

**************

Duke Miller: I no longer worry about days or even months. I can't remember much about time. I don't answer the door or the phone. I like it that way. I keep watching Tater Tot and Patton, over and over again. The movie is about two drunks who have differing reasons to drink, but their stories sort of melt into each other on the plains of South Dakota. My mother was born near where the film was made. Anytime a movie devotes images to cows eating in a grass field, well, you know you've got something. It's free on Youtube right now. Both of the main actors deserved Oscars. Of course, they didn't get them. FYI, I'm still who I say I am. Still alive here in SMA. Still trapped in the past, but I like it that way. It's fairly easy to get a hold of the past, not so much the future, and I hate the present. Thanks.

Saying Nothing in Particular, by J.T. Twissel

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