Light on the Water
It's funny, the similarity between the feeling of disorientation, and disgust. Almost as though we weren't designed for this, and deep in our churning bowels we know it.
I kept thinking, all through the flight, and in the fully-automatic bathrooms in the airports (rough single-ply paper, spare no expense) notched into the walls between shining, yelling shops, and racing up escalators and down hallways to rush through the cold double-doors to catch our connection, and even crammed into the close backseat of the carpool ride to the hotel, with its lobby full of billiards and bar stools and trendy striped chaise lounges and the smell of chlorine — the whole time, I kept thinking not that I was disoriented or dislocated, spun around and ungrounded, but that I was sick of it all. Everything seemed glittering and false, great monuments to our ignorance and selfishness, grown men and women playing dress-up, playing house, playing doctor and cocktail party, playing with their expensive toys so polished they could see their faces reflected in their shimmering surfaces.
I felt like the savage of a Brave New World, like a native from the backwards blue planet brought up to marvel at the Starship Enterprise. I thought about how those natives never vomited or choked in the sterilized air, never staggered under the false gravity, how their disapproval was always so cerebral and embarrassing. Never embodied, never visceral, never the physical being revolting against the abuse of contrived artificial environments, begging, pleading for the touch of dirt, the smell of wind and real sunlight. But by the time we'd arrived, checked-in and made it up to our hotel room, it was getting dark and had started to rain. The magnificent view promised us from our seventh floor windows turned out to be an ugly tan roof and, beyond it, the bare gray cinderblocks and exposed iron cables of a building nearby still under construction. Below, you could just see the blaring orange curve of a sign with a black silhouette of a coyote on it and neon-turquoise words that read "Howl At The Moon," though you couldn't see the moon.
Left alone in the room, I tried to fight down the nausea and headache that were still moving restless under my skin. I sat cross-legged on the purple-vinyl padded bench at the end of the bed, and focused on my breath. But the noise kept coming, the noise of another city, the noise of traffic seven stories below, the noise of the elevator down the hall, and the grinding of the AC/heat unit tucked in the corner that kicked on as the sun went down. And the tightness in my chest remained, wrapped tense so that long after the pressure from the air around me had released, my body felt pulled and pressed into shape, confined. So I began to sing. I sang my awen, not chanting, but letting the vowels linger and expand, finding their way from note to note. I felt the vibration of the word in my throat, felt it shake its way down into my chest and deeper. The chords were coming loose inside me, unwinding, unraveling. I reached out into the room with my imagination, feeling my way, eyes still closed — but it was still just a hotel room, sterile and empty above the quantum foam of strangers constantly coming and going. Still, I felt better, the harsh edges softened, the queazy, tense feeling ebbing.
I went to the desk and looked out the window for a time, out into downtown Charlotte as it grew darker. Far away I noticed I could see a broad street where rush-hour traffic was growling slowly down a rain-soaked road, streetlights gleaming off of everything. On the ugly tan roof, raindrops rippled through shallow puddles in a steady rhythm. I noticed the upturned spotlights that were rigged up along the roof's edge, tilted to illuminate the upper stories of the hotel. Every once in a while, a drop of rain would fall onto a hot, exposed bulb and sizzle — steam drifted upward in the light, and the shadows would dance a little in ribbons reaching up the wall. Everywhere in the world, water moves like water, rain falls like rain, and the mirrored light of neon or sunset or fire licks over the curled edges of distortion like a lover familiar with the same old song. The last thread of tension in me unwound, its loose end flung out full of grace into the dark rainy night, making contact with that vision of light reflected in moving water. I touched back down.