Saturday, February 6, 2016

upon finding myself unplugged for an hour

Written on scratch paper at Powell's in Portland, Oregon this morning while my phone was being repaired 

I watched a woman in an SUV waiting at the light on 11th Avenue.
I thought she was zoning out like we all do at stoplights, her face expressionless. She could have been sleeping upright behind the steering wheel, with her eyes open. But then, I saw her lips pull down, her cheeks crumpled. I wondered then if she was lost in thoughts about someone - someone she broke up with or was considering breaking up with, or someone who had died. I know how that face feels.

I kept watching (it was a really long light) and saw her eyes brighten then, lips slipped into a half-smile. Maybe she was listening to a sad song on the radio then a happier one started. Or maybe she's listening to an audio book, I thought. Once I borrowed a cassette reading of The Phantom of the Opera for my long drive home from college. When I pulled off the highway for gas after a couple hundred miles, I couldn't remember passing any of the familiar landmarks; my shoulders were tense and my jaw tight from hours of being trapped in that story. The attendant must have thought me strange, a sleepwalker emerging from my car.