Thursday, November 18, 2010

el paso


This is El Paso at daybreak.

It is blue. Blue of midnight and distant mountains. Bruised blue, purple blue, inky blue that is almost black. Shapes of buildings against a blueberry syrup sky. That's what you'd say if someone asked you to describe it: shapes, shapes everywhere. There's the distinct feeling of dimension in the landscape even when you can't see it: the stretch of desert and its rolling bare hills reaching far beyond the city. El Paso reminds you of a dark garden neglected: shoots of buildings well past their prime, bolting into the sky, still dusted with stars.

You search for a car in the dark, hoping to find it quickly. And when you do, you lift a sleepy child into the waiting seat; tell her to go back to sleep--- we'll be driving for a long while.

Directions memorized and repeated in your head--- this is how you find the interstate, fingers holding tight to the steering wheel. It's this rolling into the open road that gives you a glimpse of the darkening line of the western horizon. At sunrise you are riding out of the city, heading west, and north.

Passing the border of Mexico--- how could you have forgotten this strange detail of El Paso?--- where the dirty trickle of the Rio Grande is cradled by a concrete bed, where you can peer off this side of the highway to see the rolling slopes of Juarez. At first glance in the pre-dawn gloom it's like fairy lights dancing off in the distance. The yellow glow of them is enchanting, even dear. But as your eyes adjust you see the cracker-box houses, tiny and square, sprinkled higgledy-piggledy on the hills. They are a patchwork of corrugated steel and cardboard, crumbling cinder block. If you could stop the car and throw a stone, you might hit a small bit of the broken glass windows or tap the metal siding causing the sleepy family inside to come tumbling out to welcome the light.

The light is pink. It is pink dusted everywhere, everything, from the tops of your knuckles where they first rays of morning sun are reaching into the car, to the balding hill tops of scrub brush and Texas desert sand. Pink and salmon, nearly orange with a popsicle blush. There is music that should accompany such a sunrise, music ethereal and huge - music to explain this foreign place that is both beautiful and stark with pain. You'd like to take your mind off the road, close your eyes to see if the pink will turn your eyelids orange, or red. You'd like to wander the distant horizon to test if the intensity of this color will warm your bones that feel so cold. You'd like to imagine yourself glowing gold in this, what must be the light of heaven.

But there are more vistas to pass, more miles to go, and a funeral at the end of the road.


Andrea said...

Your imagry put me right there; you write beautifully. I'm so sorry for your loss.

tearese said...

You're killing me here, that was so gorgeous.

Bethsix said...


Funny that my place in Texas looks nothing like this. It's like another country there. As big as the state is, it could be another country, really.