Border Crossings

The drive is mostly hills but there are some parts that are flat. The border is a gate and a hut. The hut is made of tin. The hut has three windows. One to see cars coming. One to see cars going. Another to look at the mountains and the flat desert. One man lives in the hut during the day, another in the night. The men carry weapons, long weapons. I do not pretend to know weapons. They are metal or plastic or iron or even wood. Some of them make a lot of noise and others are very quiet. There is always a lot of screaming when there are weapons around, screaming and crying. We arrive at the border in the morning. The man in the hut makes noise with his mouth, strange sounds, like an elephant—no, like a snake. He is too often in heat and in cold. The desert does not keep its visiting faces often. They are expelled quickly, almost whimsically, and then they are replaced just as suddenly, just as haphazardly. There is not anything that survives in the desert that is in motion. It is not like that in other places. We are stopped. He is babbling, again like a snake, and she is responding, with gestures and some words, animal sounds. He is making rice, she mutters. We interrupted his lunch. Later, as it happens, we meet again, the two of us, in a crowded square in the capital. He is not carrying his weapon and he is not making noises like a snake. I ask him for fifteen hundred American dollars and he agrees, stares at the eyes of the bartenders, the waiters. Tomorrow, in the morning. He agrees. The army soldiers guard the borders of some countries, guard the border with weapons and alcohol and illicit narcotics. They are bored and they do not usually concern themselves with the crossings, except sometimes, occasionally, they do. In other countries, it is special guards at the border, with special numbers, and colors. They are not as bad. They might even say good afternoon, or hello, or fifty dollars will make it easier. They will shoot you, he says later, in the square. The men with the red eyes, blood shot eyes. They will shoot you two times. I needed that hint later and I remembered it. The men in the southern river valley were not oil men and they did not care about the ex-patriot population. They were mercenaries, kidnappers, contractors. At one time it was unimaginable to own land, then it was people—now it is people again. No, it has been imaginable to own it all. The ownership of land and people is not so foreign. But, once, it was very foreign. It would be heroin, in the eyes, heroin, or something else. I am staring at the horizon. We are at the border. He wants fifteen American dollars. I am not annoyed but she is upset, agitated. It is the desert, I think. There is not any place here that would remember a traveler, even for the afternoon. It is a lost place, an eaten and eating place. It would be heroin, made in factories that are in tin huts, like this tin hut. On the border of a place that is abandoned, crossing into another territory. More men with guns, rules, imprisonments, capital punishment—all just to remind us, even now, that there is a line that is the sky and there is a line that is the land. The line that is the sky is not changing, is always the line that is the sky. The line that is the land, the very skin that is this line, is always changing. The rice is finished, it is ready. The man waves us through the gate and we cross the border. We are not remembered by the man until later when I remember him as well. The drive is mostly flat, this time, but there are hills on the right and on the left. I have always noticed the immediate change when crossing borders. The light is not the same. The shapes are not the same—the colors too, they are unlike the colors we have seen before. The lines are not so accidental as the drive makes them feel. No, the gate in the road is not accidental. There is no tree, no marker, no home, no people. But the crossing is a revolution, a rebellion. Even when there is little honesty there is rebellion. I am not loyal to the crossing nations. I am removed, un-committed to cause, leadership, movement. We are driving fast again, the landscape catches on fire and it is not the same fire as before. It will tire, eventually, but now it is glowing, novel—the world over here, right here is far greener, the desert is far more alluring, romantic. Reliable. There is memory in this desert. And the lines are like the lines in the sky. We wear different colors now. I am most taken. My arrival and my departure, I think. There is too much color and there is too much that is crossing paths, back against my memory and unleashed on the hospice care and unsuspecting grandchildren. I do not remember. But there was cool dry skin on the seamstress, unease in the cab driver, and of course, there was the maddening color and the strike against my face, the brand—that I am branded—and yet unattached, so un-attached and un-owned by that same continual arrival and departure—yes, yes, the arrival is mostly a change in the color, the texture of the upper lip, the romance of survival, the elbow, even the gain. And the departure is far from different: it is the solidarity of this collection. Eventually, as might may have it, one morning, I may kiss the lines of the land because it is the skin of the earth and I am speeding across the desert in so much color. I am left, here, only to become and un-become myself, always assured that I am not so timid and not so transient a beast. That I am not the strict and rigid foundation of the institutional earthly life. Indeed, my last crossing, deep in the desert where there was no reason for a border, where there was no reason for a war, where there was no reason for a change in color so drastic, I still see the lines of the sky. There, they are effortless, without judgment, swarmers and embracers of the lines of the earth, partners in the rejoining of the great vacuum. And we, we men and women, escape to undo the lives that are lost in the rewriting of our blood.

No comments: