-- It is summer. You open your window. Somewhere, the sound of gas-powered lawncare. You know not from where. It comes from a different place each day. But if the sun is shining, lawncare is happening. It never fails. it never ceases.

 -- You were certain this path through a residential neighborhood would be straightforward. Upon discovering that the road bent left, you decided to turn back. Only, going back the way you came, you cannot not find the main road you came from. As you walk in the summer heat, the trees somehow provide paltry shade despite being tall and broad. No soul is on the sidewalk. You do not wish to knock on someone’s door and ask for water. You take left turns and right, hoping to find another main road. But there are none. You wind up in front of your house, and look back. The houses that you just passed are gone.

 -- You are fairly certain that one of the cars that just passed by you had no one in it.

 -- Your neighbors purchased a Chevy Suburban. It pulls into their driveway one day, and five, six, seven…eleven children exit the vehicle. Your neighbors across the street managed to produce twenty children in ten years. You have not seen a child playing on a lawn in this neighborhood in the last ten years.

 -- It is nighttime. The stray cats are out, silently sprinting across the lawns to the next bush. You hear a high-pitched squeal that you’re sure no rat or squirrel could make. A cat appears beneath a bush, crunching something in its jaws. It looks up at you, eyes gleaming in the light of the street lamp.

 -- What lies beyond the orange glow of the street lamps? What is shifting in the darkness? Is it just the branches waving in the wind?

 -- In the distance there is always the low, dull roar. It never ceases, only becomes more quiet after midnight. Then one day you step outside and hear nothing. You shiver.

 -- As you walk across the sunlit parking lot, you can feel your life force draining away. Everything dies a little in large parking lots.

 -- The sunlight leaches all color out of the world. Time slows. You walk across the bright field, and it appears to go on forever.

 -- A flock of starling passes overhead, twisting and turning in a massive flock that appears to be of one mind, as if it is a school of fish in the air. Perhaps it IS one mind.

 -- You are commanded to weed the front sidewalk this sunny morning. Pulling weeds by hand. They hang on with all their might, and leave their roots in. They will be back. They always come back. They live to remind you that your world will only last so long before the grass, and shrubs, and creeping vines, return to reclaim what it rightfully theirs. The very trees loom, waiting to drop their leaves. They will attempt to kill your lawn with dead leaves this fall, the same as they do every fall. The struggle against the wild never ends. You who wished to place your dwelling in the midst of green, you failed to consider how green things grow. You did not know that the green devours all, in time. You have only borrowed this space from them. Herbicide, pesticide, lawnmowers, weed whackers, it matters not. They are still here. They will be here when you fall.

 -- You can hear the birds, but never see them. The bird watchers have special tricks to find them that they will only teach to the pure of heart. Also the ones who have enough money to buy a birding guide. Surely your family has enough money to buy a birding guide? You live in this neighborhood, after all.

 -- Are the clouds…real? They look for all the world like some kind of backdrop animation. Very well-done, at that. The detail is spectacular. The forms shift slowly, so slowly, yet chaotically. Nothing in that landscape remains the same for long. But it’s just an animation. It’s not real.

 -- There’s a gigantic house that was built 5 years ago on a tiny lot. You’ve seen bright flashes of mauve light in the night through its uncurtained windows. And heard screams. The house was foreclosed a year ago. Nobody wants it. It is selling for a dollar. Nobody wants it. You could buy it if you hadn’t spent all your change on candy.

-- There’s an entire neighborhood where every second house is foreclosed. The remaining residents keep saying they’ve seen pale figures walking right through the doors of the empty houses. They say they’ve been getting itches all over. They keep fainting and collapsing in hysterics. Although those last thwo are probably because of the plummeting dollar value of the neighborhood. Nobody who remains is able to sell their place and leave. One by one, the remaining occupied houses burn.

 -- Everything and anything happens behind closed doors. That’s what the police reports indicate, at any rate. None of the cases you page through have anything about an arrest or indictment of any kind, not even for the cases of vivisection. This is a town where everything is kept quiet. You decided to get out of the police station before they find you and decide to keep YOU quiet.

 -- A black family moves in next door. Suddenly all your neighbors stop talking to you. They won’t say why. Next week, your neighbors across the street have moved out. The week after that, the house next to them has moved out. A year later, the black family is gone too. They seemed so happy last time you talked to them.

 -- There is no rebelling against this place. If you would change it, you must join it. You’re always free to LEAVE…

 -- You wonder if you could just step up into those silver-lined clouds and float away, never to return.

"Ayo, man, you like music?"

I look over at the young man with his bulging backpack, strolling up to me nonchalantly in the hot parking lot of an Atlanta summer as I'm heading up towards the grocery store. The black asphalt is slick with dropped food, discarded fast food wrappers, poured out drinks, and young men just trying to make a buck.

"Yes", I say, knowing how the conversation will go.

"What kind of music you like?" he says, opening the backpack and bobbing his dreads.

"Jazz", I say, peering into the backpack.

The young man startles. His world has literally stopped.

"Jazz?"

"Yes, Dave Brubeck, Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong.... Jazz."

He tries again.

"You like rap?"

"Nope", I say honestly. Because he has a backpack full of this. And I know it.

His world stops again.

"You don't like rap?" It's not a challenge. He genuinely cannot fathom a universe in which those four words could be put together in that order, and be meant seriously. Everyone he knows likes rap. Even his mom. Even Big Momma.

"You don't like rap????" His face is a look of complete confusion. There's no guile here. He's trying to actually see if I'm messing with him, if I'll be like "nah, I just don't want to buy any" or something. But he realizes at this point that I'm serious, and he's now dropped his sales pitch, he's simply floored.

"How come though?"

"First of all I like real instruments, second of all because I love people of color too much to watch them characterized as thugs, whores, drug abusing lowlives whose short lives will end with a bullet. If I want to listen to music that speaks to the black experience in America, not that I'd ever fully understand it, you know, on account.... (stares at own pale skin) but I'll listen to gospel, about the hope of a better tomorrow after all this is gone. Blues, where a woman sings soulfully about that man who done her wrong."

Now he starts to nod. We're on familiar ground here. He gets what I'm saying, and you can see it's the first time he's really thought this sort of thing through.

But there is the fact that he's awkwardly holding a half-open backpack full of shirtless tattooed men and their mixtapes. 

"You like any other kind music?" he says, digging around hopefullly.

 

I hate to crush his hopes.

 

"Country?"

 

 

 

 

 

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