The last window closes on the way north, the crosswind pulling me into a busy street, the press of early risers a nagging reminder of my lack of employment. The 232 is a short line, so I wait, again, brooding. Time is suspended, inflated, a wash of residue from a life that has ceased to matter. I could be anyone.

The morning heats up, the only bench in full sun. Things move as slow as they will, impossible to observe without a time-lapse; my patch of shade disappears with intolerable swiftness. The next bus is packed, lurching to the next wheelchair stop with beeping alarms and a new kind of patience. Out the window flashes of faded donut shops and fields of asphalt, crowded parking lots pressing against buildings to the horizon. At a homemade liquor store a single passenger struggles out, who clutches her bag dejectedly and appears to drift slowly into the dusty hedge. The swarm contains itself, shifts only slightly to ingest still more of the poor, the stranded. A homeless man with a foul plastic bag finds a good seat next to me and is pleased, his thoughts deflected for a moment, then turning back to a familiar fear and misery, then a strange delight.

Late. Somewhere past Narbonne the streetlights hang in milky webs, the full moon hardly visible. I walk past the old flags at the public works, their soft rustling somehow comforting above the scratching, heaving, scraping. Somewhere beyond this, this grappling for meaning, a quiet desert, a lonely walk in sagebrush, the smell of resin and dust. There’s no sound other than the wind.

Neither place has me, yet each informs, defines, a simple chain anyone can see: the thirst and longing fostered by a stark desert landscape that drives me toward civilization, and the swarms of cars, the troubled sidewalks, the constant scrutiny by unending numbers, to the point that the will is broken ― in both a restless spirit that doesn’t bother to record what has passed.

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