A world away

Tsunami map for Pacific Rim 2011With my eyes averted and in tears from the wind, I half expected to see a full moon in the east, just over the lightening.  Everything in my peripheral suggested white, but everywhere the sky turned out blue, even the darker rim of clouds in all directions far away.  Last night’s storms were gone, and a sunny day would take things up soon.

No one was at my neighborhood gym when I got there.  It was half past six, and the five-o’clock crowd had left.  About four or five would probably show up towards seven.  My only company was the satellite TV and radio, which seemed to presume more about me than I would admit of myself.  The music was particularly out of sync today.  The owner had never bothered training me on how to work the satellite radio tuner since I never open the place, and the early people left me with the sixties oldies station again.  Neil Young’s plaintive murder confession seemed about two stages of grief too advanced for the news on the mute TV above the dumbbell racks.  It was the first word of the Japanese earthquake.

Radio must be broadcast with as little humanity as possible.  No one interrupts programs for special news bulletins anymore.  I felt complicit with the radio industry that must have shed disk jockeys and newsmen sometime during the decades I was focused so completely on my career.  It’s hard to keep an eye on everything, I thought.  The TV seemed equally uninhabited, running the same, short tsunami footage in a loop.  My radio conspiracy broadened to implicate CNN, the gym’s automatic lights, my key fob, and every other gadget I used to permit myself to give up personal contact in order to afford things.

I lay on my back.  The weights rose and fell.  No one staring down from space would have seen that this morning was any different to me.  Janis Joplin, and I forget who else.  The Doors.  No one had come by the time I left.

The bowl of suburban sky is my morning walk’s only large variable, my only way to feel how one day differs from another.  I’ve seen better days.  When I was a teenager in Tidewater, a city bus would take me by the James River every morning on the way to my summer job at the shipyard.  The tidal river’s moods and its complicity (or argument) with the sky would affect me all day.  Some days an agitated gray-green river pitched reluctant white caps against an imperturbable blue sky.  Other days the river’s ghost seemed to channel the sky’s white corpse.

I thought of the morning’s annular blue clouds when I stretched out my unguarded hands and laid a Teflon ring like a wreath over my half-baked piecrust.  A pumpkin pie for someone’s shower or loss, I forget whose.  Then I ran upstairs and got dressed.

I had found the rings at a kitchen store years ago.  Victoria was selecting a blender.  At first I thought that the rings, hanging by a nail where you’d line up to pay, were replacements for the steel rims that you have to remove in order to clean beneath the elements in an electric stovetop.  When I looked closer and discovered their true function, it pleased me.  Friends and coworkers had begun to recognize me as something of a baker, and I had become experienced enough to know that, depending on the recipe, crust sometimes burns at the edge.

While the pie baked, I found a color-coded map online of where the tsunami would strike next and how hard.  A staid Pacific Rim dreamed of a tie-died ocean.

I drove to work.  Sill no moon.  The pumpkin pie rode shotgun.  I had forgotten to take the rim from around the pie’s face, which seemed more sweaty and furrowed than when I had pulled it from the oven.  I thought of Jupiter.  For years we focused on its colorful, round storm, admittedly many times the size of our Earth.  Is that why it took an unmanned spacecraft to finally discover its rings?