As they do this time of year the hours of daylight are start to diminish. My five am rising time moved over past six and a half of the ams this morning. The sun still did not much more than glaze the horizon's top when I opened my door to greet the morning.
Dusty, older towns need shorter days. The half light of evening makes our downtown look quaintly romantic instead of boarded up and battered. A hair salon and restaurant tried to make it in downtown here last year. They spent a lot of money restoring one of our old buildings but it quickly got to be too much. Old brick and mortar can't compete with the portables out on the highway. People afraid for their jobs and paying four dollars for gasoline can't afford to pay for ambience, no matter how mystic the feel. Now the restored shops have those eight line games in them and go under lucky line names.
Dreams slice themselves up on the sharp shards of hope, just after reality intrudes with a thumping crash. A society is not on its last legs when it runs out of meaningful leadership but, rather, when it starts to need luck just to get a hair clip and a sandwich.
The dust devils whirl through mid-afternoon but, in shorter days, lose their force before the five minute rush-hour drive home in our dusty old town. It is a ten minute drive if you have to stop to pick up takeout and twenty minutes if you need to have the joyous reunuion at the daycare.
My neighbors at the apartment sat out to watch the evening with me on the three foot concrete strip that doubles as our front porch. Five feet of dead grass in front of the complex, burned up by July heat and steady foot traffic, is just in front of the "porch," and then you hit the parking lot, itself already starting to sink again and so in need of patching.
Our owner/manager died the other day, a tough old lady-bird named K., who finally met a cancer her body could not shrug off. She could turn the air blue with her language but always apologized to me about her epithetic discourse. She did not put up with much and the little complex ran pretty well because of her. She died alone, I hear, like all of us actually die alone, even if half a dozen die with us at the same moment of the same cause because all of us die with our own particular needs of the moment, an olio of regrets and sanguinary hopes. K was hoping to live long enough this time to see her son get out of prison and come home to her. She was just sure he would be better this time around and had learned his lesson and she asked me a dozen times to pray for him; her whiskey a day, two pack a morning voice cut raspy with each wheezing breath though you could not tell which hurt more; the breathing or the separation or the certainty she would not make it to the next reunion time.
I know the muse of poetry and history and music, their names sound like what they love, even when the names flop down off my thick, red-neck tongue, sure to crash at my feet instead of take flight on gossamer wings. I have met the muse of lonliness, despair and wrecked hopes here in our old, dusty town, one of the places where the American Dream came to awaken. Jeremiah could not cry enough for Israel if his head had turned to a fountain and his eyes to springs. He is the muse of small-town, dusty-old America in the twenty-first century, as two rich men spar to see who will guide the sinking ship of partisianship, one demanding we stay the course but not seeming to see descent is a course, as well, and the other offering change, real change, he just can't say what kind of change, things just won't be the same, but he doesn't seem to see that things, no matter how bad, can always change for the worse if you change just to change.
People need to work at something real. The real thing we work at needs to satisfy; part of satisfication is disgust, that harsh feeling that just says, "I live in an existential comedy of errors and there is no real point to this mess, anyway, we all just live and die and then what?" This is the kind of satisfactory disgust able to last until you get to that end of the day reunion, the ones where lovers kiss and hold each other in a lingering kind of embrace that is more than a welcome home tug, the kind that reminds both of you we are in this together and it all makes sense because we have each other.
Drop their interest rates? Call them a nation of whiners? Don't give away people's jobs so that your bottome line can look better for the stockholder's meeting two days a year. People still need to work at something that satisfies, disgusts, appeals, repels, attracts and horrifies. We need to get up in the morning and run off to do something all day long, until we cannot do it any longer for this day and rush home for that reunion, the one where the kids show you what they drew at daycare that day and it's just for you daddy and for mommy and it goes on the fridge door, the one that would not be so sweet if all we did was wait all day for the daylight to die.
So, the days are getting shorter here already. The lights come on earlier in the evening now, though we do not need them, not those of us who actually live in the dusty, little, old town, for we have its streets memorized by now and know just how fast to drive between the lights so we do not strike anything in the night.
It is a good life if you have friends to sit with on a three foot concrete porch and watch a slow evening die with the promise of a full day tomorrow, the sun rising a little later to hide our flaws a bit longer, until the hot glare of noon burns bright on all our temporary imperfections.