There lies across the landscape a small highway, a road just two lanes wide with space enough on each side for cars rolling along in single file. A tiny road stretched like ribbon over hills and through woodlands carries visitors across East Texas in endless processions. I know it all too well.
Houses grow alongside the concrete path like clumps of moss. They stand above the road on hillsides casting their gaze down on the world, and they strain to look up at passing cars from valleys where they seem dropped purely by accident. The scene rushes by me silently, perhaps even hopelessly, and I wallow in the rare treat of seeing life stir behind masks of time and age.
Restless winds wander amongst the old houses with their old people. For they’re all old there, I know. Even the children—if they can be called that, I mean—even the children are born old. Young people don’t exist in that place, only shorter adults treated like dolls by parents who wish to dress them so they might appear young. But they aren’t. I know it and they know it.
History lies like a blanket along that highway. Even the air tastes of centuries. Handmade clothes and rickety buildings fit like frames around perfect pictures taken when cameras were new. It all seems so preserved, I think, ‘canned’ in the local vernacular of jellies and vegetables and fruits, like Mason jars tucked neatly away on shelves behind threadbare curtains and doors propped against walls which long ago separated from squeaky hinges.
I’m reminded by them, by the people as much as the hamlets stretched for miles… I’m reminded of what we once had, what we’ve given up for advancement. A terrible loss, that. Too much sacrificed; too much given.
I drive through all those lives and still don’t see them clearly. My view of it remains distorted. My memories skew along plastic money called American Express and Visa, and it haunts me still that so much can’t be seen despite its evident nature. Damn me for being a credit card caller in their world.
Only when I look back do I see the paintings I missed while hurrying through their little gallery of existence. The beautiful canvases laid out with careful attention, and what did I do with them? I drove right past seeing little and feeling less.
The sun dances upon the hood of my car as its face jumps from tree to tree. It follows me, and it tells me to slow down. I don’t listen. It’s my loss.