Today I am struggling with being and nothingness.
My mind travels from the bleak, drenching 21st Century Arizona rain to artful black and white photos my mother never snapped of pans filled with shelled peas my brother and I had spent hours extricating from pods. Creativity allows me to examine an imaginary composition, a nonexistent thing, but a very real thing, prior to my mind assembling them just a few minutes ago.The photo’s context is black and white too. A large bank barn, sets at the top edge of a long slopping hill. In front of the barn is a solid tamped-down barnyard with another outbuilding to the north located just before it also dips down to meet a tiny stream that drains a nearby wooded knoll. A rusty two bottom plow rests there too, where it was detached from the old John Deere last spring.
Closer still to the vantage point of the scene is a country lawn a few feet higher than the barnyard. In the contextual panorama a skinny boy, scarcely adolescent, sits in a stiff gangly non-pose in an aluminum lawn chair, a well-used pie-pan filled with raw peas rests in his lap. He wears denim dungarees, and a plain white t-shirt and sports roundish tortoise-shell horn-rimmed glasses. He seems fragile, and anxious, constrained by an unknown future so heavy it already presses in on him and weights him down.
I am there too. I am incidental to the scene and too young to know more than the moment, the sunshine, and the bright starchy crunch of raw peas. I sit next to the lawn chair distracted by a the sticky, sweet dance of a honey bee on the soft spikes of a clover blossom. I cannot imagine the scene being any different than it is.
I cannot imagine nuclear-tipped missiles, much less that they are being deployed to an island called Cuba by my country at this very moment. I cannot imagine that skinny boy in ten years. That is the second image. I wish I could not now imagine it.
In the second photograph that never was I am the same age as the boy in the first picture, the vantage is from a farmhouse window looking down to the midnight black silhouette of a young man, cigarette in hand leaning against a muscle car outlined against the lighter gravel of a driveway. The red-hot glow of the cigarette punctures the moment and tears a rift in time as a maelström of shredded flesh and shrieking wraiths of Khe Sanh detach from the man and are sucked into a collapsing universe into another dimension.
Even at that moment bits of him were already connected to that netherworld. Soon the process will be complete and I will watch from that long ago frame, alone.