You’re going through the motions of every day life, you know brushing your teeth or folding laundry or going out to check the mail, when the slightest sensual change catapults your mind back to that other time and that other place that feels forgotten and cobwebbed.
I was casually parking my car in Oakland. I think the sun was shining. Perhaps kids skateboarding in the street. There might have been birds chirping. I turned off the car and gently packed the pack of Parliament cigarettes on both ends. I unraveled the cellophane and threw it in the cup holder with abandon. I lit up a cigarette. I don’t buy cigarettes anymore, hadn’t in a long, long time, and I have no idea why I did that day. It wasn’t like I was stressed out or anything.
But that first whiff of burning tobacco, so particular those P Funks…
it set me back.
Suddenly I’m in Terry, Montana. It’s blazing hot, blinding. Terry is a very small town in Eastern Montana along the Yellowstone River, just off the Interstate. Population: 598. Places like this always give me the creeps.
We were traveling West to start over. Or at least that’s what I told myself. There’s a sunset for us out West, I told myself.
We ate dry cheeseburgers and drank chunky milkshakes at an old fashioned gem called Dizzy Diner. I felt like we were in the 1950’s. Or at least not in 2013. The atmosphere, though pedestrian and provincial, still held some sort of enigma waiting to be discovered. There was an abandoned theater and the Diamond Motel which proudly displayed its “COLOR TV” capabilities, both of which heightened my time-travel experience.
We were in Prairie County. Big Sky Country. Surrounded by mountain ranges. Just two specks floating in all that infinite majesty. Shit was so fucked up between us but being somewhere so foreign made us feel closer. Even though it was artificial, it was nonetheless comforting. He was the black sheep in his family, and he loved to smoke Parliaments.
There he was standing stoically, puffing away, with his beard longer than I had ever seen it before. There I was taking it all in, most notably this rickety red, white, and blue windmill. It was about 25 feet tall, and had the same old quality as everything else in that tiny town. I appreciated it so much, that oldness, that character. I felt it within my soul, like I had seen everything that windmill had seen. The Birth of Americana. It was built to last, even if we weren’t.
It just kept turning. No / Matter / What. Sometimes faster. Sometimes slower. But it just kept at it, through everything. Letting only the wind guide it. It always stayed the course.
I stood there in amazement, never feeling more respect for a windmill in my life. And all I could smell was the burning Parliament he smoked standing next to me. Perhaps truly by my side for the very last time.
And I didn’t even know it yet, but that windmill did.
“Life is a question of nerves, and fibres, and slowly built-up cells in which thought hides itself and passion has its dreams. You may fancy yourself safe and think yourself strong. But a chance tone of colour in a room or a morning sky, a particular perfume that you had once loved and that bring subtle memories with it, a line from a forgotten poem that you had come across again, a cadence from a piece of music that you had ceased to play–I tell you, Dorian, that it is on things like these that our lives depend.” ~Oscar Wilde