• Malachi Jones

Prelude to Crippling//Some Reflections

I’m growing tired of all of this light. And I hope the workers will too.

Outside my window and behind the yard of my grandparent’s home was once a mellow expanse. An unnotably stiff mileage of pines, birds, and rodents. “The woods” as we called it. A densely-green green dense. I muse of it now as an army of timber and grass keeping watch over my bedroom. Yet despite its presence, how it broke the beams of a late evening, I took it for background noise. Not much attention was ever paid to it except for flyovers in summer, and I’d watch a box plane douse the woods with mosquito repellent.

Left behind now is an open plane. Fertile for corporate development and not much else. In a matter of a month, creation was leveled. I spent the holiday’s home and right before I returned to campus, a cutting crew had been at work. Every morning was the sound of birds and the hum of saws; the skillet’s hiss and the bulldozer’s rev. Every hour, the skyline opened up a little more. A CRACK was the prelude to a slow crippling.

The few trees spared are on our property. Their scant number and skimpiness give no illusion of majesty or shade. And so, I’m left unsettled. Mostly, because my home, technically my second home but “home”—quarantine shelter, isolation center, what have you—nonetheless, now feels unfamiliar. And partly because of my shock.

What right do I have? It was my fault to assume permanence. The woods had been there since the old house stood, the one my grandmother was reared in and on whose foundation the current house sits. Since ‘07, grandma’s fed feral cats to keep away snakes and kill the occasional mole, but with the woods gone, the backyard is cratered with mole holes. Even the cats seem tamer. Sometimes, when I was still in Queens but down-south for the summer, we’d find oyster shells at the treeline. They were like the bones of an old oyster roast. How can I claim to miss things preceding me? That old house been gone.

I hate to have strung you along this far just to think of this entry as a droving, roundabout way to express you never know what you've got till it's gone...though it is that, in part. But frankly, that line is too succinct of a notion to accept. The similarly common response of you knew what you had, you just never thought you’d lose it is better, but again too brief. There are too many words I’d hope to give towards this sudden absence.

With the windfall of time gained and loss from *****-**, not everything needs doing in a rush.

The rumor is that an airplane manufacturer is moving in. They already employ a portion of this city, so another location doesn’t surprise me. In fact, I might be singular in the little contempt I hold. My grandparents scold the lack of a worker’s union but otherwise treat it as a simple happening. A quick “yep” of acknowledgment, and a return to the typical housework (the living room is now an eggshell white; they’ve been painting as I wrestle with permanence). Perhaps it’s with age (they’re obviously passing time more wisely). However, age isn’t a privilege I have, and currently, I can’t even express it over dinner, or a bonfire, or in a 2 am Waffle House. The only people out this weekend were the countymen repaving our road. As if we can go anywhere.

No one can go anywhere. We’ve moved inward and we’ve begged distance. We’ve lost what some say makes us men. And for good reason. Pestilence has cut down more generations than we can account for, and the responses taken (colonial, humanitarian, apathetic, etc.) have remained dog-eared, studied as highlights of human strength and perseverance. So here we are with a modern pandemic wearing our actual social fabric thin, revealing both its charms and neglected cancers. We’ve accepted that what comes naturally is not naturally given.

Something more fragile and much greater than trees has been upended. Of course, this place feels unfamiliar. After I left for college, home, by some cosmic irony, became a different type of freedom. Sure, there’s parental oversight and more church on Sundays, but there’s no need for social pretenses and driving feels spiritual compared to subways. I miss the feeling that I could go anywhere.

In spite of it all, I take selfish joy knowing this specific work has stopped. It’s a small relief the circumstance grants. After all, there’s no airplane hangars to be built at this time (or in the foreseeable future). I know there will be a time when this is over and the hangars will rise. That’s inevitable. Until then, I’ll indulge the intrusive amount of sunlight and how unbearable it’ll make the summer. That way, even if we have a summer this year, the workers may reconsider the trouble of construction! In the same fantasy, my grandparents cheer as the airplane workers unionize.

There’s still potential. Momentarily, the empty plane is a speckled plot of raw earth and shrubs. Already, small oak is rooting upward and out—against all futility—, seeking to retake its place. There’s something natural in this persistence, for even if the whole land were to spring up before me, it is the product of something new.

I really hope we’re growing into something new. Anything less will perish.

©2020 by ~quarantine content~.