Thursday, January 13, 2011

district of columbia

Six blocks from my apartment, the Capitol Building looms over the broadway like some incandescent cross between an antique lamp and a wedding cake.

The girl holding my heart is about a thousand miles, a million words away.

Sometimes, at night, when I either tire of writing or the words no longer come to me, I sally out of my apartment house and go for a run through the ludicrous cold of a Washington January; partially to ground myself in where I am, partially to beat back the silence. Both help keep the heartbreak away, but barely.

At night the Capitol complex is abandoned, liberated from tourists and journalists and lawmakers. The Capitol police linger as if only to safeguard the stillness of this place. It is lonely, but barely.

Across the street are the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress; across the Mall, the Washington Monument and a dozen other national treasures.

Across those thousand miles are surely a thousand awesome and worthy lives, but I don't care.

The Capitol's guards eye me as I lope in approach, a man wheezing and insane to be wearing shorts at this temperature, but my legs are big and warm. Surely the guards are vigilant for Glock-wielding lunatics to whom apolitical mass extermination has become a uniquely American expression. But I'm only a jogger, and they're only cold, and so they watch just long enough to be sure before taking another slow lap around their police vans in the name of duty and salary. It's necessary. So much importance collected here in this half-mile of federal America. So much importance collected in that little burg I left in Missouri.

All this collection makes us vulnerable, you know. That's why why we have security guards and avowals of love. Build up walls to keep the bad away, to beat back the dark infections. If only things could be spread out, made safer, made easier.

But for things to be important, it becomes necessary for them to collect. Or maybe it's the other way around: Out of a centeredness grows a vulnerable cruciality. Doesn't matter. A collection of limestone cathedrals, a collision of hearts — if it's followed by duty, and power, and love, then we must protect it, or risk losing it and beginning anew.

I jog along, and the Capitol diminishes behind me. Back in the building where I live, the radiators tick, a toilet flushes downstairs, and somewhere, in another room nearby, a new congressional staffer watches a basketball game, counting the hours till he rises and makes his way back to the Hill. I strip and fall into bed, drifting through a volume of Chekhov as I fade off in this seat of power, thinking of you.

No comments: