The Real & The Surreal
A Letter from the Heartland

by R.C. Hampton


Hey Ya'll-
It was a pretty day out today, and while I needed to wear a jacket it was good to take the top off Da Z and enjoy what is likely to be the last of the
Autumn days that will be so mild.

I started a "Language Fast" at three o'clock the day before yesterday. No cussin' and no negative verbiage. Words are things, and all that. By pretty much just staying home and not talking to anybody I've only gotten a couple dozen hash marks by now. I'm okay until I get on the phone with Mom . . . then I just fall all apart and get trashy, 'cause I figure that if I'm telling what has already happened it don't count in the right now.

I think I will forever remember Anthrax Day. Pretty much like I remember JFK, Dr. King, Woodstock, Stonewall, getting laid for the first time (that was when I wanted it to happen) meeting (and leaving) my ex-. I'll forget the dates and probably even the years. But the days, the smell in the air, the quality of light, no, that will remain.

I was fixin' to head up to Omaha for my Monday class. I had been layin' low in the wake of an ugly fall from my wheelchair, healing. The bruises look nastier than they are. Fret not. I stopped in a side street, out of traffic, to swap out the CD in the player and heard

"In Florida Anthrax has been detected in ..."

So, I tried to call ya'll. Can't look mortality square in the face without saying "Thanks and I love you" to all the kin if you have a moment to think on it. Clearly, I couldn't get through because nine jillion people were doing exactly the same thing.

Got through to Mom and told her that I loved her, just in case we all woke up alone except for blistered corpses contorted in the final throes of what could only have been an ecstasy of death.

She just laughed and said, "Oh, Honey they've found it all over the place now."

Like that fixed some fucking thing. I guess in a way it did. I suppose I would be more comfortable rolling and choking alone, and so we were alike in that regard.

" . . . bye-bye Honey, I love you, too,"

then back to her crossword puzzles or whatever. If Mister Anthrax come knockin' at her door, well it's been a good run, ain't it?

I tried to get on the Interstate at Waverly, but they were moving some enormous and incredibly dense something, and had everything cordoned off, so I had to drive along the state highway for several towns, ruminating on the improbable likelihood of the events of the day, like maybe they found the spores, and after quittin' time but before plumb dark what mysterious (and evil?) thing could be so heavy that it takes two of those big diesel trucks with the extra couple sets of wheels (one pulling, the other in reverse, pushing), and a swarm of guys giving all kinds of feedback as all of this was inching, and I do mean inching, down the road, away from here and crawling towards the Air Base in Omaha along the only flat access ramp anyplace, while maybe Dubya is in the air already, going from one hidey-hole to another.

When I came home maybe three hours later they were still at it, and maybe only a hundred yards further along.

The panorama was the kind of view that makes living here worth it . . . the bright gold of harvested fields, the tan of ripe grain. The sun was heading into twilight, hanging there casting into high relief a line on the horizon of dark green trees that, while perhaps individually miles apart, looked like a solid line from where I was. Add to that what was a very unusual contrail—that white signature a jet (or a missile . . . ) makes at a certain altitude and speed—that appeared to be headed pretty much right down in front of me, so I'm thinking,

"Okay, so the fakers got one past the watchdogs and Strategic Air Command is toast. At least I'll get to watch the big show."

(You see, being nearly in the middle of the country they thought we used to be pretty much outside of missile range, so there used to be many missile silos of our own among the amber waves of grain and a bunch of bunkers for the leaders of our nation to hide in. The old thought was that if and when the USSR nuked us, we'd just relocate DC right here. The Omaha White House. Underground.)

Add to that, there were two heavy storm systems, clear gold sun setting behind me in the west, dark gray ahead, huge clouds that looked substantial, like God's own zeppelins, trailing sheer skirts of rain, colliding. I'll never forget what happened next: as the storm systems met, a glorious rainbow whirled around upon itself so that it looked like a double helix rainbow, a rainbow tornado. It was just jaw-dropping serin-fucking-dippity. If this was the last sundown I would get to see, then the show was worth the cover charge. I probably will never see the like again.

So, now that I had my little nighttime nappy I really, really would like some substantial sleep. Anyhow, to all and sundry, I wish you

A good morning.

A good day.

Love it.


© 2001 R.C. Hampton


If you still don't know who R.C. Hampton is, well . . .shame on you.


BENT: A Journal of CripGay Voices/November 2001