Friday, May 15, 2009

Earth to Khadija

I left Tulsa far behind, but a certain pothole there will never leave my mind. My thoughts often go to that spot on the ground on the south-east corner of 71st and Sheridan. If you're going North on Sheridan and turn right before the intersection, you'll pull in to a Bank of Oklahoma drive-up teller. Just as you're pulling in, you'll see the pothole that changed my life.

I was having a terrible time that morning. I had to run a couple of errands before going to work, and I was in such a rush. The weather was that irritating median where it's too cold to not cover up but you're still feeling claustrophobic in your jacket. It had rained the night before and the humidity was killing my hair, I was having desperate visions of shaving it all off. I had stepped into a puddle before getting into the car, and had trudged in some mud onto my car's interior. The autumn sun was blinding my eyes and making me dizzy. I felt like repeatedly slamming my car into the slowpoke in the traffic in front of me. Just thinking about the workday ahead of me made me want to start randomly punching the insides of my car. My skin was already greasing up, my foundation felt overdone, my eyeliner crooked. I felt like I was bursting out of my clothes, getting slower and fatter by the second. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. Just thinking about the hundred other things I had to do after work was making me squeeze the life out of my steering wheel.

I turned right to get to the BOK drive-up teller. I had to make a deposit. I was already getting mad thinking about getting back on the road from there; it was one of my least favourite turns, always crowded, taking forever to get back out from there. I was slumped in my car seat, my eyebrows knotted up, an ugly cross expression firmly planted on my face.

As I drove in, I saw the pothole. I had seen it many times before and had always avoided driving my carwheel into it. I hated the bumping motion. I leaned out of the driver's window to make sure I was avoiding it yet again.

I saw that the pothole had filled up with water from the rain the night before. A bunch of tiny little birds were hopping around it, splashing their little round selves into it like bouncy little balls. They busied themselves around their little pool, flapping their wings as they leapt into the water, ecstatic about their clever new find.

My world dissolved into nothingness, all except for the birds and their pool. Silly happiness kissed my heart, my eyes glazed over, and a gigantic smile effortlessly hijacked my face. A voice inside me, but not really, told me, "you think you're so busy with all the important things you have to do in your grown-up life? Look at those birds, you sad sad person." It was true, those birds didn't care about anything besides the joy of splashing about the pool nature had given them. To me it was just an annoying hole in the ground, but they saw it as a gift, and they loved it so much. That was their whole world, and nothing else. I felt like such a pompous idiot.

For the next couple of years until I left Tulsa for good, I drove past that pothole many times. Everytime I drove by it, I'd look at it extra hard and practically see the birds naughtily chirping in the water, having the time of their lives, knowing and needing nothing else at that exact moment. But I never saw the birds there again. And nomatter how hard it rained, I never saw water in that pothole again. So anytime I feel like I'm losing perspective, I just remember those birds and that pothole, and it's like we never parted.

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