A Brisk Stroll Around the Reflecting Pool on an Anonymous Sunday

I have to work on a Sunday afternoon in downtown Washington DC. I park in the garage beneath the big block of concrete where I spend my days, and some of my nights. My watch says I’m early. I have time and a Taco Bell burrito to kill.

Washington DC; 4 Jan 2009

It takes about twenty minutes to turn a revolution around the reflecting pool that stretches lazy and muddy between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument. Forty-five minutes if you’re out of shape or your dog craps everywhere and you have to pick it up with your hands. People voluntarily do this.

Lincoln slumps on his stone dais and watches weak late-winter sunshine and the Mueller report spill across the city. One hand rests in my pocket, I’m eating my burrito, somebody is getting their picture taken on the edge of the pool. I walk leisurely between the photographer and the poser because life is short not to.

The pool reflects bare trees standing in unnatural lines, holding their breath for spring, which is working its way up I-95 but is stuck in traffic somewhere near Norfolk.

It reflects a woman sauntering by, talking into her Samsung in some Slavic language, and the words sound round, round drops of liquid natter plopping from her throat into the phone.

It reflects guys jogging shirtless, goosebumped in the sunny cold, loose earbuds letting loud music leak all over the rest of us. I bet it’s Daft Punk.

It reflects a pale, blank sky that’s made out of space and sits up there reflecting all us down here made of breath and bone.

The morning of the propaganda storm. (Damascus, Syria; 17 Oct 2003)

I’m reminded of an October day a long time ago when we waited for a bus in Syria under the same distant sky. A helicopter flew low overhead and released a cloud of fluttering slips of paper that rippled down on us in slow motion. Each paper contained words of comfort from the Syrian government to its citizens. We were all little pawns, we pointed our faces into the propaganda storm and we and let it rain.

The sky in America is empty today, flat azure, and we all mill around the reflecting pool. It’s pretty here. Somewhere else it’s starting to rain, and I bet some people wish the sun would shine there too.

I’ve killed my time and my burrito, so I move toward the building where we work in a space without windows. We can’t see the sun, can’t see the rain. Some days I feel blind in there, some days I feel dry.