A yellow plastic bag rolls about lazily across the sidewalk like a metropolitan tumbleweed as I’m waiting for bus across the street from my office under the scorching midday August sun.
I’m headed to GR Live, a series hosted by my workplace, the Grand Rapids Community Media Center, that plays live music at a bar downtown every Thursday. Even though I had only just gotten into work 45 minutes earlier, I already crave the reprieve, my mind slurred by the temperature and riddled with blue-eyed nothings of unresolved affection, images of PJ Harvey moaning in a desert echoing in my head.
“Mommy, daddy, please, send him back to me”.
As her languishing protests roll through my mind I watch the bag linger and dance in sync, still thinking petulantly about gospel-begging in desert plains in hopes for a guy I never “had” returning “back” to me nonetheless. The number 5 suddenly creaks and roars onto Wealthy street, its alluring air conditioning and free fare due to another clean air action day a welcomed break from the cruel heat. On my phone I put on “Desperado” by Rihanna because it just seems fitting.
At the overpass on Wealthy looking through the scraggly death-proof fence onto downtown Heartside, I see the bright clear sunlight reverberating off the chalky, dry city buildings in the thick, congested air, the skyline almost leaden with humidity. It reminds me of Southern California and my heart races, craving the vastness and the allure of parched and thirsting times in Los Angeles. Despite the drought, it was just easy to satiate oneself there and even if you hate it, you’ll never get bored. Meanwhile, back at home, surrounded by lakes, I feel mentally, physically marooned.
Bored and stranded is just all that this city gives me at this point. Getting off the bus at the strangely-placed main station Island and walking across a series of car lots to the venue, right on cue, an older Black man taps my arm to try and chat me up. Without skipping a beat, I shoot him a searing gaze and keep walking. A few minutes later, a bald white man in business casual with a cane approaches me and suggests I come to his self-defense class at a church in the West Side for free, toothily offering that someone as attractive as me walking alone in downtown should know how to defend herself. I take his card. I’m used to this, I’m tired, I’m used to this, I’m so tired. Nonetheless I breathe a sigh of relief when I reach the cool empty restaurant and see the new station manager, Quinn Mathews, helping set up for the show, which would be playing on air live over WYCE.
After a brief introduction from Quinn, Parts, the band that came highly suggested by a friend and who I came to see, opened up the show. Comprised of two young white girls dressed in typical yet cute summer festival wear crouched down on the ground, mics angled just a few feet from the floor, their pretty synthgaze clamors at bass-heavy parts like a small storm and expertly breaks into breathy angel vocals so it simultaneously doesn’t bore or overwhelm. I am really glad I made my way out to check them out. The harried red-headed server who almost bowled me over when I first stepped into the place scurries over with refills of overpriced lemonade and water on occasion.
I’m present, I’m here, I’m present, but then again I’m not. Nodding in beat with the bass, my head twirls like that bag in the dirty air. What do heart-struck wild women do, normally so wily but rendered utterly witless at the prospect of a seemingly unconquerable task, of stilling a restless heart labored under the searing judgement of the world, denied and neglected, cindering under the hot gaze of desire, thundering and whispering all at once? Do you pray? Do you beg? Do you run? Do you jump in a cool pool, let it all wash away and shake it off? I just take rounds on the free bus and let my thoughts rattle like a venomous snake, earth drying, dust gathering, wishing for rain.