d a m i e n    m i l e s - p a u l s o n

La Mancha

 

When the batteries died on her phone she was lost. When the batteries died on her phone she was lost in La Mancha. When the batteries died on her phone she felt frustrated because she couldn't search the Internet for the cast of Lost In La Mancha. When the batteries died on her phone she tried to remember the way she had come. When the batteries died on her phone, as she aimlessly moseyed the streets of some La Manchan town whose name she couldn't Google because the batteries on her phone were dead, she came upon a tidy little plaza where children played in an effortlessly Spanish way, which made her wish the batteries on her phone weren't dead so she might shoot pictures of herself with the little fountain and the kids. When the batteries on her phone died she regretted past declarations of Spanish fluency as she could not speak Spanish, or even French despite dwelling in Aix for three weeks during the spring semester, though she could expertly pronounce words such as Nice, Nantes and Rimbaud. When the batteries on her phone died she lovingly botched a poem by Rimbaud to an audience of cobblestones and open windows sparking a pulse through her nervous system awakening that sluggish organ for the first time since the last time the batteries on her phone died, or back when she was a rebellious liberal arts student who listened to Gil Scott-Heron on vinyl and vowed to never, ever own a television or a smart phone, though now the idea of the revolution not being televised seemed quaint.


"Lays reigns portent dew motts grave: Claire Venus;

—Et toot say corpse raymoo et ten saw large croop

Bell hideousment day oon ulcer ah laynus."


When the batteries on her phone died there was nothing to illuminate her steps into the cellphoneless dark. When she ran out of batteries on her phone she stood in front of a hotel but could not bring herself to stay there, despite the late hour and the myriad electrical outlets that surely awaited her inside, because she was unable to read a review of the place. When the batteries died on her phone she continued to walk for hours, passing through three quiet villages without pause to rest or to drink water. When the batteries on her phone died she finally cursed the cellphone's tyranny but lamented that she could not tell anyone about discovering this new country of dead batteries and silence and walking through the La Manchan night without direction or expectation, thirst or hunger. When the batteries died she felt invisible. When the batteries died she made promises to herself, like, I'm going to write on paper more, or, I'm going to writer letters and put them in envelopes and mail them to my friends who will take pictures of them with their phones and put them on the Internet. When the batteries on her phone died the sun rose slow-like over La Mancha revealing to her that the sun rose like this all around the world each and every day—a spare few moments of beautiful nothing. When the batteries died on her phone she thought of how easy a wandering ascetic's life is in the modern era, austerity now defined by having dead batteries, or no batteries at all, the ascetics, the sadhus, the monks, the Bashos of this world coming down from the mountains to blog about not blogging for the harsh winter meditating in a cave. When her phone died she used a pay phone and felt like Graham Bell's mistress, the ache of nostalgia in her, savoring the dial tone in her ear, the all encompassing ear-piece, the change clinking through the analog guts of the phone, the mutilated phone book and as she lifted her finger to the tactile digits on the phone, she was defeated by the phone's specialization, by its ability to do only one thing, for she knew no numbers anymore except the numbers of old high school friends, or the number of her father's office in 1994, so she reached past the dead phone in her pocket for a few more Euros in order to call Tammy Royalty's home phone number in Moscow, Idaho in 1996. When the batteries on her phone died and the man who answered at what was once Tammy Royalty's house told her he couldn't help with the dead batteries or directions out of La Mancha she hung up the receiver, which triggered a small avalanche of change onto the dirty floor of the phone booth. And as she picked up the scattered change from the phone booth’s filthy ground she was alone with her thoughts.

 

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DAMIEN MILES-PAULSON lives on a nightbus between Orcas Island and Portland with his pregnant wife and daughter. He drives boats in wool coats. His work has appeared in The Whole Beast Rag, theNewerYork and Marco Polo Arts Mag.


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