We Called it Emptiness
I knew wind long before anyone gave me a definition. That came in eighth grade. My science teacher told us wind was the force and movement of air. And when she asked us if we understood, twenty pairs of eyes stared at her blankly. Lady, we knew wind. We’d grown up in Lubbock, and it blew every goddamn day. We didn’t need your bolded words about weather patterns to tell us that when the clouds were low and black, you ran to the bathroom. You curled in the bathtub, and your dad threw blankets over your head, hollering “this is it, the garden’s finally going to fly away.” Wind may be a force and movement of air, but it was also the bath water running down your leg. It was the seconds you counted, hoping the tornado blew over.
This city puts wind in your bones. Fierce wind, the kind that blew all spring and made the power lines swing. Day after day I listened to it howl as the afternoon passed, the evening came, and the sun turned the sky pale yellow and deep blue. Then the air calmed and streets grew quiet and you could hear the power lines hum overhead.
That was when I’d ride my bike. My feet spun round the pedals and I’d bike down the empty streets, south toward the city’s edge. After a while, if I looked up, I could see the stars.I could see stars and airplanes with red blinking lights.
So when Andy offered me a job transcribing oral histories about wind, I said yes. I slid on earphones and heard his hundred stories. I
listened to the farmers, ranchers, wind developers, and let my fingers run across the keys.
The way the ranchers tell it, the land sickened first in fall when the CREZ line came to Sweetwater and the nights turned longer. And like fall, the old woman and man grew colder, watching the lattice towers rise. It was surprising how quickly they could be built. The first tower went up overnight,and the ranchers didn’t know it was their last empty sunset. They slept deeply, and there was no hint or sign of a passing.
The sleep tricked them. It closed their ears to the semis and tractors on the back country roads. The semis drove with truck beds of steel while the tractors slashed pretty, perfect circles in the brush.
The old couple blamed the wind. It blew too fierce, hid the night’s sounds beneath a blanket of dust. They couldn’t hear the steel, the crack of mesquite under the tractor’s blades.
Texans cursed wind with every sort of name. Satan’s Breath when it tore down fences and broke trees. Goddamn wind, fucking tornadoes, dust devils straight from hell. But that night, those drivers must have thanked it. The wind hid all the metal sounds from the ranchers, the people with the lattice towers running through their land. The old couple said the workers must have sung something like hallelujah when the trucks arrived. They must have kept the music in their voices as