We Called it Emptiness
helicopters to the ground. But my own throat tightened too. I wasn’t sure who would want a lattice tower next to their house. We all had telephone wires and wooden fences that kept in the sky, but as I leaned on my windowsill, I could still see the old elm tree, the laundry line strung above the grass. The back wasn’t clear-cut or strewn with metal, and nothing shrouded the stars when I bent my neck, looking up.
Before Bill moved to Junction, he had a farm outside a suburb in Dallas. At night he used to amuse himself by watching stars—as time went by it was harder and harder to see them, but he could sure count the jets. There’d be as many as forty-five circling overhead. It made him dizzy watching the red dots in sky. The sky wasn’t supposed to move like that. It was supposed to stand still as the clouds built, as the storms came and bent trees and twisted buildings in the cities underneath.


Andy and I drove out of Lubbock, east on 19th street. We passed the old brick mansions and the road potholed and dipped into downtown. The downtown streets were empty that afternoon, empty as they had been since the seventies when a tornado leveled buildings and killed over twenty people. We drove under the interstate. There were small houses with dirty clapboard and then there were none.

Chain link fences ended as the road dropped from two lanes to one.
We took the one-lane road east until Andy pointed out my window and said “there.”
Lattice towers. Outside Lubbock now. Andy pulled off into a drainage ditch and the engine cut with a sputter. The towers made a blocky line along the barbed wire fences, a dozen or so strung one after another. Half a mile away and we could see all the crisscrossed cables that ran down their backs.
Andy and I left the van in the ditch. We walked down the caliche road and a fine silt settled on our skin. Sweat ran behind my ear. I wiped my hands on my shorts, and neither felt clean. A camera bag thumped against Andy’s leg as he walked, whistling to himself. It was loud, his hoarse voice in the quiet afternoon. No wind stirred the air. The green cotton fields were limp and the staked barbed wire still.
Andy said this would be a good shot, and we stopped. He set up the tripod. I kicked at some weeds, hands shoved in my pockets.
There was nothing to say. I’d heard the old ranching couple call the lattice towers monsters, listened to Bill’s voice rise as he told Andy they were 150 feet. Fifteen stories—I only half believed how tall that could be. Now I squinted, looking up. The sun clouded my eyes and still I saw them.
Andy snapped a few pictures, and we walked on down the road. I told him I didn’t think the lattice towers looked anything like mountains.