February 2001

I could see all the way to the horizon. I was on the deck of an impossibly tall high-rise with family and friends. The view of the countryside of the south of Spain was practically unobstructed by the low, thin rail, no more than a band of metal. Leaning over the rail, I saw a domed government building, as white as ivory. A stony alabaster mall stretched out before it, with cultivated grounds arranged symmetrically to either side. From this great height the people below were barely visible, but I felt no vertigo as I pointed out the sights. I was the expert, it seemed, and I went into great detail about the Spanish architecture, etc. There was a town to be seen too, and I searched for it over the countryside. There, to the south, nestled in the high hills overlooking the Mediterranean was a town made up of squat white stucco structures - mostly houses. On the cobblestone streets I could just make out pedestrians and vehicles. The view of the town and its surroundings were thrilling from from this perspective, and I excused myself to run in and get my camera. Inside it was dark, and my eyes adjusted slowly as I rummaged through my backpack. When I returned with the camera the crowd had changed somewhat. Some of the people from the neighboring unit, including two children, had leapt the narrow gap between balconies. The children, aged about 10 and 3, had somehow managed to install a trampoline just over our balcony rail. Of course, underneath the trampoline were hundreds of feet of open air. The kids were oblivious to the height, and the toddler had already made his way to the springy surface. Feeling like a killjoy, I nonetheless felt compelled to register protest, telling the kids that I didn't think it was safe. The older kid looked at me blankly for a moment, but then proceeded to vault the railing to the trampoline. The younger sibling nearly lost his balance, and veered perilously close to the edge. I tried to explain to the elder child the dangers of sharing a trampoline so far from the ground, and felt unacknowledged.

My car was being uncooperative. It was late, and in the abandoned parking lot I was trying to angle into a logistically challenging parking space. The thunder of a quickly approaching storm sounded like a canvas sack being ripped in slow motion: Grrrraaaaaakkkhhh... I had my door open, leg out, and was looking back as I slowly aligned my car with the painted line. Then, as I turned to face forward, I saw that a woman had parked her car right next to the space I was aiming for. Now it would be that much more difficult. It was going to be a tight fit. Through her passenger side window I could see a kid in the seat, but no sign of the mother. The windows of the car were fristed with condensation, and I couldn't make out what the boy was doing, but I felt that he was aware of me. I was trying to figure out a new strategy when white bolt of lightning oozed slowly from the clouds above and pulverized a tree to the northwest. I found this supernatural display frustrating, but not especially remarkable. Of course the tree burst into flames, and a dazzling conflagration quickly spread to all the trees that surrounded the lot. I commenced easing my car forward slowly, careful not to let the door slam on my leg.