Tonight I watched Netflix’s debut feature-length, Beasts of No Nation. It’s a beautiful movie, and horrific to watch. There is little to spoil that isn’t made apparent in the film’s trailer, so I can state the obvious and say that any film about children robbed of their youth and forced to join a rebel militia is going to be indeed horrific.
Follow me: we are walking down the jet bridge to our plane, which will take us home, or away from home, or to somebody else’s home. We shuffle down the aisle, double-, triple-, quadruple-checking our seat number to ensure we sit in the correct spot. Those seated in the aisle turn inward to avoid the throngs of travelers moving by. Polite eye contact, never too long. We have a window seat: 28a. Over the wing, just forward of the engines. There are pleasantries exchanged as our neighbors take their own seats. Headphones or earplugs are donned, we halfheartedly listen to the safety reminders and no sooner does the landing gear retract than we are dozing, eyes heavy, lulled into slumber by the deep hum of the cabin.
This year I completed an imperative task in the life of a voracious reader: I started (and finished) David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. While I’ve long been familiar with Wallace’s essay “Water”, a commencement speech given to Kenyon College graduates, I began Infinite Jest with very few expectations of what I was getting into.
I pull my jacket on, trudging up the stairs from BART to emerge onto Market Street. It’s my second week in San Francisco and I’m on my way back from Oakland where I’d been visiting a friend. It’s late, I’d caught the last train, and I pause to reflect for the first time on the reality that this city can, somehow, feel cold at 55˚. Market Street is humming with its strange late-night beauty, the noise of the freeway a low drone off to the east through SOMA and a light fog giving an altogether ethereal look to the downtown.
Laura Cogan is editor of Zyzzyva, *a *San Francisco journal that prints quarterly a selection of poems, short stories and creative nonfiction by writers in the Bay Area. I’ve been receiving it for almost two years, and my heart races when I come home to find the new issue waiting for me.