April 3, 2013 § Leave a comment
Sad things can move through the air like sounds. Moving the cells of your body in such a way that you perceive them suddenly. Like a note. Like a noise. But it’s suddenly you miss absolutely everyone you’ve ever met. And it aches. It makes you a little sick. Like you might dry heave in your heart.
Where do these waves come from? You could have sworn you had built an anechoic chamber here, here around the ion channels into your memories and feelings and thoughts, long, long ago. But then suddenly –
Suddenly I miss absolutely everyone I’ve ever met. I want to be near them. Whoever. Just again. Hello, I would say. Do you remember? Can we remember together? Then it’s almost like time hasn’t passed. Let’s be in the past in the present. Together.
Then let’s take a walk and try to hear everything around us. Let’s look at the same thing for a really long time. Let’s fuck even. Let’s get fries. Let’s drive. Let’s go to a mountain. Let’s put our hands on each other stomachs. Let’s write a song. Let’s pretend something. Anything. Let’s ask each other quiet questions. Let’s make fun of time and laugh about dying.
The older memories get the sadder they become. The spaces fill with regret and a withering. Maybe if we make a new one, we won’t feel so sad. Maybe for just a minute or two. Maybe.
I would take the cathartic sadness. The acute kind. The sort that you work through. The screaming and crying kind. The sort that comes on suddenly and eases over time. The sort from death. Or loss. Or pain. Or disappointment. The non-systemic kind. The kind you can wait out. The kind that feels good in the pulling on a loose tooth kind of way. But mine is dull and static and terminal. It can be ignored for a time but not forgotten. It becomes annoying. You learn to live with it, to compensate. Like losing a limb. Do you remember laughter, motherfucker? Come back, remind me. I’d rather laugh than get off.
November 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
The words began as air. As all words. The air was cold and crisp and slightly heavy with an imminent rain and a foreboding though the foreboding was separate from the imminent rain. Who knows how to measure foreboding. It is like the proverbial obscenity. You know it when you see it. Or feel it. Such was this air, foreboding. From this air came the words. The same air had been a billion billion words before. Sometimes the same words, sometimes the opposite words, sometimes in languages long and forgotten. This is what we mean by time, atoms of air carrying one word and then another.
The air fell into her lungs as the pressure fell. Something here about Bernoulli. Before air can become speech it must first restore the blood. She exhaled into her larynx, closing her vocal cords, and began that ancient noise, the sound of a buzzing throat, the call of our species, the music that has altered the course of history each time it has been summoned, flapping vocal folds in the airstream of our tracheas like flags in the wind, beating, proclaiming, staking ground. The Promethean vowel. Aaaaah. And then she molded it, carefully, her tongue, her lips, her teeth, her cheeks, hard and soft palates, muscles of the face and the neck. Like clay in the hands was this 300hz buzz in her face as she shaped it into sets of meaningful signals. A million little movements. A holy ritual. This is what we mean by time, to participate in this as humans have done and always will do. We pray to gods when we ought to pray to the act of prayer, for it is our true god.
What she said was: No I will not go.
August 21, 2012 § Leave a comment
The girl who wept from glass, wine glasses with delicate stems so fine that a pour of a dark Spanish red would have shattered the cup, glasses that dripped into being by accident from a source that disappeared as soon as its work was done, left the fog of her breath on the case. In the cloud as it faded away I saw all the heartache she had felt for all the beautiful and delicate things the world over, the arches cut by the wind from sandstone, the whispered admissions, the heart-shaped red bell pepper, the time.
A perfect mirror is colored a special sort of white in that it reflects all colors. Imperfect mirrors tend to keep a bit of green, as if green were a favorite of cheap mirrors. It is a common hylozoism, the longing and empathy for the waterless and the carbonless. A mirror’s favorite color will not change; the beauty of a wine glass will not leave us to share itself with another. We can hold onto a red bell pepper until it is a part of us or it is rotten. It is so comfortable in the ontological hinterland of abstractions and ideas and objects. Give me a blanket here, or the idea of a blanket, some gesture toward warmth, and I will rest.
If you think I did not love you like I said I loved you then you are wrong.
July 10, 2012 § 1 Comment
I couldn’t help myself to you. Your love had a mysterious mass. I was not not in an orbit. But the orbit I was in was irregular and I had only a very wavering hold on the tides I was affecting. For all I know in fact the tides were holding me. They were not the in and out sort. They made shifting and unusual patterns. I lived in constant fear of the oceans becoming still. Some days I could have sworn I felt the heat of the sun grow hotter.
I have spent so much of my life two steps away from the situation, watching myself watching myself. So many days have felt cloudy though it was clear enough. A lingering hunch it was cloudy even when it wasn’t. Events unfolding without regard to my will though they pretended to be. Dreamlike, sort of, but less like watching something. More like being a very heavy thing stretched very far and floating above some kind of race where the stakes were quite high and you were affecting it somehow but how exactly you did not know. Things just happening and happening, or not, which is a sort of happening. The general pervading sense: bewilderment. If I reached out to set a thing to motion it was in spite of me and if I didn’t it was in spite of me also.
It is a sort of drowning in the air while your life passes by at exactly the speed of life. You flail while you try to do so many other things also. You would have a better chance at surviving if you could concentrate wholly on the flailing, but alas, you are somehow not permitted, as if there are rules here you can’t not follow but can’t know. You reach. So much reaching. Or you exhale. To somehow try and lower yourself back down onto the same plane that existence seems to be going on on. It is an uncomfortable awareness of physics happening to everything but you. Maybe it is thing with your brain, you wonder. Maybe it is a thing with the universe, you wonder. Maybe it is a thing with everyone else’s brains. Maybe these are the same sorts of things, you wonder. Maybe it isn’t even A Thing.
And I was trapped there for so long, in that strange hinterland where nothing is quite tied down and though there is gravity it too floats. You brought me back, to The Place, the existence, the quarks and the photons. To hardness and to the smell of earth and rot. You plucked me from my place. I had nothing to do with it; I couldn’t have had. You hugged me when I came down. I didn’t know you.
This, I remember thinking, is what love is. Love is a sort of gravity, a sort of sobriety, a sort of pair of good boots. Suddenly I could push a thing and it would retreat from me. It was like landing on a familiar shore. I wanted to kiss the beach, eat the sand. I could not wait to walk. I felt like a child again, in a world made of real things that I left when I broke.
That is not what love is, though. Love is not a pair of good boots. Because love is not a tool. Love is not a cure. Love, like me, is a broken thing. It doesn’t have a use. It isn’t good for anything outside of it being what it is. Like Heidegger said a hammer becomes art when it busts. See, love is like a hammer that never was a hammer. And that is what makes it such A Thing.
And so I went back to my drowning. I was going there anyway. It was only a matter of time. And love would have brought you with me. Drowning people always try to drown the people that try to save them.
June 20, 2012 § Leave a comment
I sat by the water reading something by William Faulkner. I was easily distracted, not because it is sometimes hard to focus on Faulkner, even though it is, but because Faulkner makes me think of you. Not because you like him, even though you do, but because sometimes when I read Faulkner I find myself reading one phrase or one line over and over and I forget what is happening in the story. If I even knew what was really happening in the story to begin with. Give me just this one curl. I have forgotten you for this curl. What were we talking about? Oh yes, the story. But this place where your belly slopes from your hip. I must kiss it now. I am forgetting, forgetting.
And I could hear the water dreaming of what it was making, violently sculpting. The knife of nature, the river. But somehow peaceful, inviting even. Tempts you to put stones into your pockets. Take me with you, you want to say. Smooth my edges. I have so many rough spots.
And it became dark and I could no longer see the Faulkner so I just sat and listened to the water dreaming awake. And I thought of you in a sad and longing way, the way the river mourns the mountain that it cut those eons ago. Cut despite itself. It misses the mountain of course. But oh, look at this canyon. It too is beautiful. Not the end but the change that hurts so. But yet you do not always want the winter.
My owl-eyed fantast! Why did we not move to the coast and buy that fixer upper and make love in the late mornings and let the rain carry our thoughts to worriless pages. To have mixed my books with yours. I could have made peace with the possible. I could have learned to swim in time like a cold stream instead of just dipping my anxious toe. I do know how to swim. But to resist breathing underwater. The enticing whisper that beckons you to a dark place.
I regret everything. What I do and what I don’t do. The water and I, we know that this course was both inevitable and stochastic. But this does not dam the water the way it does me. I have collected into a large pool. When the wind is high, bits of me drip slowly onto the other side.
Give me just this one curl. I have forgotten you for this curl. My owl-eyed fantast. Come to me on this stony beach. It is very dark now. The rush of the river will drown our sighs of relief. The rocks, worn smooth from travel, will welcome our backs. Time is so present here. But we don’t have let it get to us. Come. Come now.
June 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
Rumor had it that B.’s dad owned 24 Pizza Hut franchises. B. and his brother and their parents were all fat and they lived in the biggest house in town, so if the rumor was just a rumor it was a plausible one. There was speculation about their house. They had two pizza ovens in their kitchen, people said. They had a maid, people said. They had TVs on that hung on their walls, people said.
B. and I were not friends. He was, in fact, the first and only kid I ever hit. In the second grade he used to put me in a headlock at recess and he wouldn’t let me go. One night I told my dad about it, and he said that next time I should elbow him in the gut. And so the next day at recess, B. approached me near the foursquare quart as he always did and wrapped his arm around my neck and pulled my head down until he was squeezing it against his fat belly. I took my left fist in my right arm and I elbowed him in the gut as hard as I could. He cried out and let me go. “Sonofabitch!” he yelled. I ran. He never put me in a headlock again.
In the third grade it was announced that there would be an art contest. Students could submit paintings, poems, stories or songs and a winner from each category would be picked. Only two kids from my school submitted songs – me and B. Mine was a tautology-inspired pop tune with lyrical moments that referenced the Inuit and metaphysical dilemmas of personal identity entitled ‘I Am Me.’ B.’s was a very slight variation on a work by the Jackson Five which he called ‘123.’ B. had bad handwriting and the notes on his score were clearly not drawn by him. Still, he won. I cried.
No, I certainly did not think we were friends. But then one day in the fourth grade he invited me to his house.
The rumors about B.’s house were largely true. They had two pizza ovens in their kitchen. They had a maid. They had a drawer in their kitchen that held nothing but fruit roll-ups. I ate many fruit roll-ups because my parents never let me have them. After ten or twelve fruit roll-ups, we went to the basement, where he revealed his true reason for bringing me to his house. The basement was filled with toys and junk. B. looked out upon it all and said, “Okay, I need you to build me a robot that can go to the Titanic. Hurry.” This seemed perfectly acceptable to me. Also, I wanted to impress B. So for the next two hours we attached various things to a Power Wheel car, which was the base of our underwater robot. We attached a robotic arm, some wings for flying underwater, an oxygen tank (?), a camera, a control module. Satisfied, B. said we should go outside and play a game.
We went to the shed and B. pulled out a big net, the kind you use to clean a pool. Then he led me to the rabbit cage. In the cage there were two rabbits. “Okay,” B. said, “I’m going to let the rabbits loose. Then I’m going to let the dogs loose in the backyard. When they get too close to the rabbits, you put the net over them.” I said, “Okay.” I did not want to disappoint B. And so B. let the rabbits loose in the yard. At first they just sort of sat in the grass, stunned by their freedom. Then he let his two large greyhounds out of the house. The dogs wasted no time going after the rabbits. The rabbits ran in vain. I threw the net over them. But I was not strong enough to keep the net over both rabbits. The frantic dogs quickly got under the net and, each taking a rabbit, ran off with them, shaking the rabbits in their mouths. The rabbits made squeaking noises.
B. panicked. He ran after the dogs screaming and waving his arms. He cornered the dogs and yelled at them and hit their mouths until they dropped the rabbits. He picked up the rabbits and ran with them inside and yelled for the maid. The maid came downstairs and he showed the limp rabbits to her. She filled the sink up with water and put them in the water, saying that if they floated, that meant that they were dead. “I’m pissed off!” B. said. “You killed my rabbits!” I wanted to cry. My mother came and picked me up.
“How was B.’s house?” my Mom asked. “I pissed him off,” I said. “What did you say!” my Mom said. “I pissed him off,” I said.” “You are not allowed to say that!” my Mom said. “Say what?” I asked. “The P-word!” she said. “What does it mean?” I asked. “Ask your father,” she said. When we got home, she put liquid Dove soap in my mouth and I held it there for five minutes.
I never went back to B.’s house.
June 8, 2012 § Leave a comment
We focus so much on our differences. God or Allah or no god or who knows. This book or that book. This hat or that hat. This history or that history. But we forget about something fundamental that we all agree on: everything will end. We disagree on how it will come about, when it will come about, and what might happen afterwards – but I don’t know anyone who thinks that humanity as it currently exists on earth will continue in perpetuity. The world will end, and that’s something we can all get behind. In fact, isn’t it something we all secretly hope for? Hasn’t everyone who has ever died died a little disappointed because they didn’t see how it all ended? Don’t the Christians want to live to see Jesus return? Don’t the atheists secretly want to see the earth boil and the seas rise and the cities flood? I know I do.
To die in the throes of the end of the world would be to have lived a perfect life. If you were to live to see the end, it would be as if it were inevitable. It would confirm your long sense of solipsism, the sense that you are the only one that is real, that everything is just a story that has played out before you for your benefit, that no one has ever really lived or died except for you, and here is the climax of it all and now you can rest peacefully knowing that this strange dream has a definitive end. The most terrifying thing about death is not that we cease to be but that not everything ceases to be. If you could know that nothing would survive your own death, there would be nothing to fear, no unanswered questions, no sense of loss. Nothingness doesn’t give me anxiety, but somethingness without me does. Aren’t these the same? They are and they are not. Is that a paradox? It is and it is not.
One summer night some years ago I found myself in Indiana around a fire drinking whiskey with people that I love so much. Soon we were all naked and covered in paint and pressing our bodies against canvases. There was so much joy in that art. And I think back on that night and realize that it was the zenith of my hopefulness. It has been uphill since then, and it will be uphill from here with an ever increasing grade. And the summit we are climbing toward is not the sort with a majestic view, I am afraid. Yes, I am afraid.