I can’t explain the color blue without being self-referential, though I know it’s located between violet and green on the optical spectrum. Or the power of the blues except with uninspired definitions of rhymed, simple narratives played flattened or gradually bent in relation to the pitch of the major scale. Both descriptions are sterilized to the point of meaninglessness. These two are as real as any “proven” entity, yet remain beyond the grasp of non-experiential understanding.
We bask in the glory of the senses but as a path to true knowing they are clearly quite limited and limiting.
I was trying to go fast and flickered in and wondered how you could see me. Get in. Get out. Walk into the room, burn, and hear the approval. Turns out there will be no comfort. And I have been cursed, like most, with a long and lonely life. You don’t get to ask any more about the prices I’ve paid. I will tell you that now, I’m broke. Forgive my sins or don’t. Either way, it doesn’t really matter.
Perhaps I was drawn in by you drawling about your irrepressible hedonistic nature. Supposedly nothing? You clearly melted my mind at times.
I don’t belong where I was. This is the way of the world. That’s where I met you, though. So now we have to pound through this. I’m not even going to stick my toe in the pond of yesterday to consider anything about retroactive motion. I want you to come, but most likely you’ll stay. And that is where you belong. This no longer troubles me.
This is going to be a lesson about perception. If you called a little girl a ladybug everyone would think it was cute. If you called her a mealworm, you’d be a dick. But in real life, mealworms are way nicer. They name little-girl soccer teams The Little Ladybugs, but what they don’t tell you is that a ladybug is a soulless, relentless, remorseless killer. It is a carnivore that brings logarithmically more death than the Terminator. Those black spots are to let predators know that “I am poisonous so don’t fuck with me.” Too small an amount to affect people, but if you’re a slightly larger insect or smaller, that’s a biohazard sign. The cute shell is an offensive exoskeleton that shields it so like a Panzer it can wipe out legions of other animals blocking it from food. And since it is poisonous and cannibalistic, it knows to eat its young as eggs just after they come into existence, after it first exists. It’s pretty, though. And just like pretty people, it can talk a lot of shit.
While you’re living your life it seems likes chaos and things are just being thrown at you like a spaceship in the asteroid belt. You know where you are. You know what you’re trying to do. But everything just keeps coming at you in a random fashion. In hindsight, you can connect the dots of choices you made in that field. Some crashed you into rocks. Some were brilliant real-time choices that no one else could have pulled off. And there were mistakes everyone would have made, and ones only you did. If you keep repeating those, you’ll never get out. And if you’re smart and lucky you do. Either way, each choice is connected. And the asteroid belt isn’t random, it just appears to be. It exists under the same physical principles that you do. Those laws are immutable (until you get really small, but we’ll save quantum theory for another metaphor). They don’t change, you do. One way or the other you do.
I think the only thing that works with you are affectations. I know how you feel and I know how I feel. But I also know that screams to no one are probably more effective. And perhaps my screaming isn’t for anyone anyway. The night is sort of used to being deaf and dumb. I scream into my pillow and feel the spit gather and pool. I type in ALL CAPS, then time your metronomic response.
But now, when I can’t help but think about you–his smile in that picture when I know he fucks you later that night; that second betrayal–the part of my torso, the call of my heart is exploding with whatever chemicals say, “Fuck that.” I go to the next thought about why I hate you, or maybe I eat this surge in my chest this once. And I’m not quite sure what I would do if you were in actual arm’s reach. Would I even reach for you?
That ferrous taste when there’s blood in your mouth lets you know something rusted. That chewing on your cheek in angst wasn’t all in vain; there were consequences. Part of me still loves you and that part wants you to know that smell.
You ask sometimes what I am thinking. The verb “to think” does not have the required nuance I need to explain to you my real-time interpretation of what I see and hear at any given moment. I think you say it to fill the empty space of quiet; I’m sure you are not particularly interested in the answer.
I spent July 3-4 with friends, most I hadn’t seen in years. We hadn’t all been to gather since my wedding (since divorced) 20 years ago this November. I almost didn’t go. Addictions of any kind really are fueled by isolation. And if you isolate for long enough, like anything else, it becomes what feels comfortable. Even sober, that craving for dysfunction is stronger than any cravings I have ever felt for alcohol. But I booked the ticket. I’m so glad I did.
The first day I got there the kids were at the beach and the spouses (spousi?) were shopping. Three hours I had with 2/3 of my best friends in the world. We did the requisite Glory Days reliving of the late-80s to late-90s. Then the conversation turned. I forgot what it’s like to have smart friends in person. I mean really smart, erudite friends. We could talk about 18th-century colonialism and the English Beat, eminent domain and marketing theory, the seemingly intractable problems of universal preschool, homelessness and drug addiction. And whether Black Sabbath really started heavy metal. Absolutely everything was on the table. Simply life-affirming.
Next day the same group, this time with families. And what wonderful families they are. Everyone, except me of course, seems to have picked the perfect partner, and all the kids (young adults really, from 15-20 years old) were polite, well-adjusted and grounded. It brought into focus that before the madness I had chosen, this was me. Remarkably, this was still us.
We were joined the next day by still another close, decades-long friend and her wonderful husband. Again the discussion turned to art and passion, and creating just for the existential satisfaction of turning nothing into something, no matter what that something was. All these friends were close enough that it wouldn’t make sense to hide my recent struggles. It wouldn’t feel right to try. So I didn’t.
To a person, all I felt was love and compassion. And every conversation was a continual reminder: this is us, and perhaps more importantly, this is me.
A circle is not the smooth line that you apparently see when you look at one. It is actually an infinitely-sided polygon. This is one of the reasons that the study of trigonometry seems to be solely about triangles, but in reality is a study of their relation to circles. This is the reason why pi never ends. This is a metaphor.
The number one song in the country at the moment of my birth, just finishing up a six-week run at the position, was Bridge Over Troubled Water. Sort of. That week, officially on the Saturday after I was born, the number one song became Let It Be. I find that two-song playlist oddly appropriate to my next 49 years.
I started listening to Simon and Garfunkel on Spotify and it reminded me of my life in the ’80s and ’90s. I can’t count how many times I crisscrossed the country. ‘Kathy, I’m lost,’ I said, though I knew she was sleeping. I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.’ But I did know why. And I do know why.
It’s a cliché to repeat how songs invoke memories. I can’t listen to Band of Horses without seeing her flit back and forth across the bathroom, momentarily visible in panties and my t-shirt, then disappearing from view. I can’t hear the Hold Steady without remembering looking at the back of my hand staring drunkenly at the veins and how empty my hand seemed while struggling through my divorce. And I can’t hear Simon and Garfunkel without also hearing the clacking of train tracks or the groaning of diesel-engined Greyhounds riding across the plains in the middle of the night, stopping in cities so small there was only a snack machine in the depot to get a bite, and crossroads with a flashing yellow light in lieu of one that changed from red to yellow to green.
I was on Trip Advisor the other day and I got bored of clicking when I had hit 500 cities, towns, and hamlets in America, Canada, and Mexico. Johnny Cash sang “I’ve been everywhere” and between two precise latitudes, it seems I have. “We’ve all gone to look for America.” And so we have. What did we find? What did I find? You?
I remember how the bogeyman works. It was never really a man. Haunting, depending on your circumstance. Circumstance makes it seem like where you’re standing is a coincidence when actually there are none. You stand in that particular spot because you walked there. Unless you’re a baby cast aside from whoever was holding you, you are where you chose to be. And if even you are baby, you’re still somehow to blame.
No one walks innocently, even the innocent. Fake laughter and smiles and people that might help you or hurt you are all fake. Their looks castigate anything different. And yours look back the same.
The existential questions. Who am I? Who are you, motherfucker? They are essentially the same. Put differently, the answer is always the same. On the stage of forever you are nothing. No one. In one hundred years, no matter how strong or weak, you are dust. Pleasure, or pain, mean nothing. Everything is transient. That might sound nihilistic, and perhaps it is. It might sound Buddhist. And perhaps they are the same.
You can still look at the moon. You can still feel the sun on your face. That’s all you have. At least that’s all you can be sure you have. I watched a movie the other day, and the woman in it dies. She walked happily onto a train and her nose started to bleed and hours later she was dead. But the part that tore my soul. She looked at her friend just before her heart stopped and she said, “I’m not ready.”
That scares me more than life scares me. I’m not ready.