what’s new

When this year began I was busy saying the city might be my salvation because I needed something to say that about and the city made sense, even though I didn’t feel like I did, or could or would or should. Home is what I wanted it to be, wanted someplace to be, desperately did, and I remember I hoped for that a little and wished a lot because this is where I am, I thought, and I was so why not let it. A poor man’s version of home, almost purely accidental, for a not-so-poor man who thought he’d known home before and had it before and thrown it all away before, to be left now—then—with only this, that, what’s left.

And what is left? Else, everything else, that’s what, and the best you can do is wander through streets made more and more and more familiar in the wandering and that’s why you do it, isn’t it. To tie it up, bundle it together into a whole that never is because the home that holds it is as much a memory and dream as that first street was when you first got here and walked it up and down dreaming of everything that could be and nothing at all the same time. Make it whole. Put it together. Fill it in. Hold. All these notions of assemblage sounding more like fabrication all the time because they are, even though it feels something like good to imagine you’re doing, making, being something, especially something out of all that nothing else, skimming by the essence of what they’ve always said creation is and hoping—there it is again—it’ll become more than what its parts are by themselves but knowing it’s just another hodgepodge like every story has always ever been, and afraid, however, afraid you don’t have the heart to keep it from unraveling (again).

Staying is for that, I think, for making. Or for thinking anything can be made in the first place, if you can make yourself be.

In these eleven short-long months I’ve tried to make home, make this home, make a home out of and within all this. Not so much by doing much making but by staying—and trying to let go. And not so much because I’ve accepted the fact that I’m here but as if that fact has accepted me, invited me in and cooked me dinner and passed me a few drinks and a couple tabs and said why don’t you stay a while we’ll have a nice time if you stick around (have we?). And I, characteristic, typical me, not wanting to be rude or to disappoint, said well, ok, I guess a little while longer, even though my insides were already halfway out the door and halfway screaming for me to get up, get out, and finally go get something instead of waiting to see if making would just happen to me while I sat with the ever-hospitable fact of here. That has to mean something, even if it just means I read too much into everything and make strange analogies and don’t know how to leave. Peculiar maker I am, always waiting, hoping waiting pays dividends in some manner proportionate to the amount of hope I’ve invested in hoping waiting pays, plus interest.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I can’t quite say I don’t have a place here, though, a home-like thing it seems, sort of, when looked at from just the right angle in the early dawn, when the city is still and hushed and muffled and softened and shadowed in that purplish gray-black of in-between and time is almost completely out of mind, a quiet distance away yet. I can sit here quietly and love it and watch it sleep, peaceful, mostly, breathing light and low, and I try not to stir while I marvel with a twinge of disappointment at how different and how fleeting this moment is, sad for the knowledge of what’s to come once it wakes and we’re back at this song and dance again. I don’t want it to start, I don’t want to have to navigate again, deal again, manage again, get by again, remember and anticipate again. I just want to watch it spread out there next to and around me and feel what I feel when it’s not trying, saying, doing, going and neither am I. No participation, no action, no expectation, no rush, now. Both of us being and being nothing and it feels like home, it really does.

But then it wakes and here we go again and I have to wonder what really is and could ever be new because wondering is what I do when the hope lifts and I can see the messages scrawled on the wall opposite, the same ones that moments ago seemed such beautiful stylizations, incomprehensible and senseless yet emergent, coming into being, unidentifiable by anything more than the act of identification, the gaze, free and detached and perfectly unprepared. But then the hope lifts and it’s gone and the limits of actuality return and I see it: How new is this, it says. And I know it’s not, it was just the hope hushing and muffling and softening and shadowing, so I turn away and ask myself how new can you let it be—how new can you pretend it is—when you know better, when you’ve seen all this before, felt this stubborn disappointment before, seen yourself before, here, when you’ve known incontrovertible almost-truths, made declarations and assumptions and misidentifications and presumed, believed, retracted, redacted, backtracked, sidetracked, and crashed? New, then, just begins to seem and sound like the same old everything that seemed and sounded new before, because it was, mostly. But goddamn if it isn’t beautiful for a while.

Back when this year was new I knew in spite of my new yearly cloudiness that the only thing that could be new besides the four digits yyyy was me, and that I’d have to either accept that here and accept that here wouldn’t couldn’t shouldn’t give a shit about me, or defy time and go somewhere new to be New Me because the new me might be able to avoid giving a shit about the old me here. That’s what I was scratching and clawing to get at, what to do and what was I waiting for, just beginning to realize that new has as much to do with what what’s around brings me as what I bring to it. The fear, though, was that I had nothing left to offer, nothing new myself, nothing else to add to the everything else around me. Nothing other, that is, than the same hope that brought me here to all this nothing to begin with.

That’s it, that’s what was new then. I remember now. New was the thought of having nothing new to bring. Hope extinguished, debunked, played out, just cinders and smoke, as the song goes. It’s been eleven months but I can still taste it. I’m starting to think that’s life’s pace after a while—time stops being spaced out and divided and distinguished like it is when we’re small and the world’s big. Because then we get big and the world comes down from its mysterious wide open and almost frightful infinity to a comparably mysterious size of vague specificity and similarly alarming limitedness and then duration becomes tangled up with content (or lack of) instead of immeasurable spans and distances. That was a mouthful. Last week might be a great big nothing like this one and still feel like months ago because there were weeks like that then, too. Or a month ago might feel like yesterday because you’ll never fully forget, even if you try. And what’s new?

As time-content mounts and the map fills in, is there any room left for new? Any time for it? Maybe you have to wake up and make it. And here I am hoping again, still here.

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