My eighth birthday in this city, a week ago, in my eighth year here. What did I do, what have I done in this here octennial? This is what happens when your birthday falls at the end of the year—you wonder, doubly, what the fuck you did, what changed, what didn’t, what you gained, lost, fixed, broke, learned, forgot, did, didn’t and bla bla bla. So much bla. And why is October the tenth month when it begins with oct? August must’ve gotten there first and been all like fuck you October, eight spot! I guess I could google it but that’s no fun. August is an asshole.
I bought a couch this year. That’s something. In fact it’s a couch. After seven plus years of that stupid ugly metal futon with the 9,000-pound mattress/cushion/thing, the stupid ugly metal futon purchased—and bargained for, mind you, I actually did a bit of haggling, saving myself roughly $47, which as I understand it was equivalent to $748.24, as the real-world-to grad-student exchange rate at the time was 1:15.92 (sounds like a bible verse)—when my mom came to visit within a week or so of my heralded arrival with two big dogs and no help or reputation to a tiny 400-square foot studio apartment in grad student housing down on the south side (is it really necessary to qualify 400-square foot with “tiny”?). After two graduations—no, three—two loves, one marriage, one affair, one divorce, four moves, two deaths (both dogs), a tremendously busted ankle from that basketball thing I do, several jobs I’d be happy to forget, innumerable movie nights, sick days laying prone, tired days doing the same, study days resulting in yet again the same, illness and/or substance poisoning leading to… guess what, and who knows how many conversations, disputes, make outs, make ups, disassemblages and reassemblages. After all that, I up and bought a new couch, like a grown-ass man, a fucking couch. So much for investment and loyalty. Give me a couple life changing events and a few bucks and it’s out with the old. Oh and by the way, I say it’s a couch but really it’s more of a sofa, and I’m still waiting for it to change my life. Maybe that’s explained in the warranty. I disassembled the futon for the last time and placed it, piece by piece, by the dumpster behind my building. Ceremonious. I haven’t gotten rid of the Chair of Lying yet, though, the one I sat in while I tried to lie to my now-ex-wife—as she sat on said futon—about the affair I was having/love #2. Hooray for memories. And things upon which to sit. And lies.
What else? The beautiful dimwit, yes, ah yes, ugh. Hung up the phone after our very first conversation (of any kind) and thought: this one is not very bright. And this one was not. Then I, unbrightly myself, proceeded to spend nearly three months with her, including a week-long beach vacation, my first, yes, first ever, just this year. Did I take my wife, when I had one, to the beach? No, but I took the beautiful dimwit. Sweet girl, she was, but jesus. Then, speaking of ceremonius, I broke up with her two days after we returned from our seaside soirée because we were never right in the first place and she was terrible on the road and time has a way of using a highlighter and interrogation lamp on all that shit and bla bla bla. I learned something, right? I think so. Well, yes. I learned you can wind up with anybody. I can. Bla. And then we’ll go half on a trip to Mexico. Because that makes sense.
Lost a friend, maybe the best I’ve ever had. Willingly I lost her. Crazy, no? But then I gained one, one who’s now the best I have. I wouldn’t call this an exchange or a replacement but simply some good goddamn luck after some bad goddamn decisions. Because as that great man in the sky in whom I do not believe knows, I fucking need it.
I changed jobs, thanks to aforementioned gained friend, although I can’t say I’d like to thank him for it. Astronomical quantities of bla. Now I make more money bla. Now I have a much shorter commute to work bla. Now my gym is in the same building as my office bla. Now I get to work out where I met a girl who… bla. Next.
I also realized I no longer know what love is—or that it’s no longer what I thought, maybe never was. I’ve come to find—through numerous experiments and endless (I’m not kidding) analysis—that I do possess large quantities of love and compassion (go figure), and this shows quite visibly once I get up close enough to someone to see their flaws and desires and troubled, graceless, beautiful humanity. It’s not so much a matter of being a people fixer hero savior type as a sappy, suckery, understanding sympathizer who wants to let them know I see, and that it’s ok, that they couldn’t possibly be as fucked up as I am so let’s be fucked up together and reduce our fucked up quotient by approximately .075% by talking, arguing, disagreeing, loving, seeing, thinking, trying together. I used to think this was an exchange, that I got something I needed from them in return for my seeing—the relief, the appreciation, the reciprocated sight. But I’m beginning to wonder, thanks, in no intentional part, to the woman I met—sorry, girl, gym girl, also aforementioned—who gave none of that back, and who barely allowed me close enough to see in the first place. How does love work there?
Speaking of love, another realization, most likely news only to me: I write and talk and think about love obsessively because my life is empty and meaningless. Just kidding. It’s only meaningless. Because I now have a couch.
And I realized this is what I get.
Hoped I’d make it past thirty-three. Or through, through thirty-three I mean. Hoped I’d make it here, in this city here, past five. And here I am at thirty-six age and city eight. What does that mean? Nothing, absolutely nothing. So there’s that, too. It’s been a year. Another one. Time to start over again. How many times is that now? Four? Five? I don’t want six, but I could easily end up with twelve. Depends how long I live and how little I change. So far I’ve barely budged—that’s the problem when you can be almost anything for a while. And off we go.
Nothing to do but live.
Nowhere to be but gone.
That’s Christian Wiman, from “This Inwardness, This Ice”, in case you’re the citation police or curious type or both. Or in case you stumble upon it like I did and find it alarmingly fitting for precisely what’s on your mind and then you think maybe the universe isn’t such a mess after all. But let me tell you: it is.