“You hear about the fire?”
“There was a fire—a fairly big one, I think, in the city somewhere last night, up north.”
“Had no idea.” I was busy. All my energy was elsewhere, after finally pulling myself out of an elsewhere that was actually, really, and truly just someone else’s nowhere, just a plain old nowhere that I did my very best to dress up and infuse with somewhere, a someone I tried to make into something. For some time I tried this, a few months, all told.
I realized I’d stopped listening, as the song goes, from the minute she spoke, and was tired from the minute we started, my elsewheres on hold and my fire all but extinguished as I threw my energy into a person who could not have cared less about here, not to mention dreams of elsewhere, and not to mention me. So I wrote a letter to someone who did care, always had, but had become, or come to represent, almost iconically, I realized in the writing, a somewhere I could no longer stay. That’s what I was busy with as that fire burned up north.
I wrote a letter because I couldn’t talk to her the way I wanted to, because I needed to tell her the truth, tell her that I’m burning too, we all are, and there’s an elsewhere I’m bound by my unfinished nature to find before my fire goes out for good. I needed to thank her for fueling mine before I take my leave, because I really should be going. “What attracts me is elsewhere,” Emil said, “and I don’t know where that elsewhere is.” I might get that tattooed on the back of my right shoulder, as good a place as any, a place that’ll last through the years, even till I’m out of elsewheres to find and all I can do is remember the elsewheres I’ve been.
That’s what I did last night. I thought about her, thought about the people I’ve tried and tried to be, thought about this place, this city of mine, oblivious to the fact that a part of it was burning, writing that letter, writing my stories, reading Emil, writing, thinking, wondering, listening all night to Isakov and Margot, while that fire burned and burned in me and I didn’t know a thing.
Then woke up this morning feeling myself letting it all go, and feeling ok with feeling the fact that if I don’t go away soon I might find myself still here in this, telling the same story over and over, the same setting, the same memories, proliferated, added to, refined, yes, but still the same, never finding another way to tell it, never finding that enabling, enlightening distance from the trees that would let me see the forest and turn it into a beautiful wilderness, strange and wonderful.
And as long as I remain, elsewhere remains just a dream, playing on endless loop, circling me like my own little satellite, almost teasing me with its gentle celestial hum of possibility. Occasionally I’d stand up and reach for it, as I have before, maybe up on a box or a chair or perhaps a building, tall as they are, trying to get closer, looking back down on it all like Scipio and hoping I don’t lose my balance and plummet, from box, from chair, from building, from the empyrean. But maybe instead of reaching for it as it circles around, maybe instead of that more or less safe and wishful exercise of grasping at the sublime satellite, fueled by my usual three tablespoons of uncertainty and at least a cup and a half of fear, instead of that maybe I just jump. Say fuck it and jump.
Lispector says things, beautiful things. One such thing was this: Long, sharp lines “were fine and slender. At any given moment they stopped every bit as much lines, every bit as much in the same state as at the beginning. Interrupted, always interrupted not because they terminated, but because no one could take them to an end. Circles were more perfect, less tragic and didn’t move her enough. Circles were the work of man, finished before death and not even God could finish them better. While straight, fine, freestanding lines—were like thoughts.” They bore the mark of existence, she said. I want to bear that mark. I need to, because the thought of a perfect, un-tragic, unmoving circle sounds to me more like a perimeter than living. It sounds like fabrication and confinement. I want to live like a thought, straight, fine, and freestanding, without termination, not even in death.
So maybe I just jump. There’s good reason to be at least a little leery of restlessness—it has misled me before, but more as a sort of clueless flailing, driven as much by fear as by ambition, if not more. I’m different now, still me but different. I’ve grown, and I’m growing less afraid. This morning’s feeling was different, too, if not in kind then in color. Its color was bold, still is. And it said (yes, colors can speak—why shouldn’t they?) maybe this place is only this, only this same story, relived and relived, so far the story of my lifetime, has become so, but this morning it began to feel like a loop, encircling me, and before thoughts could fully form out of my sleep-suspended consciousness, I felt a new desire to see it all from the outside, to keep moving along my line.
As I awoke this feeling turned more literal: I came here to try and to learn and I did both and now it’s time to move on to somewhere and something else. Not just another part of town, not just another city or even another state. I mean more than a few or few hundred miles, I mean another country, another kind of locale, I mean elsewhere—I think it’s time. I’ve been at this notion for some time now, or it’s been at me, and step by step, mistake by mistake, revelation by revelation, try by try, reach by reach, I’ve readied myself to jump. The moon is full, or nearly, and what attracts me is elsewhere. I’m finding myself less afraid, less uncertain—or, perhaps, more at ease with the fear and uncertainty that I don’t know where that elsewhere is.
Elsewhere. Where. How about Ireland, somewhere small by the sea, it must be by the sea. I’ll buy a little boat and brave the choppy seas and craggy crags and search for faeries and such, fall into good Irish folklore and custom. I’ll drink and fight and love and write and grow and think and soak it all in, living straight, fine, and freestanding. And I’ll change again, just like I did here, and I’ll look back on here and love every bit, every last beautiful, painful little bit of the fact that it was on my line, a loop in my line that almost became a knot, watching it burn away.
 Margot & the Nuclear So And So’s, “Talking In Code,” The Dust of Retreat.
 Emil Cioran, The Trouble With Being Born. Sorry, I don’t remember the page. Just read it all, trust me.
 Clarice Lispector, Near to the Wild Heart, trans. Alison Entrekin, p38ish.
3 thoughts on “burning”
M, I’ve just reread this post because it’s one of your excellent ones. Since you said before I’m free to ask questions, it would be nice if you could explain in clarity with complete honesty the following line and shed light on the story behind it: “I wrote a letter to someone who had become, or come to represent, almost iconically, I realized in the writing, a somewhere I could no longer stay.” Because it’s easy for readers, like me, to misunderstand that and the ‘someone’ you’re referring to might be misrepresented by the cryptic passage.
How about we make a little compromise and I tell you that the letter I refer to is the love letter posted here the day before this post. And that that letter was written for the girl at the center of “letting, going.” Cryptic is both my nature and my preference; I’m not entirely sure why but I find myself wanting to preserve the cryptic-ness of that sentence. Maybe because I’m actually quite proud of it–it’s a feeling, really, a feeling that person and place are inextricably linked, this person for whom the letter was written and this place where I live.
I can’t really write poetry so I sometimes write prose as if I could. Or that’s just what happens.
I apologize if that’s even more confusing. I’m not trying to be difficult, I was just born that way.
Now I’m replying to my own replies. Can’t be a good sign.