Canceled my New Yorker subscription some months ago, as if that would help me feel less scatterbrained, once the basement bargain on the first year of issues expired and I was back to not being special anymore and just like everyone else again. All too trite and elitist, I thought, silently excusing myself from participation in some indefinable currency, realizing the feebleness of this withdrawal as that snarky manikin leered over my shoulder and snarkily suggested I’d have been more of a pseudo-sophisticate if I’d spelled realizing with an s.
There is simply too much to think about. I imagine turning to the man next to me at the nearly empty bar I’m not sitting in and saying “so what’s it like for you out there” and his obscure eyes turn to meet me with a look of total cancelation surpassing even the negation I supposed I’d find. “Bellow,” I’d say, and he’d hear it as a verb and turn away. “But this was his city, too,” I’d protest, “twice.” That has to mean something, though it’s a lifelong effort to understand that not everything does, and how. Four years on the seventh floor was a form of sanctuary but not as transcendental as I supposed.
Here, the wind blows this way and that, often in the same breath. There’s surely a meteorological explanation for this, I think, remembering the local tv news weather report showing large currents of blue and purple computer-generated atmosphere above a matte gray-brown map and how those currents seemed—always—to converge directly above this city. On the ground down where I now live I watch little plastic flags on clotheshanger-thin wire poles stuck in the muck and mud of lived experience to mark gas lines nervelessly flutter back and forth, but I tend toward the figurative and a certain desultory envy of inanimate stoicism, supposing for convenience’s sake that that’s not a contradiction in terms, nor is the struggle to perfect oneself in the symbolic discipline of an art.
Have you ever loved living so much you were afraid to let it out of your sight? Did you cling to it, even in despair, despite its flutters and turns, despite the partisan, balkanized categorizations that we adopt as identities? That’s all I want to know, I *promise* that’s all I’ll ever ask.
Originally published on Hijacked Amygdala.
At the Mexican place around the corner and the neighboring table’s food arrives and the cute stupid young couple can’t take their eyes off their phones. They haven’t spoken to each other at all, and I suddenly realize I want to do something rash, something risky and dangerous, like pull off a heist or murder that couple or maybe just steal a car, then flee the country, something to break the monotony. But read a few books and watch a few people and you’ll see it’s all been done before, a billion times over; maybe that’s what our ignorance is all about now—we lack historical perspective, we shun knowledge of things beyond ourselves so we can be perfectly free of the responsibility of knowing better and not even have to bother pretending we’re original, but to actually believe that it is so, no contrary evidence in our way. But this sense of history, this understanding that it’s all been thought and felt and done—even the risky, crazy stuff—is too much. It’s simply too much. A fascination with the past affords knowledge of the present’s very real futility.
I’m having the chimichanga with methadone. It’s the especial.
I reach the steel staircase of the train station without realizing I’d left my spot on the bridge and I head up with renewed consciousness, step by step, my hand on the cold railing, my breath puffing out before me in plumes, and I insert my ticket, push through the turnstile, and meander out onto the near-empty platform. I stand, look at my watch, watch my breath, glance up and down the tracks for lights, glance at the scattered handful of people on my side standing bundled and at acceptable distances from one another and I wonder if the cold now pulls us apart when it once brought us together. An old woman sits huddled on a bench under the heat lamp on the opposite side of the tracks, and I hear the early dusk hum of the city and no voices.
M is the editor of no magazines (print or online) and does not hold an academic post at Any University. He used to live in Columbus, OH, where he drove a navy blue Buick Electra which was assembled before the Berlin Wall was dismantled and was not his first car but his second, and greatly loved by the ladies. He is the recipient of awards and the author of many books, short stories, essays, and prose-poems, most of which are better than anything James Franco has written. His novel, All That Remains Is a Desert: A History of a Man’s Search to Understand His World and Himself, has been called “long and ranging, of uncertain page length and word count.” It may or may not be published. He does not live in Paris with his wife. He lives in Chicago and has lately been known to suggest that there are no writers there, only businesspeople, politicians, police, and everyone else. In that order.
The past is nothing to run from or fear. Wholeness, they say, and I think about it. Nothing back there to fly from in fright, nothing apart, nothing to meet with shame or trepidation or run from like a monster threat in knowing silent lurking hot pursuit down a long dark corridor around the corner of which you’ve just turned and you think you can hear him back there breathing, hear his sneaking footfalls, feels how he knows you, hoping there’s a room to duck into and a door to lock forever before he sees you. None of that. Be there, be here, be with all of it because it’s all with you. In the open, in the light, in the shadows, for that matter, and most of it doesn’t.
Somewhere back there you said hello and I told myself it was ok to dream.
In the past are things like this, too, I remind myself.
This is what Oscar says, and it’ll be in the book.
I sometimes wonder if the people in my life exist—if I bring them in—so as to afford me objects from which to hang my arguments and perceptions and narratives. To hang entertainments, really, and to stand around me as mirrors as I try, vainly, to see and understand myself.
Continue reading “sketch”
I worked in a suburban office compound building replete with floors and elevators and front deskmen and cube farms and conference rooms and soullessness and on our floor there was a bathroom and in that bathroom there were stalls and in one of those stalls was a chipped floor tile.
Continue reading “concord”