Ten years ago this morning, I was…
11 September 2011 § Leave a comment
unaware. untold. untelling. unseen.
not much has changed in those regards.
The beauty of movement, or the art of travel, as I once heard, is deviating from one’s plans. There’s truth enough in that to fill Death Valley to the brim, as we pass by at a hundred miles an hour, A Northern Chorus weaving in and out of the wind, giving the desert tire skids and melodies to last the length of our story.
We can never make proper goodbyes. It was your last ride in a Checker cab, and you had no warning. It was the last time you were going to have Lake Tung Ting shrimp in that entirely suspect Chinese restaurant, and you had no idea. If you had known, perhaps you would have stepped behind the counter and shaken everyone’s hand, pulled out the disposable camera and issued posing instructions. But you had no idea. There are unheralded tipping points, a certain number of times that we will unlock the front door of an apartment. At some point you were closer to the last time than you were to the first time, and you didn’t even know it. You didn’t know that each time you passed the threshold you were saying goodbye.
-Colson Whitehead, “The Way We Live Now,” 11 November 2001
Colson said that New York is yours from the moment you first say “This used to be…” From the moment the city has reinvented itself in some small way, having destroyed the city, the skyline that you built from a single brick as you stepped off the subway, that city, that place is yours forever, and you are home, even if Home is a backwoods village in the overlogged hills of central Washington, a quiet, smoke-filled valley in Alaska, or the blistering, noxious streets of North Miami.
If we live with our expectations and always fulfill them, what do we have but control over our lives? At what point can we see how other people live and fulfill their expectations? If one buys the house up on the hill, in a twice-gated community high above the city, what but solitude do they have, from the community that brings them their riches? If Control was the greatest part of the American dream, we’d read memoirs of men who reached the top of the corporate world, then tossed it all away for a dose of real happiness. We create the standard that financial and career success equals happiness, which besides love and perhaps freedom, stands as one of the paramount goals of conscious human beings, and then we hear that while fortune bought Stuff, it somehow could not sum to the price of happiness, regardless of what luxury yacht marketing might suggest.
Where am I going with all of this? I don’t know. I used to think I knew how to say goodbye, and now I’m tossing myself out into the world with no known expiration date, no foreseeable return, and I’m a bit scared of it. Not of what or whom I might find wherever I end up, Costa Rica or otherwise, but of this dream, this thing I’ve been wanting to do for as long as my memory has served me. I’ve never known what it would look like, how I would set out, if I’d be ready (and for what?), and it’s wonderful how none of that matters. What I’m scared of is now. here. back then. what I’ve left behind. I’m scared of growing past it, of not needing it anymore – whether it be an attachment to a person, to who I thought I was, to Travel, to Music, to some arbitrary goal, that doesn’t matter either. It’s of who I will become.
There are inevitable things, inevitable events, inevitable feelings, but I’ve often thought that because they’re inevitable, they must manifest in a certain way. How very wrong I’ve been.
I don’t even know who to say goodbye to – and of course, to not would be undeserved loyalty to the old me, the me that bounds off with no word to anyone, that old me who I so very recently was, and reveled in being. Before I started losing things – masks, bricks, notebooks, protection from the unmerciful earth – I saw that I must continue in my way, for any other way would be inauthentic, influenced and therefore tarnished, a game of maddening pretend. I’m holding onto that me and those loves and values and giving them space enough to breath – a favor they have neglected to give me. A favor that I have neglected to give me.
If only I could have recorded this summer on a seismograph. There would be peaks and valleys to rival those of Patagonia, Alaska, and the Karakoram. I’m quaked. Quaken. Not a quaker.
catalyst: noun; any substance which creates or increases the rate of a change without itself being affected.
I am that, sometimes. I am not made wholly of bricks, as it turns out: those I have not given away along this southward journey, or laid to create a thousand-square-foot patio on Whidbey island, serve as foundations for the castles in the sky I’ve shown you. Sometimes I drop the keys in hopes that you’ll find them: you’re welcome to visit anytime. Other times I’ve lost them because I haven’t felt deserving enough to see them again.
back to reality. out of the doldrums: they are not my home, and I am not one for long, sad goodbyes. tomorrow, we leave for las vegas, which is quite possibly the last city in the world I’d visit willingly. however, my flight is there as well as my lost notebook, thanks to a truly wonderful couple from California who, not able to find a garbage bin, kept the garbage from the gas station curb in their car long enough to discover a newly-inked email address inside AND wrote to it – me – earning my foreverthanks and hope for the kindness of human beings everywhere – particularly California. And though I’m no master at the tables or the races, I’m sure there is enough fear and loathing to go around.
the next ten post-tragedy years are going to be important. stay tuned.