(Certain nights feel like a dream.
And when you wake up the next morning,
you can’t remember if what had happened the night before
had really happened or
you just wished it had happened.)
(And much like trying to remember dreams, these moments quickly slip from your grasp.)
“How are you doing?”
She asked me. We were on campus in the rock gym, where climbing enthusiasts gather to climb and the rest of us gather to watch other people climb. It was an alright question, it was just the context that threw me off. Here is a woman that changed everything and right now is the last time I will probably ever see her. She’s going to Oklahoma next semester, I’ll stay here. The first time we hung out I drove from work to her place on a road I had never driven before: a long winding piece of shit named Forest Ave. It was 9:30pm and on that first drive out the speed limit said 45 miles per hour but I figured I would have died going anything over 35. About two miles into Forest Ave there were 15 or so cars parked along the side of the road, and countless people conducting some kind of search: plenty of reflective vests and flashlights shining light all over the marshes hugging the road. It was all surreal. She had made a cake without using sugar, she had substituted in red wine, somehow, I don’t know how. We talked at her kitchen table and then watched a movie and I spent the night, it was all really nice. Everything tends to be at least a little weird but this wasn’t at all that. New people in your life tend to be either really great or you tend to fuck up too many times for them to want to talk to you again. Maybe friendship grows slowly, it just takes a long time. She had dreadlocks and brushed her teeth with baking soda. She was really special. Oh well.
“I’m doing well, really.”
A friend once asked me if I got nervous when I talked to this girl. I told her I’m nervous every minute of my goddamn life. Imagine Woody Allen’s character in Annie Hall, only less Jewish.
It can be charming, to some, I suppose. I mean well, and I’m always trying. There’s something you can say about a man who doesn’t achieve much but at least he tried, right?
But, anyways, the last two months of that semester melted into a calm sea after that night driving down Forest Ave.
I could go into every memory I have regarding those last two months, but they’re probably not anything special to anyone but me, so I’ll move on.
I told her, “I hope you have a nice time on your hike, we’ll keep in contact, ok?”
I hugged her, and I guess that was that.
Portrait #2 (Landscape)
That night after saying goodbye, a short while before my 6pm final, I was skateboarding and fell and broke my toe. I tried an ollie on a little incline in the pavement and overshot it and fell and rolled, swinging my foot around and punting the pavement. It’s always the easy tricks you have to watch for. You get cocky and lose respect for their power. While taking my test the right half of my left foot was goddamn numb. I actually was afraid to look at the damage, so I put it off until I was done the test. It was my last final, on that Wednesday night, and so I started another Summer right then.
I started a May term class that following week: Intro to Partial Differential Equations, 4 hours, 9am to 12:30pm Monday-Thursday. I enjoyed it. We learned a lot about waves and their behavior and mathematical relations to sound and tension, including something called Huygen’s Principle. If Huygen’s Principle was not true, sound would continue traveling infinitely, words would never go away. At all times, you would hear faint and even fainter echoes of things you had heard and said years ago. If Huygen’s principle was not true, I imagine talking would be illegal, and all vocalized thoughts would be noise pollution. You could write the ideas down, but then you would just hear the etching of a pen on paper forever.
There was a friend in the class and so we would have lunch every once in awhile. Afternoons, I would go into the chemistry building, Aubert Hall, and start work on my research project.
Turns out “that” from before wasn’t just that, and I actually missed that one person from the first portrait a lot, and I still do, seeing as how it has been months between it happening and me writing it down here and I’m still almost getting teary eyed. I mean you get a good thing going and you just don’t want it to stop. It’s just too inconvenient. I’ll have to go through maybe 15 different women to get to the point where I had already been with that one. It just seems impractical. Maybe not 15, though, I’ve raised my standards a lot and won’t let just anyone in.
I’m an alright person I just get down sometimes. And I hate feeling pressured to fill the silence. That’s what I like about the people I like, just talk when you have a nice thought. I’ve said so much meaningless shit because I thought a silence would make people feel uncomfortable. I would be fine with a silence at any given moment, but I imagine what they might think and start to feel shitty. I just want people to enjoy themselves.
When I think of memories, I usually feel sad that that moment has passed. I’ll be right here in this present moment and start feeling shitty that it’s about to pass. I don’t feel this way all the time, just enough.
Well, I had started smoking a lot again once the semester had ended. It just kind of took away the loneliness. I don’t really know how to describe it other than that. I had mainly my class and my work and many of my friends had headed out for the summer. I worked weekends at the same job that you go down Forest Ave to get to from campus. Every time, I teared up thinking of how I was going to work instead of someplace else, remembering that search party from long before. I just felt so lonely. I started drinking a lot, too. Oh yeah, I saw that one person from before as a lighthouse, in a way. I had been going through a lot of shit before her and it was nice to know that I was still close to the shore in this figurative sense. She was only temporary, sending out a few pulsating beams of light, but that’s all that it took. I don’t want to talk about her too much more, truly.
This past winter was the first time I, at one point, just got really tired of living. Every day just seemed to kind of fly by and I didn’t really have a choice as to how I spent each day. Everything was scheduled: class, classwork, homework, work-work. It’s alright when you get to fill the cracks with something nice, like flowers stemming through the cracks of pavement, but when you just kind of have to go home early so you can be up early the next morning you just get really tired. You have to, get tired I mean, because it’s your body getting used to not enjoying your time. It’s a defense mechanism: you try to make yourself as unaware as possible that your time is being wasted, so you get tired, because being awake is as productive towards your dreams as sleeping.
One of my best friends had just kind of left my life, and I really thought she was going to kill herself. I really only had two people I trusted my deepest thoughts with, and one just dropped out of my life. It’s ok, she had her reasons, and we recently became friends again, it was just hard.
No one ever really tells you about this period between adolescence and adult life. No one even talks about it. I’ve seen this transition period as little more than accepting that things usually don’t go your way. You just kind of keep hoping things go your way, and then sometimes they do but usually they don’t. You can give yourself the best odds, but sometimes you just fuck it up when you need it most. But by then, you’re pretty used to it so it’s not too hard to just move on.
I really hope I don’t sound too whiny. I know things get better, I’m just wondering when.
You really start to respect people and their own lives. They’re going to do what they want to do in their spare time, and you are going to do what you want in your spare time. It’s hard to get out of a friendship you don’t want to be a part of. With dating, or marriage, there are set rules and protocols to follow. With friendship, you kind of go through a period of ambiguity, unsure of why they’re not talking to you as much; a subtle decrescendo of presence. When someone wants you to leave, the least you can do is leave. You don’t have to make such a fuss about it,
Portrait #5 (No Hope; No Future)
I got out of the lab at 5pm on a Friday afternoon and had to be work at the weekend job by 9pm. I drove downtown and ordered a burrito and then drove down by the river. There’s a spot I love where you can venture out into the river fifteen feet or so by walking on these huge rocks jetting from the shore. Once I parked my car, I popped open my trunk and opened up my travel coffee cup and then a bottle of beer and poured its contents into my mug. The thing fizzed like no other, so it took maybe two or three minutes to pour the whole thing in there. I secured the cup’s cap and walked down onto the rocks. Sitting there, watching the river while the sun set slowly. The current was passing through weeds piercing the water’s surface. I wanted to jump in and float downstream, I remember. I spend a lot of time feeling like I should be thinking of profound things, but usually nothing comes. I think it’s good to be alone sometimes. I was very alone as I sat on that rock, watching cars pass over a bridge and I wanted a cigarette. Do you ever work so much that when you finally have time to do what you want, all you want to do is nothing?
My whole family has been going through that for quite a while.
I drank the alcohol and then decided to walk around downtown, just to see some life before heading out. I walked the streets with a pink sky overhead, stopping at various green benches with concrete supports to sit for a few minutes. There were people my age, older, younger, all walking around with other people their age, older, younger. They were laughing, only outside to walk from one location to another, all disappearing into different buildings and businesses. I started to feel lonesome. Solitude is beautiful, but it can dissolve into loneliness so easily (I started to dissolve). I walked to the bridge and noticed that over the railing was a whole natural museum of beautiful spiders spinning different webs. There were literally hundreds down the stretch of the bridge, and I looked at each one of them. One in particular had a beautifully spun web, and I was able to watch it string together the characteristic circular patterns that connect together the single skeletal strings necessary for the web’s support. What it would do is jump from one strand to the next with a string of web behind it, and then spool out enough to tie a knot, and then travel back over the small bridge it had just made with more web behind it and tie another knot from where it had initially started, to double the strength of the connection.
“You are just some architect, aren’t you? You are beautiful.”
I watched another spider take prey that was spun up in web and eat it. It inserted the sad sap right into its central cavity from the bottom up.
I walked back across the bridge towards downtown and started feeling down again. It’s just hard to look forward to driving to a house where you’ll be mostly alone. I walked down one street and up another. Each street has so many memories drawn on it. I saw a purple house that was mostly empty now but used to house my best friends. Even worse than seeing places that held memories was seeing places where I wished memories existed. I have so many things I wish I had done, but was just too busy. It’s really not so bad, it just feels that way to me sometimes.
Time for work: I started walking down the street to the river and just started to tear up. I don’t know. My forehead was on fire. I just wanted someone there beside me. I have a picture of a life I want to be living in my head and it’s just taking a while to get there.
Opened car door; closed car door. I put on Arcade Fire’s Funeral and just kept crying, Jesus. I drove up a short hill, took a right onto a street, a left onto main street, and then a right onto Forest Ave. I just missed that time of my life before the semester ended: a stark confidence and hope that everything was alright. I then put on The Cranberries Linger, which was a big mistake but I just had to let it out. Traveling past where the search party was those months before, I hoped they had found whatever it was they were looking for.
“You need to get your shit together, Elias.”
I had only fifteen or so minutes before my shift started. That would be enough time to decompress.
Missed warmth; missed waking up there; sunlight passing through window shades to shower that person in sunlight. I remember staying up all night there once because I didn’t want the moment to pass.
I guess it passed.