I was very worried as of 4:00 AM, when I woke up with a very high fever and the inability to lie down without feeling intense waves of nausea. I spent the early morning hours watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia from 4AM until 7:30AM, feeling quite miserable but nonetheless distracted. I had been trying to fall asleep so long I had lost the sense of exhaustion I knew I had dwelling inside me. The amount of pain inherent in every muscle in my body kept me from getting comfortable. Sleep is funny as the more you try to sleep the less you can sleep. Sleeping is, at its heart, letting go.
I am planned to go down to D.C. the following day and to then spend a week in Virginia with my best friend who moved down there.
As the day wore on I felt more and more miserable in many evil ways. A lovely woman and I had split up less than a week ago and to take the grief in stages had been my plan. Now, with no distractions I had nothing else to think about. I would close my eyes and instantly miss her, going through a phantasmagoria of memories and yearnings. I remembered the last time we were sick, when we had missed out on a weekend of music and camping. First she had been sick earlier that week and I took care of her but then due to close contact I had gotten sick on the day we were to leave. To have someone you love take care of you seems a primal instinct, and on that day (Jan 17th) I wanted nothing more for her to return and nurse me back to health. The pain was existential.
I had cancelled many plans for the day and the idea of being alone in that house where the ghost of her still lived killed me. I knew I had to sleep to help my sickness but everytime I closed my eyes I just felt terrible. I finally made plans to go to a friends house once she got out of work at 2pm.
Upon arrival Renee was in the shower but had gotten a teapot going and I made some throat relief tea. She came down and offered to make more tea, asked if I wanted pita bread with some jam. I had eaten nothing but bananas and oranges all morning and was hesitant but knew I should eat something of substance. The pita bread felt okay, and Renee posed the question, “Do you want to talk about the breakup?” This prompted a sudden wave of nausea, and I had to run to the bathroom but as soon as entering the bathroom I felt better, so it must’ve been nerves.
I return to the living room.
“I’m sorry, as soon as you mentioned the breakup I got really nauseated.”
“Oh my god I’m so sorry!!” Renee said.
I said with a quivering, sickly voice, “No, it’s okay. She came over late on Friday and she brought up how she didn’t think things were getting better. Last semester was really rough on her and between her college work and my work we didn’t get to see each other too much. I think the ideal would be if I was still in class and on campus so she could see me throughout the day for shorter periods of time as opposed to it being relegated to either me having whole days off or getting out at 8PM. I had been conscious of the ways I was holding her back from her college experience while in the relationship, so I really want her to be able to experience those things instead of coming back to me every night. I think I love her so much I want her to have this time for herself so she can be happier, which is hard but I’m hoping it’s for the best.”
Renee posited, “I think it’s really important to remain friends after a relationship ends, if it ends on amicable or good terms.”
I replied after a moment, “Yeah, I think I’ll always love her. And people don’t just disappear. Maybe in a few years after she has graduated if we’re both single I’ll give her a call.”
Renee said, “Just having some time to focus on yourselves, and maybe you guys will spend some time apart then fold back into each other at some point. But I’m glad it wasn’t all one sided.”
“Yeah, only time will tell.”
I go up to the bathroom and when I come back down Renee is watching Portlandia on her laptop. She is playing my favorite episode and we share some laughs.
Later on some friends come over to make some art and one is Austin who plays guitar and sings. I use magic markers to make a tribal design with the words “Please don’t gooooooooo” following the bends of the design. I draw a picture of my room and place the ghost of her there, and start to tear up. I decide I should torture myself no longer and instead Austin and I trade off playing guitar. My voice is shit because of my sickness and I can only play riffs and I am disappointed.
Once the friends leave, and night is attacking the earth, I start to feel miserable. I think of how just a week before at this time I would be spending time with her. I start to cry a lot and eventually sit on the couch. Renee comes over and runs her hands through my hair and beard.
“It’s hard. But you’re doing great.” she says.
I croak, “I just wish something could have worked out.”
“I know, but you’re strong and tough and even tougher because you love so deeply.”
Renee continues, “Here, let me read you a book.”
She gets up from the couch and goes to her bookshelf.
“What’s your favorite Shel Silverstein book?”
“Oh, easy,” I say, “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”
“Ooh, good choice.”
Renee reads happy poems to me and I read some to her and I feel better. We watch some netflix and I head home. Given the way I am feeling, I tell my friend I am cancelling the trip, and that instead I will come down as soon as possible to visit. The girl from the relationship that ended a few days before said she could still give me a ride to the bus station, and I text her saying I’m cancelling:
To her: Im gonna call it now: im not gonna go down tomorrow, im just
too worried. Thank you so much for being willing to drive me
Also to her: I really hope youre doing alright
To me: Ok, good. I was happy to. Thank you. I think we’ll both be
I wake up at 7:20am and feel no symptoms. I take my temperature: 98.8. I know that if I don’t go now I will have wasted an opportunity. I call my friend and tell him I’m coming down, text her and ask if she can still pick me up. She asks for a few of her things and I put them all in a bag.
I go downstairs and look through the curtain of the front door and see her walking up the steps.
“Hey!” I say, slightly drawing out the words.
“Hey!” She replies.
She is holding a few items.
“I brought some things of yours and I don’t know if you’ll need them for your trip. I have your gloves, the recipe book to the juicer my dad gave you, and then.” She reveals a “Zero” candy bar, my favorite candy bar. She had tried to get one in Canada when she visited but it was a different kind of “Zero” candybar.
“I found this on the way to Katahdin and thought you would like it.”
We had split up the day before she left for Katahdin.
I say, “Oh, thank you so much, let me run these up to my room and I’ll be back down.”
I come down from my bedroom and look at her. She is so beautiful. I still love her so much. When I look into her eyes I am taken to every moment we shared together and I feel grateful that we were able to share so much. We head to her car and I get in. She backs out of my driveway.
“So, tell me about your Katahdin trip!” I say.
“Oh my god,” she starts with a jubilant tone in her voice, “it was just insane. It was so hard at one point I literally lost it.”
I ask, “Like you couldn’t go on? Or like mentally emotionally losing it?”
“I’d say both.” and she laughs.
She continues, “So it was a 5 miles ski-in to the base of the mountain. And I couldn’t stop thinking of when we went cross-country skiing, because we had such nice tracks to set our skis into but on this trip there was nothing. We were literally on an icy snowmobile trail, and not only that but it kept having these banks and turns and you would just be sliding all over the damn trail.”
“Wow.” I say.
“And to add, you have a heavy backpack on, so it got especially hard on the way back. I kept beating myself up for not working out and preparing more, and I was so tired and actually beaten up so all I could focus on was ‘don’t fall, don’t fall’.”
“Yeah, fatigue is the real killer and cause of injuries. When I played football there were so many times each game where how you react to something determines whether you get injured or not. When you don’t have the ability to react because you’re fatigued you just get destroyed.”
She asks, “Was that more in practice or games? I thought in games you’re always getting subbed out.”
I reply, “Well sure, but I was on three of the four teams. I was safety on defense, 2nd string runningback on offense, and punt/kickoff return receiver, so I was always on the field.”
“Ah, I remember in soccer people were always vying for field time.”
“Well,” I say, “we had a pretty small team. But wait what about the actual hike up Katahdin?”
“Oh, right,” she laughs, “Katahdin was rough. We woke up at 4AM and got ready to go but then the guys slept in through their alarm and woke up at 4:30 so we got on the trail around 5. And it was just so dark and cold, you couldn’t really see what was going on past your headlamp. So that sucked, but as the sun came up it definitely became worth it. It was so clear and watching the sunrise and the world around you light up was just amazing. We got to the point where you choose a trail to reach the summit and we went up Shoal trail, which has a Summer and Winter trail. The winter trail literally is just straight up, maybe not straight up, but just walking up a straight slope for what seems like forever.”
She has the same excitement as before, and while she talks while driving I can’t help but watch her facial expressions. I want her happy and to see her happy in this instant makes me feel some sort of peace.
On the highway she continues her story, “Do you know what crimpers are?”
“Yeah, they clip onto your shoes so you can get better traction ice, right?”
“Yeah! I didn’t know that. So we get up pretty far and then we see the way to the summit is a very steep and smooth sheet of pure ice. So we contemplate whether we want to try to reach the summit, and of course we’re all MaineBound [where she works, putting on the trip] people so of course we need to at least try. So we use the crimpers and ice axes to climb it, and if you start to slide down you have to catch yourself with the ice axe but you can’t just hold onto the handle, you have to also hold onto the top of the axe, otherwise it will just slip out of your hands. We’re climbing up, and we’re climbing up sidestepping so that your shoes have maximum hold on the ice. Now, we’re pretty high up this sheer ice slope, and then Sherry slips and just starts to fall. She finally catches herself but she had fallen 100 feet!”
“Oh my god!” I say, “and just think of how much speed you gain from gravity falling 100 feet, it gets even harder to catch yourself the more you
“Yeah, I couldn’t even tell she had fallen that much, and then she had to climb back up.” She says.
And then, continuing, “And at one point Matt is climbing maybe twenty feet above me, and all of a sudden I just see him fall past me. I watched him fall and he was hitting all these rocks sticking out of the ice and he was trying to stop his fall but then he slid onto a rock the ramped from the ice sheet and he just fell out of view, and honestly I thought he was gone. But then I hear from down further, ‘He’s got a thumb up!’. Turns out he had tried catching himself once he started to fall but was only holding onto the handle of the ice pick so he lost it and was falling with nothing to catch him. He said he kept jamming his hands into ice and rocks until slid to a spot that had a better hold. But could you imagine? That could’ve been it for him. So we then agree we’re just going to head down, and we were all pretty bummed at we didn’t reach the summit, but at least we tried.”
“I’m surprised you even tried the ice sheet part!” I say
“Yeah, when I told my dad the story he said the same thing. But you have to try, it’s the Mainebound way.”
“Wow, I’m just really glad you’re ok.”
“Yeah, everything hurts now but I’ll be ok.”
We turn into the bus station.
“When do you get back?” She asks.
“Next tuesday, 6:30pm.”
“Do you want a ride back?”
“Sure, if it’s not too inconvenient.”
She replies, “Ok, I just don’t know how much time you want to spend together.”
“I think it will be ok. Can I have a hug?”
“Yes.” and we hug,
A man speaks to me about the positives of nuclear energy in the bus terminal and I agree with him.
I get on the bus and it begins to lightly snow outside. I love the feeling of being motion, and riding buses lets me write while in constant motion.
Goddamn it I hate the idea of being on a plane. Today is the first time I will be on a plane and at first I feel fairly calm, walking off the bus, full of purpose. It was my own undoing to take the plane that leaves 4 hours after the bus arrived to the airport. I walk around, get to know the terminal. It’s like its own mall. I stake out a bar I want to check out an hour before my flight and find a place to sit down facing large windows looking out to the runway. I read Quiet, try to connect to the wifi, eat an orange. I slowly, over the course of three hours, get more anxious about the flight. The flight keeps getting delayed by a few minutes and I sit anxiously waiting, trying to rally my calm demeanor to my thoughts. Finally, we board the plane, and as soon as I step onboard I feel brand new, better. The plane is small, I am seated beside an older woman. All of a sudden I am excited and as we take off I smile looking out the window as the ground falls below us. The flight is short and I can watch the map live as we fly at 600 mph 5 miles up in the air. Within an hour and fifteen minutes we are landed and I am walking out into the airport in Richmond, great success.
Steve and Sarah pick me up in a white Toyota Tacoma.
“This is my new baby!” Sarah says, referring to the vehicle and not an actual child.
“Wow!” I say, with little else to add. Sarah shifts her baby and drives her baby off towards Williamsburg, Virginia.
“How have you been man?” Steve asks.
I reply, “I’ve been well! I was super nervous about the flight beforehand but as soon as I got on I was excited and taking off was amazing, like a rollercoaster.”
“That’s great,” he says back.
“Yeah, I’m just so happy I’m feeling better. I was so goddamn frustrated yesterday. The sickness came out of nowhere and I guess this morning it left back to nowhere.”
“I have to be honest,” Steve says. “I was really sad to see you cancel last night.”
“Yeah. I was sad too. But how have you guys been? How’s the news reporting?”
Sarah replies first, “we’ve been well. Our cat, Sam, has been sick but he’s feeling better now.”
Sarah’s voice is borderline monotone, reserved and tinged with a playful rasp but sounds overwhelmingly tired.
“The writing is good,” Steve answers, “I spend most of my days making infographics, actually.”
“Yeah! I’ve seen some of those. It looks like you spend your days doing a lot of research!”
Steve shows me his latest piece, an infographic of the amount of eagles that die from lead poisoning in the state.
“They have a genetic predisposition to just die once they come in contact with any amount of lead.”
He shows me a pie graph split mainly into three parts, one half and two quarters.
“Guess which percent is the percent of eagles that survive after being captured and cared for.”
I hopefully point to the half, “50 percent?”
“20 percent.” he replies.
“Wow.” I say.
We show up to their house. It’s quaint and lived in. Sarah inflates a large air mattress and my exhaustion consumes me.
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, D.C. ‘17
Love does not come or go easily. That warm reverie of peace and comfort that love brings may be the original feeling of the modern human condition. To fall into the familiar is a lot like the feeling of coming home, that is love.
I have left the familiar and plan to grow in a different way once more, to find a new familiar within myself so that I may bring home with me wherever I go.
The rise of Trump before the election shocked many and its trajectory seemed to surpass all expectation yet we all felt a sense of finitude to it. We entered a new age of politics, one built on nothing by nothing for nothing. Reality became a movie where the script writers knew nothing of the facts or the reality. The post-reality world was conceived not in seven days but in the hundreds leading up to the election, and was unveiled on November 9th at roughly 3 A.M. when Trump won.
“My only thought was, ‘well, that happened’” my friend Paul said, as we drove back from northern Maine on November 9th.
“But I’ve seen some pretty bad things,” he continued, “I was here for Reagan, remember. This is bad, but I refuse to live in fear.”
Today, my best friend of many years is waking up beside me at 6AM in Arlington, Virginia.
“Yeah, he’s my assistant. He’ll be staying with me too, if that’s alright.” Steve said to the owner of the AirBnB.
“Oh sure, no problem.” She said, “extra towels in the closet beside the bathroom.”
That was twelve hours ago and this morning we are gone from the premises by 7 AM, the unparalleled power of Carnation instant breakfast churning out anti-fascist energy in our stomachs.
Steve turns to my in the parking lot, “Walking?”
I reply, “Let’s try the metro.”
“Oh thank god,” he says, relieved, “I don’t know if I could have done the walk.”
We walk the short distance to the Rosslyn station where it is mostly empty. This station has the largest escalator I have ever seen, and I love travelling up or down such a great height on them. When walking down them, you enter a trancelike state for a moment
Step, step, step, step, step…
and for a brief moment your purpose is reduced to the singularity of simply, “Do not fall down these stairs.”
Once you reach the bottom (or the top) you return to earth, sadly,
We walk into the train with few words exchanged between the two of us. I admire our friendship for that reason: rarely do I talk with the sole purpose of filling the silence. If we have something to say, it better be worth it. We both find solace in thinking of our own affairs and organizing plans and emotions.
Ahead of us on the train are two people with “Make America Great Again” hats on. To our left is a father with his two adult sons. The sons are both clean cut and dressed up entirely in suits.
“What a different world,” I think to myself, “I bought my first suit ever for this trip, and I would rather never wear it again.”
The two other close groups to us start to engage in business discussion, travel discussion, talks of the protests to come.
“I just hate all these protests. I heard the ‘Bikers for Trump’ came to D.C. just to keep the anti-Trump protesters in line.” the woman in front of us says.
The father of the two sons replies, “It just doesn’t do anyone any good. They’re not going to change anything.”
In fact, protesting has done a lot of good. Our whole goddamn country was founded with it.
The man in front of us says, “Exactly. Trump is our president now, thank God. People need to accept that and give him a chance.”
Clinton won by more than 3 million votes, but because Wyoming residents get three times the voting power as someone in California, Trump wins. At least all the damn sand dunes in Arizona support him.
The train approaches Farragut West station. I ask Steve, “is this the one?”
He replies, “No, a few more after this.”
The couple in front of us hears Steve say this and the man turns slightly, saying, “You know the next two stations are closed, right?”
The train stops and the doors open. Steve points to the door, “Oh, then we must get off now.”
We rush off and walk outside. Like Plato walking out of his cave, there is an initial blindness before the world reveals itself to us. There are fences lining the streets. There is a helicopter overhead, adding a surreal element of being watched, or of being in a warzone.
A conversation from the night before pops into my mind.
The AirBnB host says, over dinner, “Are you worried about your safety tomorrow?”
I reply, “I have not looked into it and I will probably not look into it.”
She says back, while chewing, “I work in national security in D.C., and I heard they’ve never gotten this many threats before.”
“Uh,” I posit.
Steve cuts in, “Did we show the ‘Trump-mobile’ we saw on the interstate?”
He was not worried, and he may have not even been listening.
The helicopter makes another trip looming overhead, reflecting off of tall buildings made of glass.
“Man, I don’t know where to go.” Steve says.
He shows me the map on his phone, and on nearly every street at some point is a red circle, denoting that the street is cut off at that point.
“Looks like we’re in a maze. Just let me know what I can do to help.”
We wander the streets and being in the city makes me think of her again.
I remember in Quebec, when we were in the tent in the middle of the woods in the middle of the night, where no one knew us. We both woke up into that surrounding darkness. You told me you were afraid of the animals and noises. I was deeply in love with you. “Let the animals take us,” I thought, “there would be no better way to go.” I talked to you and we slowly drifted off towards sleep while the animals left us alone.
“Goddamn it.” Steve says. We just walked down an entire street and now we are suddenly faced with an encompassing fence. Dead end. Back up the street and around. Dump trucks filled with sand are blocking off all intersections close to the National Mall.
“They’re worried about another truck attack, like the one in Istanbul”. The AirBnB hostess had told us.
Walled in, walled out, we are close. There is the yelling from protests filling the air around us. Suddenly, a pro-LGBT group is marching down the street. A small marching band at the end of the march is playing beautiful dance music, and people are dancing and holding signs. The trombone player is killing it. They stop at a police checkpoint and chant,
“No racists, no KKK, fascist Trump please go away.”
Their faces are painted. Somehow they are all wonderful dancers.
Steve quickly takes some photos, “This is great.”
We walk towards the National Archive where we see an Iranian flag hoisted high into the air. Signs read, “Black Lives Matter” and the crowd amassed is listening to a single woman, who is teaching the group some chants.
“Fuck Trump! Fuck Trump!” Chants one man on the edge of the group.
“Well, he got elected, he is your president, you’re wasting you’re time.” Says a man to the “Fuck Trump” guy. The “Fuck Trump” guy continues chanting.
There is a wall of people guarding the group, and they let us through. Their arms have yellow sashes on them, solidarity. Steve and I stand in the crowd, looking for a good person to interview. Just outside the crowd is a younger woman who Steve starts questioning.
A man offers me a paper, “It’s called The Internationalist,” he says with a smile.
I ask him if he’s a contributor. He is, and I promise him to look up the paper when I get home. I take out my notepad from my breast pocket and write down the paper’s title.
“Oh, are you press?” He asks.
“Yeah, I’m helping my friend here. What group is this?”
“This is the World Workers Party.”
“Sweet man, keep up the good work.”
I pat his shoulder and walk off with Steve.
There are men at the edge of the group smoking cigarettes, wearing leather jackets with the communist flag patched on the left arm.
“Compared to Ottawa, Americans just don’t know how to protest.” Steve says as we walk across the grass, “I saw the environmental protest outside of the parliament, and it was so much more intense.”
“I wonder if people just like being comfortable here?”
“I think that’s part of it,” he says, “people are also afraid. They’re afraid in their beliefs, unsure, they feel invalidated. In Canada they can take everything from you, the stakes are higher. People literally don’t have a choice, they have to protest or face the consequences of preferring to stay ‘comfortable’.”
“We also hate the idea of protesting here,” I put forth, ”I really want to do a story on how and why Trump supporters seem to have such disdain for protests.”
“It’s easy: they crave authoritarianism.”
“Well, I think it’s more complicated than that, but I think it may revolve around that.”
We see the train station we planned on getting off at, and it isn’t closed.
We pause for a moment. “Goddamn it.”
“Trust no one.” I say.
We finally make it to the line for our section of the inauguration. The line starts and ends at the entrance, spanning the entire street we are on.
“I really want to cut.” Steve says, anxiously eyeing the crowd walking through the entrance.
“Honor system, man.”
A man ahead of us in line is smoking a fucking cigar. The smoke wafts back to us. From firsthand experience, secondhand smoke just doesn’t measure up. I feel nauseated.
A woman just ahead of us in line wishes the line wasn’t so long, “I wish the line wasn’t so long.” she tells us.
“Yeah, I hear you. I’m with a newspaper and I wish there was a way I could just cut through.” Steve mentions.
“Oh, you’re not fake news are you?” She asks.
“No,” Steve answers, “I’m with a local news source out of Williamsburg, Virginia.”
“Oh.” She says.
And then she turns around, back in line.
The cigar smoke wafting back every few seconds, we wait in line as I imagine all the ways to kill a man.
We speak to another man in line. He made a relative fortune in the banking world. He doesn’t seem like a bad guy, truly. As we progress through the line I say, “Jesus.”
Steve asks, “What?”
I quote a bumper sticker I just saw, “‘This vehicle does not brake for anti-Trump supporters’.”
The man begins laughing, saying, “That’s great!”
Oh, so he’s one of them.
Inside the Hive
A sea of red hats on our nation’s capitol, all proclaiming, “Let’s Make America Great Again!” Well I’m all for it! Fund the arts! Fund the sciences! Fund the humanities! Healthcare for all! Go to the moon? Let’s go to fucking mars, and then keep going! We can create a mecca for societies, one that guarantees everyone a fair shot at a healthy, long, successful life. It’s just there, around the corner, but it looks like we might not make it around the bend. Hate has driven man to the fringes. Capitalism has him on a rat race to the poison house. “I worked hard for this,” he says, in his huge house with no one to fill it with. He has spent so much of his FUCKING TIME WORKING, ENDLESSLY, he believes everyone must do the same. He could’ve seen his kids grow up. He could’ve spent time with his wife with whom he fell in love with so passionately. BUT NO. HE HAS WORKED, and he needs to validate it somehow. So he starts to believe no one deserves it better or worse than he. And that man dies, and so does the world.
On the national mall Obama is shown on the big screen.
Booooooo, goes the crowd.
The Clintons are shown on the big screen.
Speaker Chuck Schumer mentions inclusive society
We go around the crowd and collect a few interviews. One older man, a veteran, tells us we need to build up our depleted military.
Trump starts to talk and the rain begins to fall (I was there, it happened, contrary to what Trump may have claimed). It sounds just like one of his campaign speeches. No one is surprised. American carnage, drugs, immigrants, I lose interest.
We speak to a younger woman wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt. She may have been crying. She told us she loved the American political process and how she should be able to support Sanders and not get belittled by Trump supporter. She is brave and young and there is hope.
The ceremony ends and the crowd deflates like a popped balloon.
Starbucks in Garrissonville, VA
I want to write about the time Sharon and I braved Vallee du-bras Nord in Quebec and my change of heart halfway up the mountain but I do not want to torture myself too much. The very recollection of memories with her is enough to pull me under. Perhaps the pain associated with recollecting would add emotional legitimacy to my writing, perhaps I could communicate my feelings better in this state. However, the bad feelings I would harbor would only apply to the first half of the mountain, for the second half of the mountain (after the first night) I conquered my fear and loved life, and I do not know if I have made it to that comparative point yet with the breakup.
I sigh, and push the story off to a time when I feel better.
Her face seen in unfamiliar places.
Her memory impressed upon the present.
I will spend the following days at Steve’s house in Virginia, drinking beer most mornings and seeing the sights. The night before my flight home I long to stay just a few more days. However, on the flight from Richmond to Boston I sit next to a pretty woman from New Orleans and we talk the entire flight. She had been there in D.C. for the women’s march, she helps direct programs to help people with intellectual disabilities. The conversation gives me hope and we part ways when the plane lands. Back in the land of the Nords (New England) the snow is coming down fast. I take the earliest bus back to Portland and then to Bangor and I get a ride from my friend Michael. I would go into details of the less significant days but I have been dragging ass to write about those days so I will release this as is.