A Moving Picture: Summer ’15

(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.)

 

Portrait #1

“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?

Right?

 

But, anyways, the last two months of that semester melted into a calm sea after that night driving down Forest Ave.

 

Oh well.

 

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,

you know?

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.

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Letter 5.19.2017 the ringing inside your ears

19 May 2017

Dear ______,

The beginning of the end, or perhaps a draw closer to the inevitable climax: I am seated in a bar in Orono, Maine writing a letter to no one in particular instead of talking to those around me (I know no one here but the bartender). There was a cute girl with glasses at the bar that laughed at one of my jokes but I was too scared to sit beside her. Perhaps the fear of failure has rendered my life into one big compromise. Perhaps not (but probably perhaps).

Writing makes me feel better, gives me a sense of control over the matter of communication but perhaps the magic lies somewhere in the insanity of uncontrolled communication. Hm. I hope the move to Portland pushes me against a wall and I must learn to fight back, fight against the insecurity and the fear. Speaking of the fear (and loathing) I have been reading The Proud Highway, a collection of letters from Hunter S. Thompson (’55-’67). What a fearless spirit. His honesty in his writing is at times almost overwhelming. Here is a quote that struck me violently today

I have found but one advantage to being here: I am completely alone. I work for three or four hours for five days a week, and then I return to my apartment—on top of Regan’s Taproom—and either read or write. Loneliness is for people who can’t see themselves except through the eyes of their compatriots, and all evidence points to the fact that I’ve passed that stage.

I feel that boldened section strongly, live it. I am sitting at a bar spending $8 on beer doing things I could’ve done at home drinking $2 worth of beer. Ah well. The constant hum of activity behind me keeps me writing; keeps me compelled to prove something perhaps to no one in particular. I feel only comfortable when people introduce me to people. I can never introduce myself to someone new. Are people at bars to talk to people? I think I find the idea of talking to someone like myself a bit abject and instead feel people would be happier if I didn’t approach them and strike up conversation. But I want to. Right? I have no idea. The fear of rejection takes me. I feel insecure in my persons and one validation could ruin me. Not to be melodramatic because life is a sort of game you get to play and I am young and Hunter S. Thompson said in a letter not to waste your youth depressed, because these are the golden years. Almost 23. Almost past my peak physical attraction. Peak physical attraction encasing a scared individual. Tragic, but hilarious.

I heard a man outside the bar talking on the phone to his mother and it made me smile, that innocence lying just outside a den of depravity and sorrow.

Anyways, in short. I want to be braver. I want to be happier.

Until then, I remain,

Elias

Have you tried focusing on the living?

“Have you tried focusing on the living?” Eve asked.

“I find I usually do.” He replied in an off-guard, puzzled tone.

“No, no. The living are you and me right now, in this moment. Whatever happened in the past is dead.”

She was very high. Sitting on the couch at another one of James’s parties her eyes were half-shut but staring intently at Evan, who was sitting on the floor beside the couch.

“But every moment led up to this one, so there’s no way they’re dead.”

“Yes, but, what are you when you’re stuck thinking about your past?” she paused for effect and then pushed against his chest, “You’re dead.”

The music was loud but he could hear his heartbeat. Eve kept her hand on Evan’s shoulder, her face held closer to his.

“You have to stop this, Evan. I’m saying this because I like you. She’s gone, Sam’s gone, Diane’s gone, but,” she looked around to all the people surrounding them and returned to Evan, “we’re all right here with you, now. See?”

He moved his gaze down to his shoes.

“Hey,” she said, “you have the chance to have a good night tonight. It’s your choice.”

He returned to Eve’s eyes, “No…no…you’re right. It’s just a little overwhelming is all.”

“I know. It’s not easy. I know you really cared for them but…you’re a good person, and you deserve to be happy.”

He felt he knew what it would take.

“Thanks, Eve. Really.”

He walked to the kitchen and put an open bottle of Malbec to his lips. That burning burgundy struck something inside of him, dominoes that winded from his throat to his heart to his brain, tumbling over themselves clumsily. He saw people talking to each other but couldn’t make out the words they were saying, the sounds forming a fog that left Evan lost. What were they talking about? He stood in the kitchen with the bottle in his hand, watching a game of beer pong through eyes that were filling up with seawater.

“Shit.” He whispered to himself. Walking outside into the darkness with his bottle he felt a deep weight within his chest. The weight pulled him down onto the soft grass at the edge of James’s driveway, where the music from inside was low enough so that he could think.

What if Eve was right? Why did he wake up each morning thinking about some far off better time? He hated how he was afraid of talking to new people. The prospect of failure loomed too great, and he would get stuck in its shadow trying to find other souls in the darkness.

He sipped the courage potion until he was convinced it was a dud. It just wasn’t coming. He was becoming existential, what his friend Ally called “Louis C.K. drunk”.

The thoughts and questions crashed into each other until they no longer mattered. He didn’t feel entirely better, but things seemed to calm down inside him.

He left the empty bottle on the edge of the driveway where the dirt met grass, and walked off towards the river.

On the walk there, the sidewalk stretched ahead of him, parts reflecting and shimmering the light from the streetlights and cars driving past. There were homes with some rooms lit and others completely dark. He thought of the families in those houses, wondered what they did, if they had kids maybe how their kids were doing, if the parents were happy with their lives. The alcohol was really starting to set in, as Evan found himself floating along the pavement towards the water.

The water was soft and sweet but Evan felt lonely there standing in what small light the streetlights afforded him. Deep beneath the black water in that dark expanse was a time and place where Evan felt happy and he wanted to travel there but knew it couldn’t be so easy. In his chest his feelings were a low furnace, warmth radiating from the center out towards his extremities. The cool air felt good, he thought, and he reached his hand down into the icy water. He stood back up and traced some of the water onto his cheeks and his neck.

Evan walked back downtown, past the bars, past Diane’s house, past where she used to work. Each place was stuck in one place and time for Evan. Those places, like bugs in amber, seemed to be suffocating from the inward pressure of frigid complacency. Those places were still alive, but Evan could only see them as if trapped in a photograph from months before. The photographs in his mind made him recall the past and he wished to return there. He was focused on the dead. Eve had been right.

Evan opened the back door to James’s apartment and found that most of the people had since left, save James, his roommate, and his girlfriend. It is 2 AM.

He heard the roommate yell from down the hall “That is not my problem.” as she walked from her room.

“What’s going on?” Evan asked.

“Someone is puking in the shower.”

“Ah, Jesus. Let me handle it.”

He walked into the bathroom and saw Nick sitting on the shower’s floor. His head was between his knees, and there was vomit leading from between his feet to the drain of the shower.

“Oh no. Hey man, how are you doing?” Evan asked in a caring, maternal, tone.

Nick, with his eyes closed, croaked out, “Shit, man. Not too good.”

“I see that. Here let me help.”

Nick groaned as Evan helped him sit back a little further on the shower floor. Then he helped him sit onto the side of the shower.

“Here, sit on the toilet and I’ll get this cleaned up.”

Nick gagged and threw up into the toilet a little.

“Aw man, I’m so sorry.” Evan said.

Evan turned the warm water on and pointed the shower head in various directions to clean up the mess. He put his hand in the stream of the water coming from the showerhead and rubbed some of the water on the back of Nick’s neck.

Evan remembered that Nick had biked there that night.

“Hey, I’ll give you a ride home, ok? You stay here and I’ll try to get the bike into my backseat.”

“Ok,” Nick replied, and then gagged some more.

“Do you want any water?”

“No, no sense.” Nick replied. Good point.

Evan walked to the front door, and down the stairs where Nick’s bike was resting against the handrail. It was a dark blue road bike, with the skinniest bike tires he had ever seen. The handrails looked like the curved horns of rams. Evan imagined packs of these road bikes rolling around in fields near towering mountains, ramming into each other to establish dominance and have mating rights with the mopeds.

He examined the wheels, and saw that the first one could come off with a simple lever release and a little unscrewing by hand. Evan’s back seat was messy and jumbled. He fumbled with the thin metal and wheels to get them to fit just right. He ended up rolling down one of the windows and letting some of the handlebars hang outside of the car.

After he had shut the door with the bike inside, Evan listened to the river roaring nearby. The night had gotten a little colder, and that made him feel alive. When he hated himself his freshman year in college, he used to go on long runs in the freezing cold in winter wearing only shorts and a t-shirt. It was self-harm, but it made him feel better, at least at the time.

Evan walked back to the bathroom, where Nick had his head hovering over the toilet. There was a small amount of red vomit on the toilet seat.

“Alright man. Let’s get you home and asleep.”

“Ugh…”

Evan asked James for a plastic bag for the road.

Evan walked with Nick’s arm over his shoulder to the car.

“I have to get my bike…”

“No it’s ok. I put it in the backseat.”

“Oh.”

“You just relax, ok? Just keep your head in the plastic bag, and I’ll handle the rest.”

Nick was despondent. He was still gagging but throwing up very little content. It was as if his body had staged a military coup d’état against the reign of the liquor and once regaining power was destroying a little extra just to establish their message.

“Alright man, where do you live?” Evan asked him.

“Ugh, um, 142 Park road.”

“Alright man, that’s not too far from here.”

Evan backed out of the narrow channel of James’s driveway. The streets were empty. He drove to where the GPS told him 142 Park road was, but it landed him right in the driveway of the University. No good.

“Hey, hey Nick?”

Nick was mostly asleep. No response.

“Nick?”

Evan pulled into the driveway adjacent to the University’s.

“Nick is this your house?”

Evan shook Nick’s shoulder lightly.

“Is this your house?” He said, with a tinge of frustration.

Evan got out of the car and left it running. He walked up to the vehicles in the driveway and surveyed each bumper. He found one that had a “Bagel Metro” bumper sticker, where Nick worked.

Evan took the bike out from the backseat and locked it to the staircase leading to the back door. There was a man smoking a cigarette on the steps.

“Hey man.” Evan said.

The man just nodded.

Evan went back to the car.

“Nick, you’re home man.”

He was completely passed out.

“Fuck damn it.”

Evan shook Nick’s shoulder again.

“Nick, you’re home.”

He kept groaning with each shake.

“C’mon, man. Let’s go.”

Nick finally lifted his head and mumbled, “No. No, I live on 35 Forest Ave. I’m sorry.”

No he doesn’t, thought Evan. He had picked Nick up from 35 Forest Ave once before for a concert and that was his family’s house, maybe 30 minutes from where they were currently.

“Damnit, Nick. Is this your house or not?”

“…”

“Nick, is this your house?”

“God damnit.” Evan said, while he pulled out of the driveway.

“I’m taking you to my house, alright? You can spend the night.”

“No, no. I have to work at 7 AM.”

“That’s ok, I can drive you in.”

Nick fell back asleep.

Evan had always loved late-night drives. It was when he felt most at-ease, peaceful. He knew it was dangerous waters, at night, with all the Goddamn drunk drivers out and about, but he kept to his own and drove defensively.

His apartment creeped up into view, closer and closer, until he was driving right up to its front door.

“Alright man, let’s go.” He said, in a tired voice.

Evan opened the passenger door and pulled Nick from the car. Nick caught himself on his own two legs, two legs of jelly matter, so Evan helped him up.

Nick stood up on his own, slightly offended that Evan had just pulled him from the car.

The door handle was cold to the touch. Evan flicked on the light that lit up the stairwell up to his second-floor apartment.

Evan looked back and saw Nick leaning against his car.

“Alright man, come up when you’re ready, ok?”

Nick just looked down at his feet.

Evan walked up the stairs through the door and into the kitchen. Evan set a towel down around the toilet, so that Nick could purge his system if need-be.

He saw Jane’s door slightly ajar, and walked in.

“Hey Jane.” He said, in a piercing whisper.

“Hmm?” She moaned.

“I’m going to let my friend stay the night. He drank too much. If he starts throwing up too loudly I can play some music for you to drown it out.”

“Oh…Oh ok.” She said, in a half-dream state.

Evan walked back to the stairwell and saw Nick at the bottom.

“I have to go home man.”

“I know.”

On the drive back to Nick’s home (142 Park road), Nick leaned comfortably against the passenger door window and rested.

“I’m sorry.” He said.

“It’s ok.”

Evan helped Nick up the stairs and into his room.

“I’ll get you some water, ok?”

“Ok.”

“Have a nice night, man.”

“Ok. Thank you.”

Evan sank into his bed by 4:30AM. Colors flashed and jumped about behind his closed eyelids. The world was asleep beyond his window and he yearned to join those tired masses.