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The Weather Diaries - 6 - Lateral Alice

November 10, 2018

 

 

 

"There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, 'Morning, boys, how's the water?'

 

And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, 'What the hell is water?'"

 

-D.F.W., Commencement Speech, Kenyon College,  May 21, 2005

 

*

 

I had a dream that we went walking,

David Foster Wallace and I

In great detail we were talking

The Pale King smiled as he kissed the sky

 

 

One of my last rides on the ferry.

I'm sitting where they used to keep cars–pre-9/11–it's finally sunny again, and the mist coming off the ocean is briny, and wonderful. It’s pulverized into the air by the prow of the ship. The mist glitters in the light, looking like the tiny blips I’d get in my vision from time to time, whenever I got dizzy.

 

There’s a bald, tattooed man a few feet away, reading a scene from a novel, subtly palming tears away, in-between holding down pages against the grasping wind. Someone else paced along the deck, face troubled, but too far to tell why.

When the ferry docks that last time, I grip a nearby handrail, and am glad to find that the captain does it the traditional way–like someone using the curb to even-out a park–he sends her nose straight into the slip and pushes off. Millions of tiny splinters fill the air, wafting the delicious smell of hot lumber through the deck.

 

The sides of the boat grate against the slip, and the resulting sound is a tremendous screeching. The sound of boat against slip is otherworldly in its volume and timbre. Various tourists look around, aghast at the noise, like nails on chalkboard, except ten times as loud.

 

When the bridge descends, people step onto the mist-slick deck and wait until the worker pulls back the mooring line, then the security gate.
 

Time to disembark.

 

 

Someone said "Smile" and I turned around

He pulled the trigger and I hit the ground

Waking up in another town

This is what I remember

 

 

“Yeah, that book you have,” he said, wrapping his lips around a Camel cigarette, “I have it.” It was starting to get cold out, so he burrowed his free hand into the lined pockets of his duck jacket. He was heading back to work soon, and I was heading back inside, to my party.  I didn’t think he would come. Like he hadn’t come to the lunch.

 

After tonight that would, more or less, be the end to whatever this subtle, loaded friendship was.

 

“You mean the Existentialists one?” I asked, surprised, walking back into the circle of lamplight.

 

“Yeah,” he nodded, “I’ve had that book. I stole it from the library.”

 

Drunk, I couldn’t hold back my groan in time. “Oh man. I’ve known guys like you in college.” The words started toppling out, way before I even felt nauseous.

 

“No. You haven’t,” he said, eyes narrowing. The two of us were not enjoying ourselves half as much, suddenly.

 

“Yes, I have,” I said, feeling a sudden, unnecessary meanness surge up in me, “Known boys like you. Edgy, stealing philosophy books from the library for the hell of it.”

 

It was so old hat, and yet, what the hell did I know about anybody?

 

The person in front of me, or the person who had said he’d loved me for three years? What made any of us different? Was I brusque, or was all of his interest coming from a perverse, distended curiosity: the ex of an ex? 

 

I gnawed on the inside of my lip and tried to find a way to apologize for comparing him to a latte-swilling college kid. Our friend poked his head around the corner and grinned when he saw us smoking.

 

“Hey, can I join you guys?”

 

We exchanged a momentary look and nodded, if not somewhat awkwardly. Some planets don't align--not now, not ever. Maybe it was better this way, so I really could overcome the escape velocity of home.

 

Maybe it was time I stopped looking for a chess partner, in favor of enjoying the art of solitaire.

 

 

Waiting for the storm to pass

Standing around picking holes in the grass

Waking up in another town

This is what I remember

 

 

4 A.M. and I come back to consciousness in the dark. Orange bands of sodium street lamps come dimly through the slatted window.  I know it’s four because the little green clock on the microwave tells me so. I’m disoriented in more ways than one, with jet lag being one of the less offensive reasons.

 

I sit up on the couch and rub my face, hard. My legs were cold and I mused about the whereabouts of my pants.

 

I’d been disoriented for a week and a half. I felt like a visiting alien. From the flora and fauna–Southern California still had hummingbirds and plantain trees into November–to the linguistics–people actually did say “Namaste” quite regularly here–to the fact that people made regular eye contact, followed by conversation. In the evenings, we enjoyed explosively beautiful sunsets and watching the mountains grow a deep, earthy purple. Then, we wrapped up in chunky sweaters and sat outside with wine, listening to the bats sing. It wasn’t unpleasant fieldwork in the slightest.

 

 

 

When I can make the room come back into focus, I marvel at what I found out today, when drove out to a family gathering.

 

I have family here. They’re like me, scarily so. Where have they been all this time?

 

I enjoy the small feeling of warmth. Then, the nausea comes.

 

 

Waiting for the storm to pass

Waiting around with Lateral Alice

Waking up in another town

This is what I remember

 


On my low days, now thankfully spaced apart, I busied my hands with dishes and singing. I was putting a hatchet through my old schedule, making it work for the here and now.

 

I liked dishes. They were rote and predictable, and singing like a little Snow White Dwarf made my body feel light, liberated; the way it did in the suspended gravity of water.

Singing felt productive, and overall just more pleasant than shouting into the void. It didn’t need someone around to listen, and being sad forever seemed like idle worship. I was looking for results.

I had a hook-up to attend a gym here, so I took to seeking the quiet peace of the pool, where I could do endless laps, late at night.

Someone I knew once said that Slavs can't stay away from water. But the truth of it was that swimming gave me time to think, in a way that didn’t feel useless. I just had to remain in motion and keep from staying still. 

 

If I did, I’d lose my momentum, and start second-guessing myself–were my parents right after all, had I left a legitimately good job, a good man, and the chance for a normal life almost 3,000 miles away?

 

All of these loomed, in my periphery, waiting for me to get tired; for my determination to flag.  

 

But maybe, just maybe, it was better in the end, to start from scratch, away from a seemingly good man, job, and even more seemingly, a normal life.

 

Maybe there was more out there.
 

 

_______

 

*All rights to The Weather Diaries by Ride go to the band itself. Go listen to it here on Bandcamp
 

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