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I was having dinner recently with a friend and his parents, and conversation came around to how we grew up–how very differently we lived as kids. He grew up largely in one house, in one neighborhood, and still has friends he knew as a child. There’s something appealing in that sort of stability, and something wonderful about being friends with someone you’d known as long as you might’ve a sibling, but who wasn’t. Shared stories, mutual histories, someone else, besides yourself, who is a witness to the work you’ve done to become who you are. I admitted that I’d always been sort of envious of that, and to someone’s sympathetic comment, I said, “Well, moving so often had its upsides. I became very self-sufficient.” My friend immediately said, “And lonely.”
I grew up in eight or nine houses, in eight different neighborhoods, in six different cities all before I graduated high school, and my oldest friend is someone I met in 2001, long after I’d absorbed this truth that was proved to me approximately every two years during my youth: people leave. That’s what they do. Technically it was I who left, but when promises of keeping in touch inevitably were forgotten, and the people I knew and had left behind still had each other, it amounts to the same thing. And he is right–it made me a lonely person. The loneliness is so much a part of me that it’s not something I notice usually. It’s impossible to separate from myself. It’s an integral part of what shaped me into who I am.
I expect people to leave. When I meet them, if, as often happens, we become friendly, even if, as sometimes happens, I love them to some degree, I never believe they won’t leave. The certainty of it doesn’t stop my heart from cracking when it happens, but what my childhood has also taught me is that I can live with the cracks.
Atypically, I want to be somewhere warm. A four days fever broke and took more heat than it had temporarily given, just more than I would have given willingly. This kind of internal almost-cold is the temperature of sudden absence. The chill you either recognize or do not, which designates the drop off. It’s unnatural for it to stretch through time this way. It’s like a decision waiting to be made.
Chicago is a tough city. She doesn’t care if you fail, she won’t praise you if you survive. There’s a comfort in that, if you’re the sort of person who is comforted that way.
The things that are wrong with me, and there are many, many I do not even count because they are small things and common, are things I could alter. And still I don’t, because what would I be then? I am the things that are wrong with me, and right.
I love this season. Even more so than Spring, it’s thick with anticipation. Unlike Spring, it’s not a heady expectation of light, but a weighted, somber awe. Wonderful things may happen, but they will break your heart a hundred times and you will let them do it, because what else is it for, if not to pay for wonder?
I have decided to try to write letters.
I buy stationery, for no apparent reason. I admire it, and buy it, and then store it, and never ever use it. And I found a bunch of it while trying to organize what is becoming the office, and felt guilty because in fiction, future societies often cast paper as precious or as a myth because there are no more trees, and to buy and hoard paper, while a practical form of investment from which future descendants might benefit, seems wasteful.
Also, it’s an impulse born of guilt and compromise. I am not a great communicator from afar. I have this whole sociological justification for it, and believe it to be sound reasoning, but I don’t especially like that tendency of mine. Compounding the issue is an excess of pride, so if I do make an effort to stay in touch with someone, and it’s not reciprocated, I stop trying pretty quickly. Last week, someone said to me that I could call or write to them, like as a reminder that there exists means of communication. I immediately felt guilty because it was true that I’d more or less stopped and a little outraged, as, at least in my head, the only attempts at communication DID originate from me and weren’t volleyed back, in timely enough manner. I mean, when you text, do you not expect a text back within a few hours or so? An email, maybe a response a day later at most? With letters, it’s impossible to expect reasonably an immediate response, so my pride won’t be offended at the length of time between responses, and I’m not just recklessly dropping someone I care for just because we have different expectations regarding electronic communication. So, guilt and compromise.
So I started writing a letter yesterday and discovered that I’m a terrible letter-writer. I don’t remember how to write a letter. It’s all stream of consciousness, complete with tangents from tangents, and the information I’d imparted is already out of date. Regardless, I will soldier on. Once my hand declaws itself.
“I can write many things to you but if I could see you I could tell you more in one minute than I can rite in a week” William F. Testerman to Miss Jane Davis
I was talking to a friend a while ago about an article I’d read talking about the possibility of a vanguard colony on a planet like Mars. There is a field of space medicine to research and address those conditions which occur from spaceflight, and the article was particularly focused on the loss of bone density. The conclusion was that should one go to another planet, they would never be able to come home, which is a common enough stipulation for these kinds of what-ifs.
He asked if I would still go, knowing I couldn’t come home, and I think I was truthful when I answered, “In a heartbeat.” It would be terrifying, but I can’t imagine ever passing up that sort of chance. Of course, it’s a what-if, a game, and given the real opportunity, of course I have no idea what I would decide.
Still, I stayed up tonight just to find out if Curiosity’s landing was successful. After a day of being dumbfounded by the deliberate horror we inflict on one another, I can’t help but feel a flood of gratitude toward the scientists and engineers who made this happen, because it is a reminder that we are capable of doing great things too.
This summer has been wreaking havoc on my head. Migraine city. Brooklyn’s on fire.
I read a study that hypothesized that migraines may occur when the brain overheats. Commonly, one of the signals of an impending migraine is frequent yawning, which they posited was the body trying to cool the brain as it heats up. And the nearly irresistible urge toward self-trephination makes morbid sense to me now. Air out that crawlspace, get a breeze going. It’s hot in here.