I don’t sleep well here but when I do I dream the thick
black outlines of me are being erased. This is a messy undertaking. It leaves eraser residue all over the page. Soon, very soon, I will become invisible.
I only wear gray threadbare sweatpants and write long winded
stories on the shower door with a felt tip pen. Then, I stand back and watch
the jet of hot water make the ink run until not a single word is legible.
I wake up at dawn without ever setting an alarm clock.
Alarmless is what I have become. Mornings hurt, like a dry thud or a weight,
despite the clear, white light that streams in through the skylight I have
stared up at since I was a child.
I lie there, and know that the routine that engulfs me is a
safe haven, necessary. But it’s rubbing me out. The only thing that makes you
feel alive is what is destined to kill you; and yet what is safe obliterates
you. Poison and antidote, indiscernible.
Before swinging my legs out of bed I wonder if I should
examine myself, like one would immediately after a car accident. I assume I’d
want to check my most fragile places first, so I ask an expert in crashes if
this is what one does. His sensible advice is to start where the pain is.
Except, I don’t know where the pain is. It’s a thread, and it’s sticky and thick
and black and it runs through everything, and it’s making a mess, just like erasing my outline would, leaving residue all over the page.
I have taken to getting on the bus and staying on
it until the end of the line, then getting out and riding it all the way back.
Being in transit gives me the illusion of a suspension of time.
While on the bus, I find solace in its uneven
movement. I look out into the San Francisco night and its soft glimmer and am
reminded just how restorative, how indispensable beauty is.
I eavesdrop on conversations, which tend to cast
my own bright life in a different, more forgiving speckled light.
I let my mobile devices take turns and
think, think and work in an ambulatory setting with an ever-changing view where I am
not interrupted. The resulting, partially accidental productivity settles me.
I am weary of platitudes. I don’t need reminders
of the value of life or the importance of love or our lack of control or how change must be embraced ugh
bla bla bla I already know. I know.
My role in this bus is that of an anonymous,
probably disheveled, mathematically middle-aged woman. I am no one's friend, no
one’s coworker or lover or daughter or sister or tenant. I need to do nothing
here. I am no one here, just the weak, see-through reflection on someone's
large, dark window pane; the high pitched, possibly grating, foreign language
phone conversation another overhears, perhaps casting his own life in a
And I have the most beautiful city in the world displaying
itself to me, and it’s just a bit beyond my reach because really I am somewhere
else right now. Somewhere that
exists only in a girl I used to be.
If you don't know what this is, Google it and come back.
If you do know and are horrified and want to warn me, yes, I do know it's going to be dusty. Yes, I know it's going to be very hot. Yes, I know I won't be able to shower for as long as I’m there.
I also know I'll have a series of incredible epiphanies. I know this because I've already experienced some of those and haven't even left yet.
Here is what I've learned so far:
- How adverse us humans are at the prospect of being uncomfortable. When I mention I'm going to Burning Man, people have repeatedly mentioned the heat and the dust but no one has mentioned the art; and it's an art show. In the middle of nowhere. Of monumental installations. That cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and have no reason to be beyond “because”. A city of 50,000 people that only exists for a month out of the year. A place where those who go leave no trace.
More to the point, as much as I like watching TV while lying in bed, I don't learn much on a soft mattress surrounded by pillows. As much as I want my life to be just right, as much as I crave routine, it dulls my senses.
I know that incredible things happen when I operate outside my comfort zone. From growth to understanding myself better to the magic and power and joy of feeling alive.
- One of the big principles of Burning Man is "Radical self-reliance". Conversely, one of the big lessons I have learned in the past two years is how important it is for me to accept the humbling fact that I need to count on others. Not to mention, I know myself well enough to concede I would not survive more than a day or two alone in a harsh desert. As a result of this, I am making a frantic effort to cross-reference multiple shopping lists of things I will need on this adventure and trying to buy everything, everything, while struggling with the fact that I will have to rely on the generosity and patience of others to get me through (or to at least get me a shower.)
I texted an expert friend who kindly insisted on sharing some of his supplies with me. “Ugh” I wrote. "I swing between radical self-reliance and accepting your offer".
“The key” he shoots back “is to be flexible".
He is 23.
- And the biggest lesson of all. I suffer from an excess of efficiency. I am so in favor of efficacy I have stripped my life of complications (to the point that my refrigerator sits empty because going to the supermarket is not key to my survival.) I don't keep things I don't need - not even photographs.
What I seem to have lost along the way is that life and art and beauty and love all hide in the complex fabric that is inconvenience. Cooking an elaborate meal because it’s a pleasure; going to great lengths to think up a perfect costume because it’s fun; or even lying flat on your back for years in order to paint the Sistine Chapel.
So here you have me. Rather than rationally deciding not to go to Burning Man (which is, without a doubt, the decision the person formerly known as me would have made) I have spent the last two weeks poring over what I need for this art festival in the middle of the desert - from water to long gowns to headlamps to comfortable boots.
I have a bin full of things that used to fit squarely in my very large category of "utterly unnecessary".
And a deep, throbbing desire to be coated in that highly alkaline, incredibly fine dust that I have been promised will cover everything.
This story is
fiction, and it starts with his car flipping over on a highway at 2:30 in the
right behind him and sees the whole accident play out and it's so incredible
she feels detached. As if her windshield was a movie screen.
though, this is the middle of the story. In the beginning, they are just kids.
Sometimes - and
this was very early on - she'd see him after school. He'd be waiting for
somebody else, one foot leaning against his car (well, the one he borrowed from
his dad); the collar of his polo shirt sticking up.
A year or two
later he seemed to always be a part of the circle of close friends of whomever
she happened to be dating.
He was easy to
talk to. They would sit on the ledge of the roof of his house, legs dangling
down, and smoke and speculate about the future. Would they remain friends? Move
away? Would they forget each other? "You'll be a writer" he predicted
"and I'll buy your best seller the second I come across it."
While the others
drank rum and coke, played poker and listened to music (now "classic
rock") the two of them would search for a quiet corner and sit on the rug,
lean against the wall, and talk straight through the night.
"Do you think
it's true" she would ask, "that time heals everything?"
He'd regard her
for a long while and exhale, making chains of perfect smoke circles.
"Almost everything" he'd declare with authority. "Almost".
They talked about
the pros and cons of the various people they were dating. Before long, anything
he said seemed to have a hidden message. Her interpretation: "She’s not
quite right, because she's not you".
One day right
before dawn she asked him in a tone she hoped sounded clinical if he was a good
kisser. "Well", he said with a cocky grin, "I've never gotten
A few weeks later
at a bar he was drunk and she was not and he walked towards her and she walked
backwards and he walked towards her until her back was flush against an exposed
brick wall. He put one hand on one side of her head and waited a full minute.
He put the other on the other side. "We're friends", she whispered. "Then
turn away" he replied as he inched his face towards hers. She didn't.
He called her
early the next morning. "Are we good?" Yes. "Are you
sure?" Yes. "Well, am I a good kisser?"
"Of all the
guys I've kissed" she replied, "you're a solid #2".
They pretended they
were friends for another few months before he confessed he loved her, had
always loved her; and then proceeded to have the kind of relationship one would
expect from two people stumbling through their early twenties.
If she were real,
if she was here, what would I say to her? I would say be careful. I would say
that every relationship tracks a path for the ones that follow so inexorable
that one day you become unable to distinguish your past actions from your fate.
I would tell her
what is already obvious to you: that nothing is more important than the connections
That the people
who have known you for years become sole witnesses to a piece of you no one
will ever again understand.
And I would tell
him that he was wrong. That time doesn’t really heal anything.
Siguiendo la lógica de la ley física de la conservación, la que dicta
que la energía ni se crea ni se destruye, sino que solo se transforma, lo que siento
por ti no puede ser reciente. Ha estado aquí siempre.
Existían ya elementos de su composición química en la Nébula solar y
en la explosión supernova que dio origen a este planeta. En el vapor marino de
los asteroides que se transformó en agua salada, llenando acantilados de liquido
vital y de especies de animales que todavía nadie conoce del todo.
Aquí estaba cuando se formó la inmensa curva azul del cielo. Cuando se
trazó la línea nítida y recta del horizonte y se delinearon las masas
Era ya un rastro de tinta en el libro que usaron los Dioses al
principio, ese donde determinaron sin misericordia el destino de cada mortal.
Podemos inferir que existió mucho antes de la creación de la nostalgia.
Antes de cualquier emblema. Antes de la religión y de la gestación de los laberintos
que todos llevamos adentro. Antes de nuestro recuerdo más valioso y ancestral. Antes
de la original formación de la ceniza de donde dicen que venimos.
Estaba ahí cuando se diseñó el trazo perfecto de las hojas de los
helechos y el diseño geométrico del caparazón de las tortugas.
En uno de esos casos de elipsis temporal podríamos confirmar su evidencia
en el polvo que cubre la colección de fósiles en todo museo de historia
Ya nos iremos conociendo mejor tu y yo, dando espacio a ésta actual versión
de nosotros. Pero como puedes ver, es inconsecuente la forma que le demos.
Inconsecuente, porque mucho después de dejar de ser lo que somos seguirá
existiendo este mismo elemento, sus moléculas estables, intactas, libres, dispersas; quizás
dándole el brillo a las telarañas y el verde a la hierba nueva.
Se verá su destello en los astros que algún día alguien conectará para
ver formarse alguna anónima constelación o la evidencia de una historia que,
como todo, ha existido desde siempre.
As a lover of structure and order and answers, I wish I could pinpoint the second it all began.
it was when I first came across your photographs and captions. Their
thoughtful selection betrayed an urgent wistfulness I was convinced was
visible only to me.
Or maybe it was before we even met. You were tugging
on me years ago, back when I first realized it was time to leave him
and start over.
Maybe it was reading the list of things you
couldn't live without and knowing I could easily ensure your survival by
providing an endless array of good Japanese knives and a life replete
I guess it could have been later too. After I
told you on the sidewalk that I would never get on a motorcycle with a
stranger. Or later, after the homeless man in the gas station assured me
that you were a keeper. Or later, after you grimaced the first time I
experimentally called you my boyfriend.
Or yesterday, when I realized (again) that I need space and need you, both at the same time.
course, it's entirely possible that the answer doesn't exist. That
there is a missing piece out there somewhere with the potential to elucidate not only
how and when our universe - yours and mine - began but by extension how
it works and how the most elemental pieces of us fit together.
would interpret why the currently abstract matter that constitutes our
relationship actually has mass. And how it, combined with gravity, gives
weight to what we are inadvertently building.
Maybe some day in this lifetime we will find it, and it will explain everything.