How to Forget [excerpts]
I don't want to fight anymore. The wind is blowing across my back as I sit right here.
I do like that.
I can't tell what's real anymore and it takes me a long time to think. I thought I knew everything once. I was much younger. I think I'd like to talk about fear to start off. Or maybe somewhere else.
It is unclear whether the sky has vanished into blinding light or if it is simply a disguise. There were three birds discussing amongst themselves over the ocean, maybe they were talking about their evening plans, but they've gone now or it could be another disguise. Eyes are foolish, especially in broad daylight.
We are in a time of great change. Perpetually moving forward, traditions become meaningless. There is no sense of history and what is there has a smirk on it's face, almost as if it were keeping a secret. I guess history is foolish too, isn't it?
I often feel like a fool. Whatever it is that we are doing here I fear is much more simple than modern living.
The sun is much lower now. I'm not moving quickly. Space is very still. I came to my current position through a large group of dense shrubs along the sea side. The kind with thick, full leaves. I can't stop myself from plucking the leaves with my fingers as I walk and breaking them in two. Again and again. The dog smells something ahead but it's nothing important. For a moment the shrubs are so thick it gets dark and claustrophobic. The thought enters my mind that it may never end. The thought leaves again.
The sun comes gleaming back as music somewhere else came to a crescendo. I was wondering if the dog heard it too. There is a pocket in the dunes that looks like a good place to spend my time. I set my things down near a boulder and sit against the dune.
A long time passes before I move. My right leg falls asleep but I think it's another disguise.
I can feel everything around me. I like that. What is the human experience? I think things to myself while I sit. The dog exercises his jaw chewing a stick he's found. There are two ways to live I think. I have something to say about that, but soon forget what it is.
The dog gets distracted and is off playing with the wind now.
I was walking down a city street. A wide sidewalk with small, square holes for trees to grow. Some of the trees had been cut down and there were only small stumps. There was an advertisement next to one stump. A lonely remain from a newspaper torn apart, irrelevant months ago. The scrap of paper said 'buy two, get two free'. The rest of the ad was torn off. What was there was hard to read through the dirt but I was strangely enticed.
There were deep curbs falling into the street anticipating flash floods. I would trip over them on occasion. I suppose I wasn't used to working so hard to walk down the street. 'Oh, for flash floods' a man said to me the first time I was in this city years ago. 'didn't happen often, but you can never be too sure when it comes to mother nature.' He was a generally ignorant man, you could tell. But he had a good point. He looked perfectly normal but there was something in the way he carried himself, you could tell he didn't have a lot of sense. Cared about trivial things. He had a nervous laugh as if to say he hopes I didn't judge him. I did and our moment together was over very shortly. We both proceeded in separate directions.
I wondered as I continued and the side walk became wider, where he may have been going. I wondered where he came from and why he spoke the way he did, dressed the way he was dressed, why it seemed he had a slight limp that curled his left foot in ever so slightly. Who was this man? Does he have anything at all to do with me? Are we random flakes of dust simply settling near each other? Would we have some kind of connection in some other context? Does the current context seem prone to disconnection?
There was another advertisement on the ground. This time one whole one and one half of one on the same page. I had to pick this one up to read it better. Even so, I've forgotten what the intact advertisement said. It was something about a kitchen tool that would cut time in half. It seemed like an ambitious statement and I didn't take much trust in it, but later I thought of it again. It was in print. I guess I never know what to believe anymore. The advertisement that was torn in half seemed to be about a Christian church of some kind. Maybe It said something about donations or hours of service. Maybe it was just an uplifting message. I couldn't understand what was left of the words in the ad. I had completely forgotten about the man from before. I couldn't remember what it was I was thinking about him.
I soon forgot about the advertisements too. Passing moments. Things. Click, click, click, click, click, each thing happening, then stopping. Nothing lasts very long.
I walked for quite a while farther and saw many things. No one thing of much importance, but they were all there. Right on time.
I was walking to a coffee shop, although I don't drink coffee. I had clear ulterior motives. I was meeting a girl there. She told me over the phone that her name was Jen. She was beautiful. This made me nervous. As I grew closer and closer to this meeting, The things I was noticing on the city walk disappeared. I was shaking my hands at my sides, calming my nerves. Breathing. I often had to do this. This idea of calming myself changed the whole experience of walking down the street. I don't stop to talk with strangers about why the city of Los Angeles has such deep curbs. The side walk is much more narrow. It almost seems a good idea to walk in the street when passing someone but I wonder if it's all in my head. The side walks are actually monstrosities, devouring the streets. Cars grew distant. I start playing with my mind. As I walked we played games. I remind myself that none of this is real. I remind myself of a lot of things.
And then it happens, I see her and that moment that just had a hold of me is over. Things. Changing. Click, click. This is a whole new experience. My mind drops whatever it was doing and that thing shatters on the floor.
I'm ready. A new stance comes to my body. A new position. I notice that the side walk had turned into more of a courtyard. We were swimming in the side walk. There was more room to breathe.
There is a laundry list of things to do and say to this girl. I've only met her once at the super market. What do you say to a person? What's important? Who is she? What does she do? What does that mean, what does she do? Broad questions? Small questions? What's the protocall here? Is there any? This moment is as individual as every moment proceeding it. Who's to say what is and is not supposed to happen? How lost this makes us feel.
Jen and I chat for several hours. I only remember half of what she said. The other half of the time I was thinking of the next thing to say. Sometimes it feels like I can't keep up with this modern lifestyle. There are a lot of things to think about, and I don't understand a great deal of them.
We finished up talking and walked outside. I opened the door for her. That was supposedly the nice thing to do. Someone told me that. We said some parting words to each other out front of the coffee shop, hugged, and walked separate directions. Click. This was a new experience again. I was alone again. I could hear a tidal wave of thoughts coming from far away. As it crashed I became overwhelmed with questions about what had just happened between myself and this girl. What did I do wrong? What did I do right? I begin to wonder what wrong and right really are in this scenario. Who is this girl? To understand the interaction I just had I would have to understand her entire foundation. What does she base her thoughts upon? What must she have thought of me? What experiences do I base my thoughts upon? Who am I? And who am I to say anything universal? I realize that I asked her all the wrong questions. My mind began to wander farther. I wondered what the trees standing outside the cafe must have thought. They must see exchanges like this every day. They must have a completely different list of things to think about. It would be unnecessary for them to worry about her and myself. And even if they did they only caught a glimpse of our conversation. They don't know the whole story. The squirrel that jumped from the roof into a tree, down the trunk and onto a telephone wire probably didn't even notice the interaction we were having. If you asked him we were never even there. Nothing to speak of. Blips out of the corner his eye.
Why do these interactions mean so much. Why do I dwell over them. We're unsure what anyone honestly thinks of anything anyway. I thought a lot of things as I wandered home. I didn't notice anything this time as I walked. I arrived at my house abruptly and without warning. I had been distracted. Looking at the pavement I hadn't noticed any of the usual landmarks on my route home. I wondered again why I was thinking so deeply about everything that had taken place in that cafe.
There are mysteries about the human condition.
I don't understand many things, as I've already said.
I find things overwhelming. I find the idea of things separate from other things overwhelming. I find our desires confused. I find our morals confused. I'd like to understand something. I'd like to honestly believe in something's purpose. But expectations are overrated. Expectations invite failure.
As I sit here writing this now, listening to the ocean, the air has become colder.
I have a large box of notes and photographs, receipts, cards, phone numbers, magazine clippings, newspaper clippings, past moments poorly recorded and filed into these recognizable items. The box has begun sinking into the sand a bit. I place the top back on the box protect these clippings. They are not crucial, only aids in organizing my thoughts, but I'd like to keep them safe.
I am going to sit here until I'm finished writing.
I am going to sit here until I'm finished wondering.
I am going to find something and it will be the last thing I do.
There is something to understand here and I can't seem to put it together. As I am writing this I begin to think to myself, what is important? I am reminded of my encounter with Jen, though, I'm thinking eternally this time.
What do I want to hear? The thought of finally knowing the answer makes me dizzy. I feel heavier and I let my vision go blurry for a few moments. I'm thinking too many things again. I force myself to simply start recording each of these moments I wish to understand. I have a long list and have only just begun to lay these instances out. There's too much to do.
My mind wanders again to keep itself from being overwhelmed. I think to myself, am I wasting my time here? It's hard to begin when you're already so far along. I feel maybe I should start over. Maybe I should start at a beginning. Maybe I should start by talking about fear.
Outside of Macy's there were people organized in a relatively regular line down six blocks of city street. Little white lights ran next to them without saying a word to any of the people . The line of lights ended in a mass. A gathering. All of these lights came together to make some kind of statement about something lost on the people in their presence. Although, it wasn't really theirs to grasp. An overwhelming glow pierced the air around this gathering and you could see, down the way, whole collections. Colonies. Separate junctions all beaming with the same glow. It was hard to see this from the street. Only in certain moments would the connections appear. It made me wonder though, what people must think looking from far away.
There seemed to be an unusual number of car horns and rich whiffs of anger dampening the air. The people in line at Macy's were waiting to see a man called Santa Claus. I thought to myself, 'He must have been quite a performer to have so many people waiting out in the cold like this'. At the front of the line there was a stream of people who seemed to pay no attention to the celebrity attraction. As if he and all these other people were never even there. A figment of my own reality no one else was aware of. They were all rushing in and out with bags and more bags in their hands. In they went with bags. Out they came with more bags. A woman carrying a tower of boxes and bags tripped over another woman's dog, dropping all of her boxes and bags on the ground. All that work running around the city, now spoiled, sprawling across the pavement. One man got out of line to help while an usher let another fifteen people in to the building they were keeping Santa Claus. The rest of the line moved forward and I think I heard a husband say to his wife 'well at least the line is moving.' and then sighed out of boredom. The woman who fell had almost collected all her broken bags and boxes and the man who helped her hailed her a cab. He was considered a nice man. Many people were leaving one store to walk across the street into another store. The city was a furry of action and monetary exchanges. Capitalism at its finest. The glory days.
The air was crisp. A winter day. My breath rolled past my face as I walked. Although many people were about on the sidewalks, I had a fair amount of space in front of me. I was able to walk quietly by myself and generally avoid this hustle and bustle. I was observing from afar. I really wasn't paying much attention. I liked the way the air felt. I liked the way that the ground felt harder when it got colder. There was enough for me to entertain myself plenty.
Newspaper bins for The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer held full stacks of papers. Each grouping of papers was very thin. The news that day was of no particular importance.
People filled the buildings around me but now, few were outside. If they were then they were rushing into the next building or huddled in a door way waiting for a car to pick them up. Maybe they were going home to be with their families for christmas, or maybe just to be warm and comfortable. Or maybe they didn't call the place they were going 'home' at all. But this had nothing to do with me. I was walking down the street and they were in coffee shops, restaurants, bars, retail stores, offices. Their experience of this same moment was drastically different from my own. I couldn't begin to connect with them. We were collectively supposed to feel bad for the people in the offices around this season as we were supposed to feel that man earlier was nice. I couldn't tell the difference though. As I walked it all reminded me of a time much later.
It was christmas morning, December 25th, mid-winter, then - however you'd like to explain it. I had explained it one way for so long. Change feels good. The sun had been out only a few hours and was still gaining it's strength. There wasn't any fog but it seemed like there was. Things in the sharp air were clenched tight with icy dew. I could see Telegraph avenue through the houses on 62nd street. The scarce amount of cars that had driven by sat high, stiffening their rubber tires to keep away from the cold cement. The blades of grass envied this ability and tried to imitate it but a hard breeze or a passing animal easily shook them with defeat.
I woke up alone in my house that morning, as I had the previous mornings. The sun had just barely beaten me to rising and I rolled over accepting it's unrivaled victories over me. The morning was slow and silent. Even from my bed I could feel that the city was shut down. When I stepped outside the silence made me stumble over myself. I could hear two squirrels having an everyday conversation almost two blocks away. It was simply a day during winter for them. And for myself. I cannot speak for anyone else.
The first order of business for the day was exercise. There are very few, basic functions necessary to survive. One of the many ways our lives have been made easier. Anything helps.
I walked to the park, myself and my dog. He was walking ahead of me by several feet but stopped often to look back. Making certain he wasn't alone.
The grass really was trying hard to remain steadfast. The air hurt. I liked it. I could feel it. There was a large space of grass I would run the dog on. He chased a stick I'd broken off of a frozen tree along the way. Diving and rolling to catch it. Sometimes he would come back with the stick in his mouth. Other times he would note the sticks location and proceed to meander about. Taking his time. Maybe he liked the way the air felt too. Maybe the air felt especially good in that spot. Maybe that's why he stayed over there. There was a moment then that reminded me of all the moments proceeding it that morning. Completely alone. Bare streets. Parked cars, frost on their windshields, not going to work. Mail in the mail box but it's frozen shut. Even if it wasn't, no one is going to pick it up anyway. The silence knocked me over this time. No one had any obligation but to their families and their loved ones, whomever they may be. The living world in this sharp air was void of almost any human activity. The poor and desperate, myself, the occasional car passing by on their way to a christmas get together. Not many others could see what I was seeing.
I was seeing the world.
I was seeing a moment without necessity. I was seeing a moment without any confusion. I knew exactly where I was and why. I was seeing my heart beat. I hear no one. They were in a separate reality, many consumed with greed. Many desperate to see a glimpse of hope. Desperation, I've found to be destructive.
When you stand inside of a single moment like this. Right before you know where you are. You don't. All reality is in front of you. There is nothing else. When you see a moment alone. When there's nothing else to distract you. The only record of that moment is a confused attempt to define a feeling. There are only so many witnesses with so many words to explain themselves. This moment there was no one. I was alone in a city of people busied by a thirsty desire for love and comfort. I can't blame them.
But I felt something unique. No one else was experiencing this moment. This air. This space. These plants and trees. Many of the animals were sleeping. Silence.
A dead calm.
I could hear the wind blow. It came slowly and then sped up with gradual bursts of energy. Occasionally it would play games and jump around. Blowing one way and then the other. It played with the trees and the trees shook with laughter. Rocking back and forth. Dropping twigs and branches even. The cracking wood rang sharp through the air. A crisp winter morning.
I felt inside myself a moment of uncertainty. It began to grow on me. I invited it. There was nothing unusual about this day. But, there was. And why? Who has decided these things. Where do we go once all things have been decided? What happens when we miss important moments because christmas had to be celebrated? I wondered these things while I stood in the field. I had forgotten what I was looking at and noticed myself staring into an ambiguous spot in the sky. Blurs of white and blue made me unsure of what was there or not. It didn't matter.
I couldn't find the dog at first. I turned all the way around once but missed him. I wasn't ready to find him. I sat in the moment for a little while longer. There was something outstanding about being alone this particular morning. It wasn't supposed to happen, yet it was. I was there, seeing it happen. Living, breathing, dying. Everyday.
The sun will rise.
The sun will set.
History is misleading, traditions get lost. Tragedy. Tragedy.
And inside of all of this, the beauty, if one forgets. I was overwhelmed. Alone, ignoring tradition and history. Forgetting the events that led to this moment. I could feel my body. I was standing on the ground.
The sun was finished dancing with the trees and now stood tall, pouring light through all of the water, held tightly in ice sitting quietly upon everything. The colors were wonderful.
My dog came wandering out from the bushes. I wondered if he had had a similar experience. Or if he had enjoyed the moment as well. It seemed like he did and I continued to throw the stick for him. We left after long and entered a new set of moments. A whole new genre. We walked back the way we came and saw all the same things from a completely different direction. At a completely different time.
I had forgotten about the grass standing tall. The trees laughing and cracking. The air was still crisp but the sun added a new sensation. Things around me were beginning to loosen up. The ice relaxed and surrendered to the sun. The air was more orange then before. It had been a blue grey and now had a fuller body of color. Things seem to change, don't they?