“Everything… has changed.”
Well, OK, clearly not everything. But you know those days where you wake up with a pretty good sense of which way things are going to go, and where the day is likely to end up some distance along that mostly proscribed route; because mostly, disappointingly, they always do? And then it does go in that direction, but with some insane detours that you’d not have predicted with a thousand guesses; like: what the hell is happening? And then somehow goes fractal, but coheres back again; and in the process winds up so much farther down the track than you’d imagined possible that if, when you sat there in the dark drinking that first cup of coffee, you’d daydreamed that things might get there, you’d have chided yourself for being a naive fool who should know better than to get his hopes up? Well. Yeah.
It was that kind of day.
So fucking weird, man. I’m wondering if I made it all up. Waiting for the dreaded 3am realization to land, like a hot grenade in a bowl full of ice cream. But unbelievably for an anti-optimist and battle-hardened cynic like me I actually, here at nine pm, don’t think it’s going to blow up. Weird.
Second guesses? Yes. Of course. I already have doubts; I am the freaking King of Doubts. Things I shouldn’t have said, words I should have given room to breathe, times where I should have know to go quiet and listen &&goddammit, Scott, when will you learn to listen and just listen and listen better?&& You can’t just speak; you also have to hear. And make eye contact (without being weird about it), and tell less than three stories (where one will suffice), and not be so stupidly earnest about everything (as if it all matters so much) and (as if expressing your innermost truth is some holy quest)?
Probably never. I will probably never learn those things. This is me. And maybe it is a holy quest; fuck if I know.
Like what Gygax said about editing out the part you like best, and Lamott said about the things you think are holding everything together aren’t what’s holding everything together, and Taylor said about Look What You Made Me Do ( ok, that last one doesn’t fit in here at all, but like I said above, I am an incorrigible three-for-one guy, so I must add a third thing; and we just bought the new single for Pixel’s bday on Sunday, and she listened to it like maybe 20 times in one morning, so it’s a wee bit stuck in my RAM ).
Maybe the things you’re trying to fix about yourself are actually the endearingly genuine parts of you that people actually like, and the parts that you think show you in your best light are just your ego reflecting back at itself qualities others could gladly live without.
So yes: scripts are playing through my head: what I’d do differently; how I’d rewrite and edit if it was all an improv scene that we get to try again tomorrow night. Doubts about my wisdom, my clarity, my delivery. Even my intent. Those things are all just smart validation strategy. Fact checking. Ego smoothing. Preparing for the inevitable reversion to the mean.
But… But, but, but… life is not a series of repeat chances or an experiment with multiple layers of undo. That’s the beauty and the tragedy of it, all rolled together. We are in this moment, and so it feels significant. You and me. Later it will be me and someone else, and you and someone else, then maybe us again another day. ‘That’s how it works.’
#fixtheweb, you jerks
So I say things and you nod, and seem to understand (that’s a minor miracle). You say things back that make my neurons fire in unexpected patterns (such fun). If we are lucky, it goes on like this awhile and we find a pattern, a conversational rhythm, a groove in the otherwise sorrowful gully of a day at work, a week of falling ever farther behind, a life sometimes broken into irreparable pieces. When it clicks like that, time melts away a little; we are just two people in a room talking, but somehow that is glorious; better, while it lasts, than a dip in the ocean or a waking dream.
I’m always dismayed, later on, at how much I revealed while caught up in that incautious, intoxicating flow. All the incremental risks I stacked, one atop another, a Jenga tower of excess sincerity: well, since I just said that, now I might as well go ahead and add this; and what if I put this thing (holy cow, did I really say that?) on top of those, leaning like so, and — hey, now that we’re here — what the hell, let’s do this!
The danger of wondering if the whole thing will collapse — under the weight of its own expectations, or from a lack of proper foundations — is thrilling. Just you, me, here, now. The near desperation to reveal my actual thoughts to a compatible mind, rather than the synthetic, placeholder thoughts that utility, efficiency and decorum almost always demand instead. Right now, for this minute or ten, let’s throw those realistic things away in favor of just being real. If you accept me for what I truly am, who knows where this could go?
And so the truth sneaks out of me like water seeking its own level. I sense it does out of you, too. Some of this story you’ve told before, rehearsed dozens of times, because it’s what people do. It is wise to be cautious; guarded. What if I’m putting on an elaborate show? A terrifyingly adept actor, just here to play a false role and then smile and smile until you find out I’m a villain? We’ve all fell for that one a time or two and regretted it.
But other stories of yours, or knowing admissions, shrugs of agreement, inadvertent laughs when I hit one out of the park that, by the normal rules, I never should have swung at in the first place. Those other things you say and do reveal who you are; they set little fragments of your self out into the empty space between us, to see what I’ll do with them. Pounce? Retreat? Grab and run? Pretend to care while checking for updates on my phone? [Note: I still don’t actually have a phone.]
But I do none of those things. Surprisingly, I’m kind, and thoughtful, and vastly interested, and even a little perceptive. So, why not set out another? And another. And another. And then, wow, how did we get here so fast? Who are you and where did you come from and how can you possibly get me this well where so many others will never have the slightest clue? So so so so, I don’t know, strange. We are, in these particular moments, a strange loop. Not bonded, or fused. Impermanent by necessity, and choice. But a brief, new composition; a carefully wrought feather floated up at the sun, knowing full well the cost of getting burned. Worth it.
Or not a feather: tiny droplets of mutual understanding, that start to condense into a new… a new… “Yes, I’ve been there, too. Oh, something like that happened to me. That’s how I see it, too. Can you believe him/her/it/them/that? I haven’t seen it, but I think I know what you mean. Oh, that’s great. I like it.”
What could be better, once you’re sure all the good people are gone for good and they’ll never be replaced, to find a new understanding with another human; to dare to imagine that there may still be more good people out there after all? Out there, all this time, in the dark and the noise? Unbelievable.
Tiny droplets like rain on a windshield, growing into such refraction that you can only see the blurred lights of the outside world; hardly even real anymore, despite knowing that simply stepping out of this bubble and you’d be instantly soaked and cold and back in the uncaring expanse.
Droplets on the windshield, a metaphor for trust, like when you’ve been parked in the car at night — talking fun, wild-eyed, fancy shit about the universe for way too long — and have to pee or just get home before daybreak because it’s gonna be a long day tomorrow but desperately don’t want to break the moment, for fear of never finding your way back there again. You, me, here. “Oh my soul, hear me now.”
Boy — for a jaded, reclusive misanthrope, I sure do love a good conversation.
And you can’t find your way back, my dears. Nobody can. Moments snap together like magnets. They don’t unsnap. It’s just: snap, done, next moment; snap, done, next moment. Snap snap snap.
But tonight, with a little new hope and grateful — genuinely grateful — awe that a day could bring surprises that feel that good for a change, instead of terrifying or wretched; returning home with a faint glimpse of what it’d be like to march into ancient Rome as the victorious army. Like, “We did it.” Tonight, after the debrief and the dinner making and the cleanup and the bath and the bedtime reading and the choice to not go work more in the studio — just too tired — but yes, some good solid fifty layers of ink in a writer’s block instead, downloading, processing, integrating, and then, somehow, how?, typing and typing and typing like my brain is at cone eleven and won’t be held back until we melt this arch into the ground…
Somehow tonight I feel like as long as you take in breaths and keep allowing yourself to care, life just keeps handing you magnets. On a loop? Yes, but maybe not a bad loop.
Snap snap snap. <loop> Snap snap snap. <loop> Snap snap snap. <loop>
“Come back and tell me why, I’m feeling like I missed you all this time.”