Wanderlust

Wanderlust

Hear the chimes, did you know that the wind when it blows
It is older than Rome and all of this sorrow
See the new Pyramids down in old Manhattan
From the roof of a friend I watched an empire ending
Heard it loud and long, the river’s song
Time marching on, to a mad man’s drum

—Bright Eyes, “Cleanse Song”

Some days I wonder if the world has become too small for us to bear.

It’s spring break, and by all rights I should be out of the city and off to fairer pastures. But by my own failings, I’m still here. I’ve barely left the apartment, even. I haven’t gotten anything constructive done. It’s just unusual that I have the opportunity to travel without taking it. I am a wanderer at heart.

It’s something my parents instilled in me with childhood trips abroad. I was seven, the first time I met my homeland, and in my head it’s still an exotic place. I was nine when we went to Italy, a blur of crumbling buildings and ostentatious churches. At ten, eleven, twelve it was Hong Kong, Taiwan, Geneva.

It comes from my high school years half-lived out on other continents, always moving. As a consequence, I feel at home in any hotel room. My heart beats to the rhythm of the road. Continue reading

Advertisements

Legacy

Dad and me

I was, apparently, a hella out of it baby who slept lots.

Dad died three years ago, this morning. 6:47 am, to be exact. I was awake for it, by some betrayal of my body, staring at my phone as the minutes counted down. The battery died before I got there, cheating me out of the most self-indulgent memorial I can fathom (besides, of course, this). I remember the exact time because I can still hear the doctor’s voice pronouncing it; somewhere, it’s still echoing in my ears. And in that place there’s a pathetic fallacy: eternal late winter without the hope of spring.

But, here and now, I know tomorrow will be warm, at least.

Continue reading

Time Travelers of the Abyss

If you were given the invention of time, then all the clocks would turn to lead and you’d seat yourself among the stars shining like so many atoms misfiring in the moment of creation. If you had the time there would be none. Because frankly the forward press of events frightens you. How much better to knot time into a net and catch moments like so many fishes—only to cast them back to sea. You’d leave yourself only the potential world which is ceaseless and unchanging, bending under the weight of moments that maybe were, but will never be.

You know time isn’t linear, anyway. It is but mostly linear. Things have a tendency to pile up in it: accumulating like so many obstacles at the end of the course. In the crystalline structure of the immaculate world, such things would not be allowed. But we are here: living in a world so stretched at the seams you can practically stick your finger through them. You can see the eyes beyond using them as peepholes: watching from fairer pasture, concerned with whether you’re rationing your moments efficiently.

Sometimes you wish they’d mind their own business.

Oh, but they are. And you are their business. And there’s no way to escape that when you’re only going one way. Clearly, your performance would be much improved with the addition of “reverse.” But that would write away the universe and the spaces and the pockets of it. So that wouldn’t work.

But they still can’t keep you from trying.

Nocturne

Image

NoLita in the dark.

My suite mates are apparently having a party or something…which makes me slightly upset that I’ve never dragged people over because I’ve kind of wanted to have a party but I always felt it would be inconvenient.  Yes, I’m stupid and petty.  Regardless, it doesn’t look like I’m sleeping soon. Far too loud. I’m also not social enough to actually go out and talk to anyone: so…

Some thoughts on night in the night. It’s not like my drive towards nocturnal started just now, anyway, even though it’s often hard for me to be productive in the darkness. But nights aren’t really for productivity until it gets so late it’s almost morning. And speaking of that twilight place: how do we define night? In or minds and programmed into our bodies.

Night sometimes means sleep, of course, that crushed velvet sensation of letting your bones lay weary against the earth. Most of us enjoy the feeling of sliding sideways into darkness: the curl of blankets and pillows forming a safe cocoon. I must confess, odd as it may be, that I do miss nights spent awake and on the road. Admittedly I have only ever been a passenger, one who can afford to meditate on the darkness. It’s astonishing how beautiful the world is, blurring by in a string of houses and highway signs, cities and railroad tracks. The “I” of me melts away until all that’s left is just a pair of eyeballs, drinking in the sideways slip of the world outside my window. Those are the nights when I never want to reach my destination. The hum of the road is home enough. At least until dawn, rosy in the east, unmasks the dark silhouettes of the trees, or mountains, or skylines—whatever my companions had been in the evening—and wakes the world until it’s no longer quiet. Until traffic is a scream. The bubble bursts.

After all, nights are the times of dreams: waking or not. It’s when you are close to people, even strangers you’ve only just met. Anyone can become friends right around three am. The world is soft, then. You all share the dream. Any other time those pretty words you so willingly exchange, flitting on their gossamer wings, would be too heavy. Would fall out of the air like dead things.

The nocturne is its own song, and it compels us to our feet. We dance because it’s harder to feel ashamed in the darkness. We dance because we don’t remember our daylight faces.

Not that there isn’t a danger in forgetting: there is no innocent dark, which pains me deeply. I want nothing more than to stalk the streets and learn the city’s moonlit face: unlined and dewy with summer. But I can’t, just out of simple fear. Because I’m not especially intimidating or good at violence. Because darkness shields dangers in the alleyways. And anyway: the world is stifling and warm, and I will not ruin it by seeking confrontation.

Instead, I’ll content myself here in the cocoon of my lamplight, hung sweetly in the summer night.

Image

Genius Loci and Jamais Vu

Image

Neil Gaiman offering a little bit of inspiration up in here.  You’d think the solitude would make the words come to me more easily.  Untrue.  My greatest distraction has always been myself.  It’s how it always was: that blank page staring so accusingly, crushing your rosy dreams with its stark truth.  

My friend recently talked to me about the jamais vu phenomenon, which is best explained in relation to deja vu.  Deja vu is the feeling that you’ve been somewhere before, even though you’ve never actually been to that particular locale in your life.  But it’s not so much that the place is familiar to you seeing as the location is still alien. Rather it’s that the emotion it evokes from you, that rises like a treacherous serpent from your chest, is familiar.  Jamais vu is the opposite, sometimes more sinister phenomenon.  It’s when a familiar place suddenly seems foreign.

I’ll admit that it has come to me amicably.  Notably, on a clear, cloudless morning on my way to The Strand bookstore.  Union Square wasn’t its usual eyesore.  The farmers’ market blanketed the earth with its early harvest.  And the city didn’t feel like home suddenly, like my old stomping ground, but rather as a place wholly unfamiliar and utterly foreign.  It was amazing.  I should explain that I was suffering a great deal of wanderlust at the time.  For me, that morning was a chance to leave while my feet were still tied to the ground.  If I could bottle that feeling to take with me and give the world just a light spritz whenever I feel too stuck in one place, then maybe I wouldn’t have the urge to travel every few months: to tie up my scarf and roam like a nomad over the packed earth.

Still.  There are times when it’s not so pleasant.  Like my mother’s whole apartment after her passing.  All of its home-like qualities vanished, and an unnerving darkness settled there instead: as bleak as the River Styx.  It was clearly and irrevocably not ours anymore, or familiar except in surface.  If it weren’t, you know, actually sharing three walls with other people’s homes I would have wanted to torch that place to the ground.  When I’m writing, in the future, and I need a genius loci or two I will have a model for one that is wholly unpleasant to the point of being evil—not in the double double toil and trouble sense necessarily, but in the twisted sense of reality gone horribly, awfully wrong.  Of the world careening off axis.  Of the familiar becoming alien to the point of incomprehensible.  Jamais vu.

I have that feeling now, slightly, sitting on the floor I actually spend the majority of time at at school.  I’m technically working, actually.  It’s Friday night around ten o’clock and I am seriously wondering why I’m still here, seeing as it’s become abundantly clear to me this evening that no one else will be showing up.  And in the quiet stillness, there is a slight sense of jamais vu.  Not for any sinister reason, merely because in my mind, except for in the very, very early mornings, this floor is always packed.  At least one of the buchlas is always screaming like a theramin, music and AV clips are always leaking out of different studios, and there’s always a bunch of stupid undergrads like me with our feet blocking the aisle, cursing ourselves blue.  To be honest, it’s a bit unnerving not to have all of that.  It sounds kind of stupid but this place has been my bedrock this semester.  While I’ve been losing my last parent and burning my childhood and leaving home, it’s been kind of constant. Unwaveringly alive.  To feel alone here is foreign.

Nothing like a little jamais vu to spice up your Friday night.

Possibilities

Image

I like to think that the image is blurry because the colors ran in the heat, but there’s the Empire State Building lit up all purple for the Violets.  

Congratulations class of 2013!  If I had started college right after I graduated high school, I would be with you.  But then again, I wouldn’t be here in New York probably, or studying music of all stupid, wonderful things.  Or trying to be an engineer (seriously, what is up with that?).  

But more than anything else this last week has reminded me of the forward motion of existence: how the gears of the universe keep pushing us forward in spite of any inner inertia.  Let go of the irreversible past, it tells us.  Every moment is a chance for change.  Apparently all of our lives have been predetermined since the first particle burst into existence.  I don’t believe that.  Note: I have no background in particle physics.   Still, there are days when you can almost see that everything is in flux, riding on the currents of a greater force that is thundering through nature, knocking old plans askew and opening up possibilities.  

A few nights ago Ace and I talked about what we could say to your younger selves.  I remember as a child hating change so much that any new beginning—or rather any ending—would make me physically sick.  But life is full of little deaths, and that’s fine.  Progressions begin and end but the beat goes on.  

Secret Worlds

“Everybody has a secret world inside of them. I mean everybody. All of the people in the whole world, I mean everybody — no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside. Inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds… Not just one world. Hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”

Neil GaimanSandman Vol 5 A Game of You

There’s a scene in Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War by Clive Barker (Abarat is a series that I read voraciously when I was younger but probably will never revisit because it will give me nightmares now) where the heroine gets harassed for the contents of her dreams.  Not dreams like the ones that visit us in the night mind you, but our waking dreams that we may or may not share with anybody.  And in that scene, all of the characters carry their dreams over their heads like little universes: there for all the world to see.

Some days I wish I could be so open.  My dreams, or any part of my whole inner world, appear only when they slip out. Maybe the word I’m looking for here is not slip but ooze.  I’ve been told that I’m carrying all the worst parts of myself on my sleeve—something I should have realized myself, long ago.  It’s frustrating, because I know there is a shred of a kernel of me buried deep down that is as adamantine as diamond, as pure as Vajra fire, but it never sees the light of day.  Instead, I am all sharp smiles and serrated edges; so full of complex longings that my horrors have hydra heads: for each habit I break three more spring in its wake.

The lighter I try to tread upon the world the more I sabotage. My thoughts are treacherous. They betray me: selfish things I should deny or put away because they are too sharp, and to run with them means someone always ends up losing an eye.

The best part of you is that you always try to help other people.  A woman told me this when I was seventeen.  She encouraged me to play the cello from this part of myself, so that my sound would always be pure and fulfilled.  Oh, if she could hear me now.  How mean and thin a line my bow makes against the strings.

It goes back to worlds again. I hurt people (inadvertently, on purpose, in small or big ways) when I’m being selfish. In Chinese the word for I (我) “wo” has a dagger inside it.  The ancients avoided using it.

I am modern, and stupider than they.  I am selfish and do not live for others. And when I do not consider the other as having his or her own complex, beautiful world inside of them with a myriad motivations and sensitivities, I sometimes find myself wanting to change people or cookie cutter them, both of which are profoundly stupid things in which I will never succeed.  It’s hypocritical in the extreme to try to place people in boxes when one of my most firmly held beliefs is that there is always hope for change: that the malleable nature of humanity and the constant flux of the universe always mean becoming better is possible.

And really, the only times I ever feel hurt myself are when I’m being selfish.  When I focus only on how the actions of another affect me rather than realize that, in the grand schemes of their lives and motivations, I count for very little at all.

I should offer understanding instead. I should know that in the collisions of the universe, things that look accidental have reasons behind them all.  I should always try to do better myself.  There is no one I can change but me.

After all, there is a world inside of me that I need to cultivate so that when it flourishes, all of those around me may reap the fruits.