I've been pretty much stuck at windbourne and Lars' apartment. I like being there, but it loses its charm a little when I can't go home. Have you been to my place? You know that big sloping driveway down into the pit that is my parking lot? You think I wanna drive in and out of that in the snow and black ice? Yeah, see, no. I made the trip there once, veeeerrrry slowly and carefully on Tuesday night, to check on the cat and to grab my bag with my medicine in it. (I need to learn to never leave the house without that bag, whether I think I'm coming home in a few hours or not.)
I was scheduled to work, Tuesday through Thursday as usual, and there was no way I was going in. I wasn't trusting my car out there with snow-crazed Seattle drivers -- it's dented enough already, thanks very much -- and I knew commuting would be hell even if nothing terrible happened to me. Also, for various stress-related reasons, I just didn't feel like facing my boss, either. So, telecommuting. Since I don't have Internet access, that meant working from Ahna's place.
Ahna turned pretty much completely nocturnal -- I worked, she slept. It worked out well. That computer never saw a moment's rest: I worked until Lars got home, Lars would play WoW until he fell asleep around 1:00 or 2:00 am, and Ahna would use it until she went to bed as I was getting up. Weirdly efficient.
Somehow, though, these three days have subjectively lasted, oh, at least a week and a half.
I'm at the library, right now, downstairs from Third Place books. Just outside these doors is the surliest-looking mall Santa I've ever seen, sullenly waiting for overdressed children to dampen his lap and his spirits. There's still snow on the ground here and there, but none on the roads, so now I can admire its decorative qualities without resenting its presence.
And when I'm done here, I get to go home. That sounds so good.
The juxtaposition of these two objects -- one transient, fragile, purely symbolic, the other as close to permanent as we can make, and both objects having the same purpose, to protect people -- suddenly struck me as somehow completely transcendentally beautiful. Unintentionally arranged, but as aesthetically placed as lines in a poem.
I suspect sometimes that if we didn't wander around blind to it all -- if our senses weren't dulled from overexposure -- we'd realize that the whole world, all of it, was so incredibly beautiful, we'd be perpetually, helplessly dumbstruck.
Everything is still and quiet and white and beautiful, the effect of snow without the bitter cold and treacherous footing. It's shrouded and mysterious. Gothic weather.
People say they're "in a fog" when they're confused, distracted. Fog is an obstacle. If I were navigating a ship, cut off from stars and landmarks, I might see the truth of that metaphor. But being out driving, I find that there are no gaudy business signs, no billboards, clamoring for my attention. My world is reduced to what I need to pay attention to, what's right in front of me. I only have to think about how to handle the task at hand in this single moment.
It's a nice state to be in.
Then Jodie Watts took the stage. After a number or two, the lead singer looked out into the crowd and said:
"You know, we've got a lot of room up here on stage, so if anybody wants to come up here and dance, that'd be great. Actually, we've got a spare microphone up here, too, so if anyone wants to come sing with us, you can."
They're kidding, I thought. They can't really mean --
"Come on! Come on up here! You probably know the words to this one!"
And they started to play the opening notes of Just Like Heaven. My favorite Cure song ever.
A song that, for literally years, I've harbored a secret desire to sing, on stage, in front of an audience. Honestly.
I couldn't! I don't have the nerve --
The singer must have seen it all on my face, because then he pointed right at me and raised a questioning eyebrow.
Oh, I thought, what the fuck. And got up on stage.
"All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music," Walter Pater once said. I love doing my readings, don't get me wrong. I like being up on stage and weaving pictures with words. But I walk away from them, sometimes, wishing they had the immediacy, the energy, of musical performance.
Maybe that's overstating the case. Maybe a simpler way to put it is, I sometimes wish I were a rock star. Sure. Who doesn't?
For just a few minutes there, I got to be one.
It was an impossible moment; it was that Walter Mitty moment everyone secretly hopes for that never really comes, that kind of "Is there anyone on board who can fly this plane?" type of moment.
As impossible as, say, for example -- getting a second chance to know the girl whose name I never caught.
There is, at the center of my life, an impossibility. An impossibility that flashes me Cheshire-cat smiles, all soft curls and eyes dark as night, a glint in them like stars. A secret that sits in the middle and Knows. She reminds me that you can hold on to the impossible, that miracles happen all the time to those who reach out for them, that I can have everything I ever wanted. Be everything I ever wanted.
"As we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same," Marianne Williamson wrote. "As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Consciously or unconsciously, just by being near me, she gives me that permission. And I shine.
PIL loud and echoing dreamlike. I'm dancing, by myself on the floor of the Mercury, and the club is apparently empty, save myself and the unseen DJ, and windbourne. A blurry light shimmers on the floor, and for a moment it feels like we are far below a blood red ocean. I look over at her writing in her spiral notebook and I feel like we belong here, like sharks. She and I are the only creatures who can survive at these depths.
The music reminds me, deep in my bones, that there really was something going on in the Eighties, that there was a sound to this decade beyond the pop crap on the radio. There are singers with edges in their voices, drum machines with deathmarch staccato inevitability, synthesized melodies raw-edged and uncomplicated, the busy-signal hum of the end of the world.
I dance, and chase lasers with my moving arms, wishing their green light could pierce my skin like tattoo needles and leave its neon Spirograph pattern burning under my flesh. On the video screen, the world has already ended -- the Duke of New York has the terrified President up against a bullet-ridden wall. Donald Pleasance's little trapped pig eyes staring out of the screen as digital errors reduce his image to jerky boxes. He doesn't understand what's happening to him. This isn't a future he was ready for. This future is much more dangerous, what happened to our New York much worse, and there is no escape from it.
There is escape here, for a moment, and I dance, spinning, wanting to keep spinning dizzy until I fall. I want to give up air and breathe only sweet smoke, give up water for anything that will burn its way down my throat and leave me as dizzy as dancing and as breathless as kisses. I have already given up the ground for concrete and fire for laserlight, here at the bottom of our ocean.
I'm writing now, she dancing, our places silently changed like we already know all the steps of this dance.
The movie has changed -- now it's Logan's Run, and I have to smile. I am, I suppose, renewing myself here at Carousel, but my life didn't end at thirty. If anything, it's only just now beginning, with this breath and the next and the next.
This is not the life I expected. But I'm happier than I could have imagined. This is what you want, this is what you get.
This moment is perfect, and it will end, and be gone --
But if I'm fast enough, clever enough, my pen sharp enough, I can catch it and pin it to the page.
This I know. Because the fortune-cookie fortune taped to my monitor tells me so.
Today is a letter-perfect October day, bright and sharp as a jack-o'-lantern knife. The wind is getting into everything like a new kitten, pulling and tearing at candleflame leaves and cardboard boxes and yesterday's headlines, until nothing is where it belonged but nothing is out of place.
We'd talked about meeting last night, but didn't; we'd both been dead tired, and the roads were slick and lethal with rain. Today, then, instead, for lunch, before I have to go to work.
Afterward, a little coffeeshop I'd been wanting to take her to, one that's half a curio store, antique toys and old magazines and real records.
Iced tea for her and a mocha for me, and without preamble, she empties her small purse on the table and starts organizing it. Little notes to herself in her spidery writing, that she pauses and puzzles over. Handfuls of movie tickets -- it seems to me, glancing over them, that half of them or more were for movies we'd seen together. She starts putting things back in her purse. One little slip of paper catches my eye -- a Chinese fortune of her own:
You will be successful in love.
I reach out, touch one finger to the words, and slide the paper across the table to her. She picks it up, reads it -- a small and private smile plays at her lips, her eyes focus on nothing in particular.
She doesn't say anything. She puts the paper back in her purse.
I don't say anything. I think of all the things I could say, in that one long moment, and just smile a private smile of my own.
It's a letter-perfect October day, bright and sharp as a jack-o'-lantern knife, and the wind is getting into everything like a new kitten, pulling and tearing at candleflame leaves and cardboard boxes and yesterday's headlines, until nothing is where it belonged. But not one single thing is out of place.
Get home around noon and discover that the power in my building is off.
Not a problem, not really; there's some gloomy gray daylight filtering in through my windows, I have candles to light the rest of the place, and there's nothing in the refrigerator worth worrying about. I grope around for a can of cat food and feed the cat, then feed myself. (Fortunately I'd stopped at Arby's drive-through on the way back.)
The stereo doesn't have enough battery power to play a CD, so I flip it over to radio, expecting it's still tuned to C89.5 FM for a little techno. It's not. It's somehow on KBCS -- so instead, I get strange old acoustic folk music -- some piece recorded in 1929(!) and an unaccompanied version of "Trouble So Hard." (I'm a modern enough boy that I'd only heard the Moby version before.) The music really suited my electricity-deprived state, giving me the surreal impression that this whole modern age was just a fad that had finally passed.
I finish my lunch and then take a candle-lit shower. I'm mildly worried about running out of hot water, but there's plenty.
Nothing much left to entertain me here. I try calling windbourne, to see if she's busy this afternoon, but there's no answer. No answer likewise at Riff and treebyleaf's place. Oh, well, left to my own devices.
I've been saying lately that I'm still not getting enough exercise, so I figure I'll head out to Greenlake. I don't need to be at work until 6:00pm, so there's plenty of time. Spend an hour or so rummaging through my CD collection -- it's a mess -- looking for music to take with me.
I gather the last couple of things I need and am moments from heading out the door.
.... With an audible click, my lights come back on.
I'm still leaving.
Heartbeating firework loud under my skin, pulling it everydirection tight, if I move I know I'll tear right open. Want to write "I love you" in tight spiral stitches along every breaking seam, turn my love inside out and wear it open as new skin.
Want to write it all down a million times and use it up, wear it out, burn it all down like a million cathedrals all in your name and swear it's all true: I recant because I believe too much. Find every page in every dictionary that reads "I" or "love" or "you" and tear them out, burn them all, and replace them all with Else:
With dandelion seeds that wisp in wind, with sunset sand and firewood embers, with soap bubble promises and midnight medicine-sharp bottles shared in secret, drinks burning like kisses all the way down your throat. With birdsong and sandalwood, whispers and falling leaves.
With anything that speaks in silence, and speaks more truth than words. I will write you sonnets without ink on every blank page, and we will smile and smile and know.
Gray skies and clouds gave way to blue and white late in the afternoon, so I decided to take my bike out for the first time since I got back. I tore the place apart looking for my bicycling gloves, then finally remembered that I'd left them in the truck's glove compartment so I wouldn't have to go through this any more. Set out later than I'd like, the sun low in the sky, and I was worried I'd be cold, but it was all worth it. I'd forgotten how good it feels to be out on the bike, even though it's hard work.
Halfway around the lake, I saw that Garry Golightly, the Bubble Man, had gathered a small crowd of children with his act, sending huge frothy clouds of bubbles into the air for them to run and catch. I needed to rest anyway, so I stopped to watch, to listen to what he was telling them:
"Okay, now, do you want to see the biggest bubbles ever? Okay, now, we're going to blow seven huge bubbles, all right? Seven bubbles for the seven astronauts."
I watched each one, impossibly huge, three or four feet across, waver and twist and struggle to stay aloft. Thin and translucent and more delicate than the most finely spun glass, each one reflected the world in dozens of rainbow shades, in a brightslick oil-on-a-puddle sheen; ephemeral dreams of flight and escape.
They only lasted for moments, of course. That's what bubbles do -- they're not meant to last.
But still. They're worth having, aren't they?
Gung hey fat choy, everyone. I'm sorry I've been keeping you all waiting; I'll take you to Tomorrowland next, I promise.
So apparently there was a great big huge windstorm today. I love windstorms. I'm a little sorry I slept through it.
Up late last night. Had a good time. retcon and treebyleaf and I realized that we were unsatisfied with the Christmas dinners we'd had -- mine was a turkey dinner with the family, despite the continued efforts my father and I have made to try to convince my mother that we actually don't like turkey, and theirs was a last-minute slap-dash assortment of foods they assembled on realizing that they hadn't made any plans for Christmas dinner, so it seemed important to us to have a nice dinner on Boxing Day.
We ended up going to the new Olive Garden at Northgate North with our friend lokheed (who, I must mention had some lovely things to say about us in his journal on Christmas). Took a while for us to get a waiter to come over, but after we pointed this out to them, we got great service for the rest of the meal, a personal apology from the manager, and free desserts. I almost felt a little bad we'd said anything in the first place, but it was really nice of them.
From one horrifying architectural monstrosity to the next, I headed out after dinner to the Experience Music Project to see a free concert -- local goth bands Abney Park, Doll Factory, and The Sins. Couldn't talk Riff or treebyleaf into coming along, as they both had to work in the morning and were both exhausted already anyway.
Concert was a lot of fun. Saw several seagoths, although not as many as I'd expected. I thought The Sins were, err, pretty awful, actually. They have an amazing electric violin player, but he wasn't enough to make up for the shouty screechy lead singer. (Any Sins fans out there: I'm sorry. No, I don't mean I'm sorry for offending you -- I mean, I'm actually sorry you're fans.) Doll Factory and Abney Park were both excellent, though. I'd heard some of their music before, but it was much better to hear it live -- so much energy.
So, okay. There was this girl.
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I'm not sure if I should say to her: someone has died. The person she used to be.
I should know. I carry a graveyard in my heart, and I visit it some nights when there's no one else around. Let me show you.
See, over here, by the shade of this pond, there's the grave with its marker, "Gifted Child." That one was loved by all, but it had to do what all gifted children have to do, eventually; it had to go and grow up. We'll favor this grave with a solemn nod and move on.
There's an open grave, here near the entrance, waiting, death date not filled in yet, inscription unclear and I don't want to read it: I'm a little afraid that it might simply say, "Professional Web Developer," and I'm not looking forward to that funeral.
Let's keep going. Here's another one, an older one: "The Fan." This is the one who ran fan clubs and conventions and live-action games and turned away from the wide world so he could thrive in a smaller one, and he passed on when he finally took to heart what he knew all along -- that his gods and heroes, the special dreamers who made the special dreams he loved, were just bastards doing it all for money just like the rest of us.
Pardon me, please, for my moment of awkward silence at the graves of The Twins. I always feel this way, staring down at them -- the long-lived "Renée's Lover" and the almost stillborn "Renée's Husband." These two I don't understand, and maybe I never will.
What? No, we're not going over there, not to the center of the graveyard, not to the mausoleum. I won't tell you who's buried there -- I don't know you well enough, not yet. I'll only tell you this much: some of the selves lying here died of natural causes, and some the world killed. But the one who lies in that grave -- one fine terrible night, I killed him myself. I did it with these two hands. Can you still see the blood? It's all right if you can't. I can, and that's what matters.
It's all right if you want to leave now. I can stay here by myself.
I do, some nights. I stay for hours, and I'll drink until the names on the graves shift in my blurring sight, and I'll stare at them and wonder. What better use they would have made of the life I have now, if they'd lived.
And that's all right. It's all right to come here sometimes, and mourn.
But there's a secret.
The secret is -- After the night, after the mourning, comes dawn. The secret is -- you can walk out of here any time you like. And you do, and you keep going. Because there's always a road that leads out of here, and a rising sun to follow.
This was a birthday party for my friend Mindy, whom I've had a great big crush on ever since college and whom I lost track of for years and whom I'm thrilled to have back in my life -- she's warm and bright and friendly and happy and simply fabulous.
The party had some strange puzzle-solving game going on, with riddles and clues everywhere, and it looked like people were having fun -- but I hate puzzles and games, so I mostly hid downstairs at first and amused myself with books and the cat. treebyleaf, on the other hand, was being vivacious and outgoing and talkative. This, I think, indicates a deeper imbalance in the ways of the universe, an inversion of the natural order. I eventually was lured upstairs with birthday cake and ended up having a good time despite myself.
At one point late in the evening, retcon and treebyleaf and I were downstairs when the cat got up and growled and glared out the window, and we looked to see what had caught its attention. It was a huge raccoon, standing there staring in at us for at least a full minute, perfectly confident and calm. It was marvelous.
We eventually said goodnight to the birthday girl and headed off our separate ways. Riff was a little concerned about me finding my way home, since I'd had to follow him to the party, but I assured him I'd be fine.
On my way home, I pondered that; the fact that while I don't really know the streets of Seattle well yet, I never really seem to get lost. I have yet to drive myself anywhere I couldn't find my way home from; I have a decent sense of direction.
So when I'd reached home and realized I wasn't tired of driving yet, I decided to test that. I took a wrong turn and kept going.
And while I did, eventually, end up back on familiar streets and easily found my way home, I spent a good long while in completely unfamiliar territory. There's something odd I really like about cruising down strange, winding residential streets in the middle of the night, 120+BPM techno pumping out of my speakers and into my blood, looking out at all the darkened houses and knowing all the Good People are asleep in their beds.
At one point, I saw a sign I've never seen before: "No Center Line." Sure enough, I found myself on a featureless wide black ribbon of road, black sky and blacker trees silhouetted against it. And I felt the exultant feeling I was looking for so hard back in November -- This is it. Here I am. I'm finally off the map.
I still had a dollar and change left, and it was enough to buy myself a bag of pretzels and some peanut-butter bars at Safeway on my way there, my theory being that having food would keep me warm, and keep me entertained between meteors. I also had music to keep me entertained -- my Discman happened to still be in the truck from that last time I used it. It turns out The Head on the Door is a fine soundtrack for meteor-watching.
I arrived at Gasworks. I was a little worried about being there after hours -- I was afraid I might get hassled by the police and have to leave -- but I was surrounded by other people who'd had the same idea, which was nice. It was nice to be reminded that the park belongs to the people of Seattle, not to the police.
I was also worried about light pollution from the city, but at least the city itself was gorgeous, with a rosy haze hanging above its thousands of lights.
I have to admit -- I didn't see a lot of meteors. Maybe about a dozen. But the ones I saw were spectacular. Bright, fast, and often with huge smoke trails behind them, like huge Roman candles.
Good things to bring would have been a warm hat, and gloves, and a flashlight to find my way to and from the Annabel Lee. I was dressed for the cold, but it wasn't enough -- after only about forty-five minutes, I was ready to head home. I had vague ideas about changing into some even warmer clothing and heading out into the courtyard after all, but Shoreline was completely fogged in by the time I got home. That's all right -- I was happy with what I'd seen, and besides, I'd already made all the wishes I could think of.
I think this happened:
I remember waking up. Looking out the car window to the left and seeing a dead deer in (alongside? in the middle of?) the road. Looking up at wendolen's face to see if she'd seen it, but she didn't look like she had. Wanting to say something about it, but it was too late for her to see it, and I could already feel the gravity of sleep pulling me back down. I sank and slept again.
I think that happened. I might have dreamt it.
On the way back from the funeral, taking the long scenic route home wendolen had planned along the North Cascades Highway, we saw more deer than I could count.
It was amazing. I'd never seen anything like it before. I've only ever seen deer one or two at a time, glimpsed in passing, but here were entire herds of deer, grazing in the fields, looking unreal, fragile, magnificent. Neither one of us had ever seen so many.
It was the one we didn't see that was the problem.
The right front corner of wendolen's car hit it in the flank as it ran in front of us in the dusk. (If I close my eyes, even now, writing this, I can see it in our headlights, frozen in that terrible second of impact.) I don't know if it survived, and if it did, how long it survived.
wendolen pulled over and stopped the car. I felt like I was starting to lose it, so I urged her to get out and see how bad the damage was, partly so I had just a moment alone to give myself over to the wailing and tears I could feel waiting inside. I wanted to spare her having to hear it. I wanted to spare myself the indignity of having her there to hear it.
The World Trade Center, my aunt, her cousin, this deer, so much death, all at once. I felt like the world was ending. One little piece at a time.
My life is spent in a larger box, my travels normally bounded to the north by Vancouver, to the south by Portland. In my mind, there is nothing to the west but water, death by cold and wet and green; nothing to the east but desert, death by sun and rock and sand and bleached white bone. I've broken out of that box a few times, but not many, throughout my life.
Today, I wanted, really, sun on my skin; to be out somewhere in desert and scrublands, to stretch out on a rock like a big lizard and drink in sunlight. I wanted to touch the death that waits in the east and come back.
I decided that what I wanted was to go to Eastern Washington.
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