Most times, when something instrumental in forming your life occurs, there is no anticipation up to it; instead, it will hit you faster than you have time to react and you will inevitably be left standing in the midst of a mess so cataclysmic that you don’t know whether you should burst out laughing in hysterics or fall on the ground screaming, crying that you never knew that this would happen to you, and if you did know, you would have changed before it happened, so it wouldn’t happen at all. But sometimes that thing that hits you isn’t a piece of news or traumatic change or even a gradual unfolding of events, sometimes it is simply a revelation in the form of a person, one that awakens the innermost clouded pieces of yourself so completely that there hasn’t been a moment, from when it was first birthed in your mind, that you could ignore it, and there is no longer and has never been any way to avoid it, this howling thing lying in your arms, and now you have no choice but to hold it and nurture it, but somehow you still have the urge and the knowing that you must share it with everyone you meet. But I’m not really talking about a child, am I? No, this is knowledge that speaks for itself but cannot do so without you, without me, and it is not some radical form of religion either, it is the reaquaintance with the knowledge each and every person possesses but rarely acknowledges; it is the story of mankind hidden beneath war-paint and computers and tracking devices, the things that hold us back from seeing who we are, who we have become, and most importantly who we once were and how we’ve managed to survive for so long on our own, individually, when we were meant to be a whole, meant to interact as a collective body, meant to question and explore together to peel away the strangeness we’ve covered ourselves with and reveal the fundamental pieces of who we are and what we’re supposed to be. Somehow our fundamental truths have become a series of truths, separated by oceans and mountains and walls built between out minds, but while we try to distinguish ourselves by them, we are rooted in the same principles, and cannot be cleaved from them because we all can’t help but cling to something deep inside of ourselves that is the same and holds us all together; our hearts and minds are copies of our sister’s, our neighbor’s, our realtor’s, our president’s, our, our, our, and so on. We all write the same story in that we relive the footsteps of our father’s so diligently, passing on his memories that our own lives try so hard to suppress.
These things I’ve come to know and see through a life-long journey of two months, a journey which tested my patience almost to the point of insanity and broke me down so thoroughly that I still don’t know if I will ever be able to return to the society I once knew as the man they once knew me as, because I have seen too much destruction and tasted too much bitter-sweetness and felt too much joy for a single man to experience; they wouldn’t understand, and I wouldn’t know how to tell them. But I can’t let this be untold, so here I give you my story; one of the greatest degree of pain, of joy, of relief, of remembrance– one given to me as a gift-wrapped slap in the face for reasons still unbeknownst to me. Enjoy while you still can:
It, this thing, this event, this person, began its terror on the most mundane evening of my comfortingly uneventful existence by the most unconventional of means. It was Friday night, right after I had gone to the local bookstore my buddy Paul owns, Barnum’s Books, where I always go once or twice each week after work, after I had rummaged through the books, I’d said goodbye to Paul and left, beginning my journey of pushing my way through the crowd with my brand-new book in hand, bumping into wrinkly, purple-haired ladies with their knitted grocery bags, slipping in between couples out on a date, the guys glaring at me because somehow I always manage to accidentally jostle their girlfriends, and just as I step out off the curb to let a mom and her kid in a baby carriage go by, and then it all begins. This woman jumps out of the crowd and plants herself in front of me and just starts talking, talking, talking about who knows what, but I guess there must be a lot of weird people here because I’m not phased by this at all, so I ignore her and try to scoot past her, but she takes me by the shoulders and starts cursing at me, and her face is less than three inches from mine as she’s telling me what a horrendous person I am. Now it’s not just the guys with their girlfriends who are glaring at me, but it’s the little old ladies too, and they’re shaking their heads and thinking of how corrupted and vile today’s youths have become and how much pleasanter it was when they were my age, and they’re hoping that their grandsons aren’t friends with me and they’re hoping that their granddaughters don’t want to date me because everyone knows of my horrible reputation even though they don’t know my name. But I’m not thinking about my reputation right now and all I’m focused on instead is this crazy woman standing in front of me who’s saying I betrayed her and I destroyed her life even though I swear I’ve never seen her before, but she keeps saying my name as she’s flipping me off and screaming for the whole world to hear, and so I start to wonder if maybe I actually do know who this is. I’m almost ashamed to say that while considering this I’m practically laughing because even if this was my sister I wouldn’t recognize her because her face is so red and her hair is sticking up like she’s been electrocuted and her voice is beginning to sound more like a donkey’s bray than an actual woman’s voice, and so I just give up and turn around and start walking back the way I came, but she follows me and her fists are pounding on my back and now I’m finally starting to get pissed so I whirl around and smack her hands down and ask her what the hell she wants, and it’s at that moment that her face goes from red to gray and she looks like she’s seeing the world crumble down around her and people are dying in the streets and there’s blood everywhere, and so she bends down and throws up in the street. She crumples down beside her mess and starts sobbing and I don’t know what to do with this woman who looks like she’s going to just lay down and die there in the street, and there are people staring and asking me if I’m just going to leave her there, and so I guess I bent down and picked her up like a bird with a broken wing and carried her home to my apartment and made her wash her mouth out, gave her some soup and set her down on the couch and tucked a blanket around her and let her sleep for a while. I stand in the kitchen looking at this creature, and I can’t help but notice how much more peaceful she looks with her eyes closed and her face washed and calm; it’s a nice face, young and innocent, almost child-like, but somewhere beneath that there’s a grey, almost metallic undertone, something bitter that makes her seem farther removed from me, like she’s almost not human, but she sleeps so contentedly that I can almost see past that and I wonder who she is. I just realized I don’t know her name, but somehow I know that I have time to know that and much more; somehow, standing here gazing at this compete stranger, this crazy woman who attacked me and who is now sleeping like an angel in my living room, somehow I know that I will never be rid of her for as long as I’m alive.