Mind in a flurry, heavy door pressing on my elbow as I hold it open, you’re standing in the corridor and talking, and I’m holding the book you just gave me. I’m flipping through the pages while you’re being too tentative and polite, waving the receipt just in case I don’t like it and don’t want it. What nonsense are you sprouting, what ideas are you having with a suggestion like that? While you’re talking I scan the epigraph: “All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is.” I close the cover and hold the book even more tightly. I dislike this arrangement, this corridor space you’re suspended in, this conveyer belt you’re on; it’s very hard to say thank you properly when we’re all awkward with each other, always too happy to steal away when we’ve created a moment together.
This winter break I felt a complete stranger, realizing “what the world is” and feeling the pain of it; the sheer alienation. I didn’t, at that point, have the emotional resources to understand the humbling beauty of that revelation that I’m only opening myself to now. I felt more like a specter of a person with each day. The hours of my 20th birthday were spent most specter-like, the culmination of spectatorship. I visited museums with a friend in DC and then took a solitary bus ride back to New York, riding through the golden hour, taking the longer walking route back. It was the best way I could have possibly spent it, but it was an unsettling heralding of a new age, one probably to be spent feeling more and more estranged with each day.
I need to hold on to youthfulness, the only salvation at this point. But can youthfulness be consciously held, inhabited? We can take pictures of it, we can draw it. Facebook is saturated with vital images of vital people, the narratives of their singular lives and precious youthfulness stretched across beautifully tailored pictures, evidence of their existing, in the prime of their lives. Some times I break down a little, feeling like I haven’t lived because I don’t see enough pictures of it, feeling like in-between hours outside the pictures never happened. And I feel this desire to be the source of a perverse joy in mistakes and immaturity. University is a funny jungle, living in a fishbowl of young adults. I see ourselves so much as children, all still little children, reveling in our fruitless loves and messings up to the degree that they can still help us feel young. But this isn’t enough to be young. My prayer - to someday find that actual source of youth and hold on to it, to go past contriving thrills, to catch myself truly delighted.
Columbia, New York. How do you do?
Sounds travel up and down the hall and I catch the words ‘you belong here’…a boy next door reciting the words off the Spectator. I feel watched. I have to acclimatize myself to a culture of open doors - people look and linger, look and walk. Should I extend a cordial invitation at every turn? Sounds travel up and down and for a while I miss the sentiment, grace and vulnerability of the intonations of my mother tongue. The cadence of which has always conveyed a peculiar heartfeltness; the tones rise and dip in thought, rise and dip close to the core. My habitual inflections are now involuntarily half coated beneath a thick, impersonal American vigor.
In the equally harsh daylight we exchange names and faces. I enjoy walking pass people in the dark. I saw people at the grand piano in the lounge by a dim light. Why does intimacy occur without the lights? Why does the darkness convey it? Like Caravaggio’s paintings the consuming darkness wraps subjects in the stuff of the unknown. The familiarized figure is now the subject of mystery, an invitation for discovery…perhaps again. There is a need no more for further enlightenment, we can escape the utilitarian gaze of light and meet, beyond the details - superficial, biographical; meet where we matter.
People walk by for a split second and they shake me. I don’t know how far I am invited, if at all, into the circuit of their lives.
"How can we be whole together if you are not empty in the place that I am to fill?"