Monday, May 31, 2010


Past Freedom Parkway, past the streets with names of pioneers, and the skyscrapers, is the Interstate. It cuts right through the heart of the city, dividing it, like a pulsing vein with blood running on energy drinks. Once you reach the Interstate, you know where you are. North or South, it’s hard to get it wrong. As we drive down 14th street, over the Interstate and into the industrial quarters, I notice signs that announce, I-75 South. But there are no signs for North. The road pulls you by the sleeve to drive South. It is the place to go.

This time, we are not going South. Like all city folk, we are going shopping. It seems that there are few fulfilling activities save for that. I remember Thoreau at this point, and I cringe, for he’s been crying bitter tears ever since I’ve been infected with consumerism. I think of him warmly, remorsefully. But the light turns green and on we go, away from the luxurious Starbucks and the fancy Waffle House of downtown, toward the secluded place where Wal-Mart is. After all, we have a list to satisfy.

There is no silence in the car. We’re both making ourselves guilty of the garrulousness typical of old people who’ve nobody to talk to. And now, finally, someone. I don’t know if our talk is trivial, if we’re making inane comments that I’d otherwise roll my eyes to. Right now, we’re just talking. Times are good.
On the way home, she reminds me to take a left on Piedmont, and I rejoin with a pretentious formulation that means Duh! Again, a redundant comment. It is nice to have somebody to make redundant commentary to, even if it serves no purpose. It’s a way to say “Hey, I’m still alive.” Under the numbing effect of the repetitive motions of life, I welcome any occasion to say it.

“Have you ever been to a gay bar before?” she asks me as we pull into a patio barroom where the multicolored flag flutters in the wind. And I remember Synergy back in Macon, where we went to cavort under neon lights and demented music with all the topless gay boys. How easy it was to not worry about some guy’s palm evaluating your butt. How liberating to not be afraid that it would happen. The girls in Synergy, the gay girls, well, they’d never do such a thing. They have a radar, I’m told. They know we don’t play for the same team. So it’s peaceful and exhilarating at Synergy, this crossroads of divergent targets that coexist so well, and half-forget themselves in that drugging music.

“So, have you?” she brings me back from the reminiscing lapse. “Many times.” So we sit there feeling weird, among so many eccentrically-dressed people with all kinds of agendas, and we’re wondering if they’re feeing weird sitting next to us. I am sure they don’t. And, as far as we’re concerned, we feign we don’t either. We have cake, the American portions, I forget that we should have split one, because we are in supersize country, and we are normally-sized people. I almost finish the monster. She merely contemplates hers. As we walk back to the blazing car, where the sun has made our very own Hades, we carry our to-go boxes and admire their design. What a pleasure to feed an entire conversation with such trivial things.

Back home, she discovers that her chocolate’s melted in the car and throws a tantrum. I’m a little scared, mind you. I retreat on the floor, where the hurricane will hit me the least. Under the pretense of checking my e-mail, my fingers tap relentlessly on the keyboard. Tomorrow I will buy new chocolate, I promise myself. Under my eyebrows, I watch her feet entering the room. Even her walk is irritated. She sits down at the computer and sighs. She’s begun a conversation on Skype, the one she really wanted to have. I can almost imagine what she’s writing, a word from him will make her smile, and as I snap my fingers she’ll metamorphose, like a caterpillar into a butterfly. In fifteen minutes she’ll emerge in here, where I am, and, with all gall dissolved, she’ll ask ingenuously, What should we eat? That’s the thing about us, computer-huggers. Somehow, we always end up wishing that we were somewhere else.

Friday, May 21, 2010

No goodbyes

Sylvie est apathique. Not without reason, no. One could say that the stifling Georgia heat would beset me enough as it is, but as it turns out it wasn’t the only factor in my pitiful deflation. The last few blows I received from The Institution were formidably petty, and it was the shock of them, rather than the implications, that shook me into slow-motion. I have not shaken it off yet. I suppose time heals everything. So I wait for the mighty Chronos to deliver me.

An excuse for why I haven’t been writing. I ought to try to persuade myself that it’s not laziness, a decidedly unflattering motivation for any writer, however minor. So this is what I tell myself: it has nothing to do with being lazy. And in fact, it’s almost true.

But now it’s time for departure, and I’ve no last words, no goodbyes. Yesterday we went to play trivia, the last time for me, I suspect, and I didn’t even look back at the place, measure it with a ceremonious look, as I’d have done in another time. Perhaps if I had, the memory of the place would condense into that last view of it. The high ceilings with fans whirling insanely, people carousing down below, rubbing their potbellies full of beer, a rosy-cheeked Dargan hollering undecipherable things into the mic. A small town barroom, and yet, a place of returning, of affection born of habitude, a place where eventually people know your name, and fear you as you grab the pencil and the trivia sheets. Ah, moments. Moments make so much more of places than they really are.

Speaking of visual memory, I ought to snap a photo of the many boxes that surround me. But I don’t like to remember this sort of circumstance. Moving is a time that makes me wary. Packing is an activity that makes me nauseous. In our Brownian movement through the topography of this continent, a lot of energy is expended. Energy from fear, while so inevitable it is to fear uncertainty, to find yourself at the mercy of an American law that counts freedom in days, like an hourglass, pouring and pouring sand, ominous and hostile. Personally, I find it frightening. I seek a little bit of balance and, when I find it, I sleep, as if to make up for the three sleepless years at The Institution, where I’ve bargained my life and my health for some promised distinction that in the end I didn’t even receive. It’s shaming how much we are ready to sacrifice for a travesty. And even I, who so resolutely advocated content over form, eventually fell for the form, and cried for it. I cried as I buried fairness once more. Remember Battleship Potemkin, dear communists? Dignity is to not be given food with worms in it. As to me, I’ve a worm stuck between my teeth.

I eventually took a photo of the boxes, because this moment must be documented. Another departure rings its bells, but luckily there won’t be anybody here when I leave, to see me lament. I’ll go silently, just as I arrived. As I back out of the driveway with my overweight car I’ll make sure to have Kleenex handy. So, this is it, Macon. No goodbyes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Life goes easy on me, most of the time

And so it is, April will be remembered as the month that allowed me only one entry. Allowed, I say, because it’s not about crumbs of time, here and there, to get another paragraph down, and at the end of the day collage them onto a webpage. It’s a state of mind, this writing affair. Affair, I say, because it’s like a fling, on and off, today I’m brilliant, as somebody says, tomorrow I’m lazy and rambling, another’s words. Cut the fat, he says. Well if I cut the fat, I have but an empty page. And so it comes that in April this page is barren, like Saskatchewan in December, like my head after red wine straight from the bottle.

And so it is. April, the month of frenetic, intrepid applications. "Apply," my new voodoo word, like “Voldemort.” Life’s galloping along and I’m standing still, my computer and I, cheated by inertia, applying, applying madly, relentlessly. A life of applications. And it was breezy until here, she says. Now you’ll see how it gets tough.

What is this tough we’re headed toward, blindfolded? They lure us with all sorts of promises. An education, they say, opens doors. So I twist the knob. But the doors are firmly shut, so I’m knocking now, applying again, as I’ve done three years ago, as I promised myself, for the last time. How seldom we keep the promises we make to ourselves.

It occurred to me today that there are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who build, and people who demolish. You can write false dichotomy on my cross, if you will, but I’ll say it either way. I don’t find that there is anybody in between. There is such incongruence between the two that they polarize into mutually exclusive characters. One who builds cannot demolish, for in sabotaging another builder, he vicariously sabotages himself. The one who demolishes does it because he is incapable of building and, since he exists in the world like everybody else, he has to find something to do. So he demolishes what others build, or prevents things from being built at all.

To be clear, to demolish is utterly necessary. If nature needs creatures to eat other creatures for the world to keep running, who are we to take issue with nature? People who demolish are necessary, no doubt. Often times, they demolish things that are redundant or noxious. I praise them, really. They complete the food chain of our creative operations, which are ever so fecund, ever so postmodernist. But demolish is what they do, so they do it with all that exists in the world, not just what is superfluous. So many builders are buried in this way, thwarted beyond recovery, interred together with their inchoate creations, or under them. Tant pis, you’ll say. You’ve got to toughen up. Strong people succeed, weak people cry.

Yes, I know. And yet, what’s life like for softies, I wonder. I bet it’s not so bad?