I remember one day I wrote a story I thought you wanted to read. It was about a girl with rose colored glasses. She literally wore tinted sunglasses wherever she went. I thought I was saying something. You didn’t like it.
I remember one day I was invited to your home and your parents loved it when I came by but you didn’t want to share them with me. My background was too foreign. I was a nomad in the uncharted West. You lived in a house built perfectly for four. A house that made you stay. A house that kept your roots buried deep.
I remember one day I was told I didn’t look like them. I didn’t look like my history. I didn’t speak like my ancestors. I had forgotten where I came from. I was the one they saw sometimes. I came out from hiding sometimes, just long enough to scrape by with pleasantries and my background was too foreign.
I remember one day I wanted to be just like you. I wanted to know more than I did and even more than I ever could. I wanted to know exactly who I was in all of the complicated mess. I wanted to look like someone who made sense.
I remember when I built it all. My way. Without a road map. Uncharted. Against the pavement still wet from settling. With the west to my back and my eyes set to the future.
It’s about longevity, not speed, they say. The moments that bleed one into the next add up with such complexity that one experience would not make sense against another. But somehow, the uneven lines match in a unique pattern known to no one but the ones who care to know.
It’s about the long game. The long haul. The long tail. Because time is given to us in long trails of wonder and tears and him and her coming in and out so fluidly. We work hard to toughen up, to keep going and work hard in a way that makes others wonder and envy the hard work.
But why? Why make the hard work so important? Why make the intensity more coveted than the pause and relaxation in between the moments of rich toughness?
Because there is nothing much else. Because life behind the fire line is stronger and richer than the world in the void. Because identity spurs in the flames.
Our identities begin in the flickering light. They take hold in the uncomfortable and the unspeakable and become apparent when eyes are closed and stark beginnings creep into unofficial endings.
And only when the pace of the long haul blends with the here and now will the best parts emerge. Only then will we be seen in the best parts of the flickering light and stark beginnings.
It’s that tightness in the gut, a paralyzing force, a signal to the brain to begin its hyperactive dance of impatient steps and 8-counts.
One two three four, look back and wish to be then and there. Five six seven eight, hold steady to the goal of the future without forgiveness for deviations. Around and again spin in an endless and narrow tunnel of focused light and airless space. The strict remembrance of the past marries the indelible life of the future. And in the meantime, the hyperactive dance of impatient steps and 8-counts plays on.
The then and then sound the same, an unidentifiable noise muffled and drowned out by other influences. It’s a roar thrown from a far off place, coming through the window in a constant wave while you’re trying to sleep. But the meantime is different. It is a conversation, a laugh and a pause.
The meantime is here. Now. The words on the page type out just as quickly now as they did then or they will soon. The small moments in the meantime stack like yellow and red Lego blocks, building in small and understated sections of the universe, but erecting higher without warning. Until one day the small moments become the monumentious monoliths of the past, defining who we are as though we knew the red blocks and yellow blocks were always so.
We are caught in the meantime. In the quiet space of creating and observing and laughing and pausing and doing. So close to the creation that it looks like a nothing more than a red or yellow block waiting to be stacked toward the sky.
Every story in the whole world has already been told at least once. Every one. Seven plots for seven stories. The Greeks claimed mythology. Fables and folk tales from Africa and South America. All full of quests and overcoming obstacles and going and coming back and rebirth and comedy and tragedy and am I missing any? Rags to riches. The one we in America love to hear. The one that makes us all believe we can push ourselves beyond our stations. We only need to work hard and put our heads down no matter who you are or where you come from and then one day…
Every story has been told. So why bother telling any at all? We’ve heard it all before, right? Remixed and repurposed like our histories. Spit out into seven constructs, and they damn well better fit perfectly because we can’t think past the narrative. So we put our heads down and work hard and fit the narrative and then one day…
But what if there was an eighth story? What if the narrative went on and on without predictability and rebirth was a constant movement and the damn thing was a comedy disguised as a tragedy but the laughs never came? And what if each of our little narratives were told and understood and not assumed? What if we are the eighth story? What if.
Of course, this doesn’t matter to those narrow-minded ones who don’t bother to take in the eighth story. Those who don’t care to hear the narratives of the ones who are bold and messy and striking and pushing against the struggle to be heard. The narratives of the ones who feel the sting of exclusion and powerlessness and complications of the eighth story. The narratives that sit on the fringes and want so desperately to feel a part of the seven stories but can’t shake off how unique they really are. Those who can’t see the eighth story can only see the seven narratives and assume and categorize and place parameters and turn one story against the other.
But the eighth story needs to be told. It’s begging to be said and understood and maybe if it puts its head down and works hard, then one day…
Nothing good ever happens after 2:00am. But 1:00am. That’s the time when everything comes together. The magic happens. At 1:00am, the steps become clear for the first time. A previously broken pattern turns into the perfect algorithm. The code is read to reveal a new solution. Traps dissolve. Paths appear beyond the haze thick with cold mositure.
The magic hour of 1:00am preserves tempered reason of 9:00pm but quiets the critic. It takes the logic of day and smatters it with the wrecklessness of night.
At 1:00am, the past takes no space. Injustice sleeps and cultural divides are met with street tacos and halal carts. The same buildings cast different shadows. Music and laughter is louder than shouts of men telling women who they are.
At 1:00am, everything suddenly becomes important. The books unread, the conversations unsaid. They are all necessary at 1:00am. Pages and words hold secrets that can’t be known in the waking hours. Pillows call like sirens, but the books and the conversations are the only things that matter then. At 1:00am.
I want to live in the 1:00am before it moves into 2. When the magic turns dark and the words hit harder and the paths wipe away and the injustice stirs from intoxicated sleep long enough to pierce the night with hateful slurs. I want to live in the 1:00am when the night is not so young but full of life and wisdom. When the hope of something more is shared between two people over a bowl of pasta and a glass of house red.
I’m living in my head seeing the future of things and it’s vast and wide and narrow and cramped and I’m wondering so much and questioning so much. And this much can be a lot to sink into and a lot to sink in, too.
But a funny thing happens when we shut off that little part of the brain that says it’s all too much. When we decide to stop listening to the worried friend living on the inside of our left ear. The one who says to stop. The one who says to “never give up” like the bumper sticker fixed on the bedroom closet says to do, but also to be careful and the world is a destructive place and vulnerability is death and so is your voice if you let it be heard so maybe it’s time to give up. A funny thing happens.
Sparks. The kind of white burst of hot light that force the deep darkness out of view. The kind that gets poets out of bed. The kind that makes you believe that your worldview has been too old for too long. The kind that makes you remember that one person can change your mind. The kind that makes vulnerability a secret weapon. The kind that lets you see the future as it really is: A mirror of all of your insecurities. A past looking back at you now in this moment and wondering how it all happened so fast. A hope for something to be different.
And the sparks will burn out and vulnerability will look strange again and the voice in the left ear will be back, but we’ll know we saw the burning hot white light. And we’ll know we can never go back from that.
Why is “shedding skin” the universal analogy for letting go? Why do snakes get all of the glory of being the only ones who have seemed to figure out how to move confidently into a new life? Who are we to not shed our skin so dramatically but still use the analogy as if we do it all the time?
I’m going to say I’m taking off my shoes. That seems more appropriate for symbolic closure. I’m taking off my shoes. After a tough day. To begin relaxing into the night. Putting an end to a trip. A long night at the park. A run or a session at the gym. In anger. In welcomed relief. In sadness. Struggling with the laces. Or slipping out easily. Letting it all go.
Apparently the full moon is the perfect time to take off your shoes. To let go of the day. To feel the ground. In the full moon, shoes are like tied bricks in the East River. (Or is it the Hudson?) The bind is fierce. But so is acknowledging there is a hold to begin with. We reflect on the weight. We reflect on the aches and blisters suffocating our feet. We hold onto these blisters knowing that they were never really a part of our feet, but they became so ubiquitous that we couldn’t see past the ache and the deformities.
To let go, to untie the tied bricks and slip off the shoes, to stare at the sores and the broken bones and know they no longer belong to us, to move into the next step with clean and bare feet…that is a gift I hope we all get.