It’s 9:47 a.m., and I’ve got Third Eye Blind’s “Deep Inside of You” playing. I feel off today. The last month has been a whirlwind of impulsiveness. I’ve thrown all my usual cautions to the wind. Part of me wants to be this way all the time—seizing my days and making them mine, going after what I want. The other part still wants to retreat to safety, to the quiet facade I reserve for the surface.
I recognize that I shouldn’t have started my day by listening to the Decemberists because they always remind me of him and those grueling car trips to the Adirondacks. “June Hymn” always brings me back to when things required no real thought, and we simply were. Now we simply are not.
Some days I am content, and some days I am restless. On occasion I regret that I’m not still twenty and barefoot, running through the woods, getting caught in a canoe in the middle of a thunderstorm, making love to you on the porch as the monstrous ruck of a summer storm shakes the lakeside. I mourn some days that you and I will never be those people again.
You were my muse, and even though we are out of love, I still find it easiest to write about what we had. It was a bit of a fairytale wasn’t it? There are certain moments in life where magic is real, and getting to see it, however briefly, has given me a breadth of hope that it’s possible to brush with destiny every now and again. But I know I can’t go looking for fate, or waiting on it to make decisions for me.
“We were broken, didn’t know it…” the lyrics chime in. Every song feels like it belongs to me when I’m listening to it. But certain ones carry me off to different corners of my mind. I can’t listen to “Day Late Friend” [Anberlin] without visiting the cliffs of Montserrat on a rainy day in Barcelona, just like every time I hear “Nothing Like You and I” [The Perishers] I am 17 and driving away in my Jeep Liberty, crying after another fight with the same person who broke my heart at least ten different times in high school.
Maybe music is dangerous. Or rather it’s more correct to say that my my mind is a minefield and music is the catalyst. I’m desperately trying to weave in imagery and metaphors while I write. I don’t know if it’s holding together.
Then the shuffle kicks in, and now it’s City and Colour’s “The Girl.” This song has seen me through too many life events to count. I have flashes where I’m driving down the oceanfront’s Atlantic Avenue during the summer 2010. It was the year that I dyed my hair blonde and had a ridiculous fling. Slight regret still taints my view of that summer. But other times, this song places me on a hopeful drive up to New York for school. The worst is when memory brings me to that first DC basement apartment, where I’m laying on the floor thinking about the rotten things that distance can do to love.
But I’m jerked back to the present. It is Wednesday July 29, 2015. I am an account executive at Banner Public Affairs and a former defense journalist. A coworker approached my desk offering me a quick writing project on IT mobility. “Its exciting stuff, not like the cybersecurity topic I had you doing last week,” he says laughing. I nod and chuckle uncomfortably, “Yes, definitely, much less dry.” It’s not, but I know this assignment is supposed to be exciting. I release a sigh of relief as he appears not to have noticed, walking away sipping coffee.
Writing is the only time I feel like myself, even when it’s the saddest, hardest thing to do. Seven years ago I wanted to be an essayist—scratch that, I’m lying as usual. It’s still what I want to do. Since I was 18 and sitting in Dana St. John’s journalism elective, I’ve wanted to be Malcolm Gladwell writing about people, places, and ketchup conundrums. I want to go run back to my literary home, to Oxford commas and pyramid writing. The reverse doesn’t suit me well; AP Style is death.
I have a pile of work to finish, but my motivation has entirely disappeared. My bosses are out, and congress is out of session. I was hired here because I have a breadth of knowledge about the Department of Defense. By that, I mean I was an incredibly bad reporter at a defense trade publication, and my dad was in the Navy—”expertise” indeed. In essence, the last seven months have been an exercise in humility and embarrassment. But it’s fine… I am fine.
Shuffle again, and “Sparks” [Coldplay] is on. I hate how much longing this song makes me feel for no real reason. I’ve always wanted to slow dance on a rooftop to this song with stringed lights overhead. But that’s all in my head, as are most of my truly romantic encounters—imagined only. I’ve never learned my lesson about seeing things through rose-colored glasses, and how expectation rarely grazes reality.
Romance has always been grittier than that. You’d think I would have recognized that sooner. It’s not forty lines of poetry, naming your future schnauzer George, or imagining the library you will have in your house in Upstate. It’s walking through the streets of New York late at night after you’ve had too much to drink. The sidewalks are stained with leaking garbage bags and piss, but we kiss while waiting for a cab anyway. It’s messy. It’s being so tired, too sweaty from the swampy weather in DC to make it to my bed after walking two miles from the train to my apartment. It’s falling asleep on the couch, hands half-held, shoes still on.
But that’s okay, I think. All of life can’t all be yellow roses and bokeh lights. Sometimes it’s finding an adventure with an undetermined destination with a friend who has kind brown eyes instead of a soulmate with boundless oceanic blue ones. It’s different than what I expected, but it isn’t less good.
Its high time that I amend my view about what love is. Maybe it isn’t lyrical or poetic, but rather someone who accepts your faults as much as you accept theirs. Perhaps it’s making room for someone else because you’ve chosen them and they’ve chosen you, instead of letting some hand of fate or destiny decide for you. I can’t know that I’ll feel this certain forever, but for now I can accept that the unknown isn’t always bad.
Right now, there are no definitions, which is hard for me because I like everything in life to be quantified and qualified with words. But I know that I don’t need it so much as I want it. Sometimes things are better left unsaid. For the first time in my life, I am aware that it’s fine that I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, next week or next month.
Anyway, definitions aren’t an insurance policy. I used to believe that was reckless, that to have no plans was to be putting my heart in harm’s way. I should want my heart in harm’s way. I can bear the hurt every day if it means I am actually living. I can be happy today and sad tomorrow because there’s always another tomorrow until there isn’t I suppose.
I am preoccupied, now, with figuring out if this elegy is technically stream of consciousness or if it’s just an exercise in writing all my unconsciously desirous thoughts in one place. Maybe it’s both. I guess we’ll see.