come and go and start and stop recur and are re-referenced as we walk stand crawl slide across and over, up and through the Twisty Whirly Earth.
First you write sentences, then you write paragraphs, then you write chapters, and then you write books. A whale swims through the ocean for seventy years, then suns on beaches and passes away. Whale to beached bones, all while godeyes sneeze shut.
The stories of our journeys are the bones of that journey, and may be the only bones we leave when we too stop our wanderings.
Four years ago, I met someone and we played around for two weeks, jumping and dodging, me not knowing what to do, she not knowing what the next move would be. Ultimately, my nervousness got the best of me, and that Chapter was left unrealized. The Narrative had failed, and I felt like I had lost the plot.
Other things were happening, too.
My uncle and grandfather were both dead, killed in the space of six months by their respective diseases.
Their deaths, and this false start with a girl, the girl who could have been my first, combined to destroy the illusion of self that I had carefully constructed for the world’s consumption over the previous preceding 11 years of my waking life.
Mohammed, that dark-skinned desert prophet, said that in order to live we must die, die while still living. That is what happened to me. I realized the possibility of such a death, a suicide I could effect while at the same continue my walkings on the Earth (walks whose cessation I’ll miss most when I go to my terrifying and thought-nullifying grave.)
So that’s what I did. I became a walking ghost, going through the motions. It was a dark and terrifying time that seemed to last forever. Looking back, time runs together
But then, slowly, surprisingly, I began to be saved.
I took pills, and they worked. I made new friends, I ventured into a new city and let my mind grapple with new ideas, ideas my previous self had discarded and disregarded.
I was still a failure, still weakened from my ordeal, but I was beginning to stretch my limbs.
I returned to the house of my father, and sat there for six months, wondering what would become of me.
An old friend called my father one day and offered me a job. I took it with pleasure, a lying smile on my face. One day he asked me what I wanted to be. “A novelist,” I said. “You want to write a novel?” he said. “Just read the Da Vinci Code and knock it off.” Not that kind of novelist, Boss.
The work was easy. Simple. They didn’t have enough for me to do. I discovered the pleasures of this new technology that would enable me to talk to women who I sort of knew without the risk of rejection. I messaged at work, and made a plan to go to New York and see about a girl.
I went to New York but did not have said girl’s number (a failure of technology, I think) and went back empty handed.
There was another girl I had recently met, a beautiful girl with dark hair. While I had talked to her at that bar, more excited and alive then I had been in recent memory, I resolved that the next time I saw her, I would ask her out.
I did not see her again for close to seven weeks, across a Thanksgiving, a Christmas, a conference in Orlando, a concert in Atlantic City.
When I met her again, I was speechless the entire night. In the back of my head, I watched myself sabotage my chances, fearing rejection.
The next day, I had my friends fix us up.
The rest was a chapter of its own.
And now she’s gone, and sometimes, it’s like she was never here to begin with, or maybe because I invented a self that could be with her, that self is now gone, and I am back where I started, a partial ghost.
This afternoon, the girl from way back when, the one with the false start, called me on the phone. She said she had come to Philadelphia on a whim, and she wanted to see me.
We went to get coffee, and then we walked through the park. I smoked a cigarette, and a homeless man came to bum one and then proceeded to talk to us for the rest of our time there. He told us he was the only leprechan in America. He asked us our birthdays and read us our signs. He was the same sign as me, a Cancer.
I told him I had always thought Cancer was the worst sign. He disagreed, but told us how if you accept something from a Cancer, and it goes poorly, or something like that, the Cancer will then hurt you, mentally or emotionally. It’s funny – it’s true. It’s what I had done to this girl, all those years ago, when it had ended badly.
I regretted that so much. She wouldn’t talk to me, and I began to realize that I would never see her again, that she was out of my life forever. The whole think stank of a kind of death.
I went on with life, knowing what loss was, knowing what regret was.
And now my girl is in South America, at the ends of the Earth, and I may never see that one again, and I know loss, and I know regret.
Since then, I’ve been waiting. Waiting for the narrative to continue. Waiting for “Six Months Later” to flash across the title card.
I guess life has a way of surprising everyone, even me.
And that’s how a chapter ends. That’s how a book gets written. That’s how a life gets lived.
The greatest opportunity – gift, maybe – that we get in this Crazy World with its Crazy Rules is the Inevitability of Change. Contained in that law of nature is all the joy and all the sadness in the entire world.
It’s more than enough for anyone, including me.