Growing up, my older brother collected butterflies. I remember little more than the lurid details—final flutters in the killing jar, paper strips and pins to assure rigor mortis set just right, and the second generation of smaller insects invading his collection’s abdomens.
At my age, memory dotters about the inessential, humming and speaking to and for itself. I struggle to find energy to record it.
The book I’m reading contains prose that makes me want to write. The urge has mostly passed otherwise. Somehow the mellifluence of language—yes, I just used the word “mellifluence”—withstands waves of failure and futility like the desperation to string notes that, to anyone else, are not music and certainly don’t suggest wisdom or weight.
Having nothing to say, it seems, can’t hold me back.
On the L this afternoon, as I unstacked my pile of stored podcasts, another passenger prattled about matters I couldn’t hear and only understood through the discreet upturned glances of other travelers.
Here’s another story:
Most of the lies I told in school cast me as dangerous. I told Dennis Fewell I’d tried mushrooms and, a week later, one of his friends, half-laughing and high-smirking, asked if I’d like to try again. I declined, burning as though I’d been caught, pants down, looking at what I ought not.
The stories I tell are so many layers of phyllo. The key, TV tells me, is the butter and dough folded over and over into thinner and thinner layers. The key, so TV says, is kneading for division—subtle and distinct.
One morning, surveying my unfulfilled potential, I hit upon something new—I’ve never learned to express my true self.
What followed was a twisty trip through various meanings and permutations of “true” and “self,” then the general miasma rising after another night spent skimming sleep.
Among my many envies, the strongest remains uplift. Its Pavlovian impact springs from desperate desire and salivation… or desire for salvation.
Oddly, a kind of humor comes from hopelessness. Ice and banana peels rely on finding no traction. Without the bite of true contact between surfaces, we’re free to disassociate, to dream the serious isn’t that serious. “Consequential,” after all, is a big word.
My last anecdote for now:
Sitting in my seventh-floor unit in West Lakeview Chicago, I watched, with some bemusement, a dog walker untangling her pet from four successive poles. What struck me, from my vantage, was how deftly she navigated absurdity, how unconsciously.
Knowing few readers have made it this far allows me to say I’m sorry for my staining, straining theme—the self-disgust accompanying me through every sentence, phrase, and word. I try to hide, I do.
I hope someone notes how hard I prod misery to sing.
I wake at 4 am. Who knows why, but the hour I spend before nearly anyone matters to me. It’s time no eyes are upon me. It feels weightless. I appreciate buoyancy typically denied.
Wind blow as it will, I float.