“They seemed to be in New York as I was, on some indefinitely extended leave from wherever they belonged, disciplined to consider the future, temporary exiles who always knew when the flights left for New Orleans or Memphis or Richmond or, in my case, California. Someone who lives with a plane schedule in the drawer lives on a slightly different calendar. Christmas, for example, was a difficult season. Other people could take it in stride, going to Stowe or going abroad or going for the day to their mothers’ places in Connecticut; those of us who believed that we lived somewhere else would spend it making and canceling airline reservations, waiting for weatherbound flights as if for the last plane out of Lisbon in 1940, and finally comforting one another, those of us who were left, with oranges and mementos and smoked-oyster stuffings of childhood, gathering close, colonials in a far country.”
-Joan Didion, Goodbye To All That
This is the first time I’m quoting from my favourite essay by Didion. I tried my hardest to not do that here because I was afraid that this essay says a bit too much about my life right now. It explains in torturous detail what I’m thinking but not quite ready to say out loud. But that’s the funny part, I read it almost everyday. I read it while huddled in a corner of my room, trying to make sense, trying to find something in between the lines that may have slipped past me the first time, the third time, the hundred and seventy fifth time.
I think, often, about how I could be anywhere but here. And then I see that Didion thought that, too. It’s oddly comforting.
Right now, I should be doing something else. I’m actually supposed to be doing something else. I have in front of me, more than eighty-five printed papers to be memorized, a pen cum highlighter that never fails to stain my fingernails, a packet of spicy, minty potato snacks that expired last month but I keep around because I like how it smells.
At nights, I huddle up under two blankets even when it’s awfully warm. I don’t eat very much but that’s only because nothing has changed. Guilt is overpowering and dulls the senses – in my case, taste. I get asked often by people who want to know if I’m doing okay whether I have any friends. And that’s a trick question, I believe. I never cared much about friendships anyway. For me, a friend was always someone who knew, understood, told me they cared then carefully stepped back. God knows I have loved those friends more than I thought I could. I have three separate blogs written in my head and I revise them everyday while I’m on the bus. Time will come when I can be writing and submitting again as I was at this time last year. Much has changed. Yet nothing really has. I’m doing what I need to do and on some days, I’m even perfectly happy with it all.
I like life better when it’s a fight. Every morning I have half the heart to stay in bed and read the day away. Half my life goes in making the other choice. I try to make sense of things that pass me by during the day. The change in weather, the people I meet, the stuff I eat.
If I was with you in an elevator, if we were strangers, I’d instantly have trouble breathing. I am brushing my teeth, I am looking in the mirror, I am eating my cereal but none of this feels real. As if my body no longer can perform basic functions.
In this abandoned town, I have a purpose but that, too makes no sense. We can accuse ourselves of being blind to the soft light breaking through our hearts. Or we can embrace its warmth and fill up the empty spaces inside. Either way, it’s an ordeal.
Happiness for me runs a stipulated time. It’s unfair so I try very hard not to make sense of that. I have the urge to start my entire life all over again with certain people. Some people are just too pretty. Or maybe I am just inquisitive and want to see what happens. I guess it’s because I want to write about it. Record it. Like save a trailer so I can give people a glimpse into what I felt. But I can’t. It’s impossible to make someone feel what you feel. The questions. The answers. The leaning back and forth. The unsteady fingers nervously tapping next to you. Even when I’m with you most of my thoughts are pre-occupied, trying to make sure what I should do to not make you leave.
So anyway, I’ll go home. I’ll read Thought Catalog. I’ll laugh at the 20-somethings list Ryan O’Connell writes. When I laugh, I’ll look next to me and realize I’m alone. And just like that, nothing will make sense again.