Friday, January 4, 2013

I Woke Thinking Backwards

At 2:30 am today, I couldn’t sleep. I was thinking of 946 W. MacArthur #36, my first apartment, a one-bedroom with beige walls and a galley kitchen, living room windows that looked out onto the Bollinger Soccer Fields, where children sweated and bled, where parents cheered and consoled. I thought of my bedroom, its quilt made of fabric given to me by Lydia, an old family friend long dead. And I thought of my IBM laptop, my first computer, the one that I spent long nights with, drunk on beer and poetry, smoking cigarettes by open windows in the middle of winter. I wrote then with little worry. I was not thinking of publishing. I was not thinking of building an academic career or what it would take to make one. I was thinking only of recent experiences—all so novel and revelatory—and of the end of the line, the end of the page. I was in and out of love with boys and men and with the men and women who wrote of love between people. I was in love with the power and beauty of punk rock, with the unifying principle of DIY, the heat and sweat of basements and electric guitars. On my first record player, a Magnavox Solid State, I listened to both Ella Fitzgerald and Minor Threat. And there was dancing, of course. And fighting, too. And then there was the making up, the manufacture of love. And there was the sense that life was only kinetic energy, its trajectory yet to be mapped. I was merely a humble cartographer with the sun in my eyes. There was a boyfriend who ran his truck in the winter with his dog in the back seat so he could stay just a little longer. At 946 W. MacArthur #36, there was always just a little longer, a little longer because there was still only onward. Even when it burned.

In her collection Life On Mars, Tracy K. Smith writes:

"…Would you go then,
Even for a few nights, into that other life where you
And that first she loved, blind to the future once, and happy?

Would I put on my coat and return to the kitchen where my
Mother and father sat waiting, dinner keeping warm on the stove?
Bowie will never die. Nothing will come for him in his sleep
Or charging through his veins. And he’ll never grow old,
Just like the woman you lost, who will always be dark-haired

And flush-faced, running toward an electronic screen
That clocks the minutes, the miles left to go. Just like the life
In which I’m forever a child looking out my window at the night sky
Thinking one day I’ll touch the world with bare hands
Even if it burns."

Even if it burned again as it used to then, I would go back, if only for a few days because the one thought that lured me back to sleep was, “It’s been a good life. So far, yes, it’s been a good life.”

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