life, pt. 4


Things started to really fall apart just before I finally fled. I was depressed and ended up abandoning a lot of commitments I'd made, which of course made me feel even worse. So I tried to trick myself into getting motivated by falling in love with this kid I'd only known for a month, and then convincing myself that if that fell through at least I had this other boy I wasn't particularly into but who liked me well enough to fall back on. And it worked, for a while. I dreamed up a future with both of them (but mostly just the first one) and was sure that, as soon as it all worked out, the depression would go away and life would continue as smoothly as it ever had.

There were a number of flaws in this plan, of course, but the one that seems most glaring now is that I failed to take into account that these people lived their own lives when I wasn't around, and those lives weren't going to line up neatly just because I'd planned things that required them to. After our lives had briefly intersected, their lives veered off quite radically. Since I was relying on them as something of a psychological safety net, this didn't work out particularly well.

I spent a lot of time writing about how capricious life can be after that. I've still got pages upon pages of me, waxing eloquent about life and its inherent unreliability. All of it, of course, is written with the assumption that when I talk about "life" I'm the only figure that really matters, and with the assumption that "life" is something you can figure out.

It's not, of course. It took me a while to finally understand that, but I finally did: life means everyone. Everyone you will ever meet has this entire universe living inside them, and no matter how close you get to them, you can only ever brush the surface. Once you've figured that out, it's a lot easier to come to terms with.


life, pt. 3


I hear they're destroying that 24 hour place we used to hang out at, putting in some more office buildings. I always thought of that place as the last monument to us. So many late nights with only cheap coffee and greasy food to keep us awake--that, and the certainty that we had life figured out. I thought it fitting to write one of them down. That way a little piece of the monument might remain.

It was, oh, probably a Tuesday night, about four am, and there was a lull in the conversation that went on a little too long, because we were both falling asleep and had said pretty much everything we had to say. Which was, in fairness, quite a lot. I said something like "We're both absurd, you know."

"Are we? I mean, I knew that you were, but--"

"Sitting here like we've worked out life's little problems. We haven't. That's not how life works."

"Maybe not. But I know tonight I'll go home happy, tomorrow I'll wake up hopeful, and maybe somewhere I'll make something better." Then you paused and gave me your little triumphal smirk. "You'll be just as miserable as ever, of course."

"Of course."

"The thing is, despite your best efforts, you've already helped."

I thought about that a lot. I don't know if you even remembered it, but it was good to be reminded that despite my cynicism, sometimes life was pretty all right.


life, pt. 2


After you came back from London, when we finally met again at a party, I remember thinking how incredibly unchanged you were by everything. You treated me exactly like you always did--just like you did when we first met, as if I hadn't left you at the airport and as if you hadn't run away for several months, and avoided me for several months after that. I even said something like that. "You never change, do you?"

And you gave me that little ironic smirk and said "I change plenty, you just aren't clever enough to notice." Then, later, you joined some of your friends out back for a smoke. You never used to smoke. I must have been giving you a surprised look because you just smiled and blew a smoke ring in my face and gave me an insufferable 'I told you so' look.

I think that broke the spell. I realized that when I was looking at you before I was just seeing a memory. Whoever it was that left all those months before, she didn't come back with you. You still looked like her, and you still had her smile, but life had happened since then.

Eventually it was just you and me out back, and your smile was starting to wear a bit thin, and of course I couldn't ask what was wrong. Instead, I said, "Life's a funny thing, isn't it?"

You took a long time before answering. "Not really," you said. "We like to think we're all characters in our own stories, but we're not. We like to think we've figured out the story, but it never works out that way. Life isn't funny, or ironic, or anything like that. Life just is." Then the smile came back. "That's all the philosophy you're getting out of me tonight, Nicholas."

It wasn't until you were long gone that I realized I'd probably derailed your story just as much as you'd derailed mine.


life, pt. 1


Eris showed up on my doorstep again. It had been years since we'd interacted at all and there she was, sitting on the porch just like she did when we were in high school, except now she was a little more guarded, and though her smile was sincere it was also not the kind of smile you give to someone you think of as a friend.

I let her in and offered her a beer, and she took the easy chair while I took the sofa and she told me in conversational tones how a meteor had fallen on her house and she decided it was probably a good time to go on vacation. So she took the cash she had left and jumped on a bus and drove across the country, and now here she was, sharing a beer with me almost like she'd never left.

"You don't really look like someone who's just lost all their worldly possessions in a freak accident," I said.

And she just shrugged, and said, "I don't know. That's life, I guess."

It took me a while to figure out why that bothered me. Something about the phrase put me on edge until she was gone again. And I think it was this: I could never believe that life is just a sequence of freak accidents and disasters. We were ultimately terrible for each other, of course, but in between all of that we had such beautiful moments. Moments that probably led her to come here on a whim, moments that convinced me to invite her in against my better judgment. To just dismiss it all with a shrug and a "that's life" made it all seem so cheap.


a prelude for may

It would probably be a lie to say that May has always been my favorite month, but in recent years I've come to accept that it is the best month, at least here in Seattle. May is the height of spring, before summer takes its hold and all the colors fade and the sun becomes an interminable presence in the sky. May is the month when people no longer worry that the bad weather might come back. May is a month for life.

The stories this month are stories about life--which is, of course, a very broad term. But that's what happens when you live by the cycle of the seasons, I suppose. Winter is a time of death, spring is a time of life, summer is eternal, autumn is ephemeral. It's all about symbols, sure, but these are symbols that matter, symbols that people believe in.

So: life. I have some stories about it, if you'd like to read them.