... Return To Sender.
I kicked a box. I kicked a box so hard that I thought I broke my foot. It felt great to the kick box, so hard, until it didn't. The events leading up to this event perhaps implicate this particular event, but then they are also likely irrelevant. The waking dream I experienced in the midst of the suffering is what rang clear: my subconscious was having me break myself, just to take a fucking break. NOTED!
Later that week, I sat in a room without windows for two days and change, to absorb several different perspectives speaking to the ambiguous state of the world. The dire is dire, and not straightforward. Perhaps in some ways it has always been this way.
I baked a batch of biscotti, wrapped 4 in brown paper, packed the rest into a cardboard parcel and left town, to think. An accoutrement to my room was a tuned Martin acoustic. I picked it up and for the first time in nearly ten years, strummed fumble-y, minor chords. I’m not close to coming back, but I’m no longer sitting on the Five String Event Horizon, either. Also, there’s no music in space.
My evening plans had gone awry, so I took off my clothes and got into bed, albeit too early, and then proceeded to sleep rather unwell. Our breakfast meeting was scheduled for 0800. I readied myself and ventured downstairs, two notebooks in hand. I procured us a spot, ordered a coffee, and waited: 07:58 and snowing. It was 08:20 when the chimes commenced, and they continued every 15-20 minutes, through the next hour and a half. Despite his eloquent and emotionally mature in-person demeanor, he texts like a 10 year-old, and offers little to no information. I was finding myself belaboring to offer suggestions and options to proceed, but they were met with either silence or ambivalence, and thus I began to anticipate his appearance just so that I could murder him. I ordered sauteed Swiss chard and mushrooms with poached eggs and a side of bacon, and more coffee. Another chime, “Want a bagel?” “No, but I ordered you a coffee.” “Yes!!” I finished breakfast, without him. He arrived about 20 minutes thereafter, with the dog in tow, and in a state of unraveling. “It’s a fucking bagel, you’d think I’d ordered foie gras, that took so long!” We sat at a table and he produced two bagels wrapped in parchment, one of which was meant for me. He ate, I pet the very sweet and wrinkly dog, we drank coffee and we deliberated, but briefly as he was that day late for everything; we were just getting into the details when he had to depart. “Enjoy that bagel, though you probably don’t eat carbs.” I eat carbs, I said, but I didn’t try to explain further. He politely kissed my cheek and exited stage left. I stared at the bagel present and unwrapped it. He called, I answered; his backpack was sitting abandoned on the chair next to me, par for the unraveled course. I said that I’d bring it to him later.
In retelling this tale to my bestie, JonBoy, he interjected, “Please tell me that you ate the goddamn bagel!” At that point in time, I hadn’t consumed a grain carbohydrate for nearly six years, and was perfectly content to continue along the non-grain-eating, existential vein. Nevertheless, yes, I ate the goddamn bagel. I did so neither out of desire, nor out of consolation (nor out of rebellion, for that matter), but out of a self-avowed notion I had proclaimed right then that, for both creation and preservation, I was not going to say no to any potentially positive experience offered to me. The bagel evoked more or less the same flavor and texture as my memories of such could attest, but it was also completely unremarkable. If anything, it reasserted that I have been missing out on absolutely nothing at all. I discovered later that day that said bread was crafted by the eponymous Black Seed Bagels, housed literally 15 feet around the corner from the hotel in which I was staying and where we were meeting. If he had offered more information, I could’ve just brought the coffee talk over there whilst he waited in line for his not-foie-gras, with the dog, patiently panting. Alas, and certain alack. I tucked the four biscotti wrapped in brown paper into the front pocket of his bag, pulled my gym sack onto my back and wore his in front like a baby carrier as I traversed midtown to join him. And thus for a time, I didn’t fight with time.
15:01 and slushy, I was uptown. The little family who then greeted me has grown from the time it left me in DC many years ago for the West, and again since it has returned from that time over yonder. New Yorker is this little family, now, and Saturday at the Droolpocalypse is my new and preferred travel destination. The brisket braising in the oven was ill-timed for the family’s evening plans and provided a low-grade stressor as topic for conversation. The older baby protested my playful advances. I watched my friend, a storied storyteller, tell her a story from improvisation, to quell her fears in an attempt to provide for her a secure path to resolve her frustration. The story worked and it didn’t, but what struck me was him being him in this paternal role that he hadn’t read for prior to assuming it, and yet understands how to play it, nonetheless. Perhaps it is one already written for us all whence we happen upon and accept it.
The complexity of the human spirit is otherworldly. I fall in love with the persistence we exude in simply living, and in living with one another. I fall in love with the pain we exude in living through our travails and trespasses, as victims and perpetrators; to sit inside the suffering is how we can untangle it. The possibility to ameliorate a conflict escalating towards an impasse resides in the potential for parties involved to accept a different interpretation of events. We live in a world whereupon any story crafted from “fact” can tell any manner of “truth”. Intent is often gray. Turns out that my romantic, defiant nature feels otherwise about all of that (putrid, fucking) nonsense. The power of the story resides in its provision of insight.
Before this brief sojourn about which I quip here, I had been walking about DC as I often do, thinking to myself that through the years I have spent in this town, I’m both at home and not, simultaneously. Something is always amiss. I was thinking in that moment that although searching for the unknown something is neither inspiring nor the reason I remain, it may be part of what’s interesting about remaining. Why continue to be somewhere that consistently presents itself as just barely, nearly imperceptibly wrong? Well, maybe because the it that is wrong, is actually just me being there. And, need more data!
New York is perfectly, perceptibly unapologetic in being just is, as is; no thing is amiss, but in the chaos you may not find any thing, either. I put the box of biscotti into my bag and walked the mile and half from my hotel to my dinner reservation; my belly grumbled in odd, stabbing pains ostensibly attributed to the bagel I had consumed that morning. I treaded on in a kind of meditative tranquility, my steps only out of step with my own directions, but in peaceful coexistence with time, still.
I was met with euphony and effervescence, and seated at the booth-half of a two-top, with my back to the broad, kitchen window. Few times in my life, and with few others, have I had the ability to occupy space and time together, slowly; to expand myself within these dimensions without expending thought-energy on mitigation plans for impending disasters. In a way, this particular evening I permitted myself to be a guest, but in another way, I offered myself as a guest to those whom I entrusted to care for me and my experience. The latter state I take not lightly. When Open Door was open, 12 strangers would walk into my home and pay in deposit to me a piece of their lives, to hold onto until they departed; that subconscious display of vulnerable trust is inherently deep, and serious. In the industry, those who understand that much have longevity. DC is still nascent in this regard (read: run by (Socialist) Millennial Children), and, something is often if not always amiss.
In the half-booth I had to myself, I suspended the disbelief that anything would go awry, or, if it did, I believed that my caretakers would be quick to the fix, and so, carefree, I expanded into my time. I sipped a half bottle of Gattinara and savored every morsel of maitake and quail banchan. I dumped the entire pot of black kale onto my plate, and sliced my peppered strip steak with patient and measured dabs into speckled, black truffle-potato velvet. I also rarely eat potatoes, but the olive oil doused into them was so delicious, it would have been more regrettable to leave them to the cold. As avowed, I continued to say yes to positive experiences. Time expanded, too, carefree.
I handed the box of biscotti to my loving and attentive server-messenger to deliver to its intended party, and finished my wine for dessert. Two notebooks laid interlocked before me and the last of the Gattinara, one record of my thoughts weaved into another record of my thoughts. It turns out that all of my thoughts are still mine. With peaceful acuity I wrote a thesis statement that will beget the next volume in a body of work I had developed for a time and then paused. It read, “The suspension of disbelief is a pursued assessment of trust in which we place bids to test the boundaries on the virtue.” In understanding the placement of the bids we can perhaps begin to disambiguate intent, and establish discriminant methods for deterrence. The world is on fire. I’m trying.
He appeared to thank me for the cookies, adapted from a recipe he had written some years ago. Our families are from the same town, and those cookies are his and they’re mine, and they’re neither of ours; rusk-relics of ancestry for the diaspora to piece together. “How is it you’re writing in two notebooks at once? Are you a schizophrenic?” I appreciated this primary observation. “Multiple identities, same persona. I’m sure you can relate.”
I slept well that night. In the morning, the fog and a latte in a pint glass set me on my way. DC was shrouded in cold rain. On the way to dinner, I traded thoughts with my uber driver about the consequences of technological ubiquity on Gen Z. I love DC. At dinner, I watched as four servers intentionally walked around a patron’s coat that had fallen on the floor, multiple times without thinking to replace it on her chair. I retrieved it for her. I hate DC. Something was amiss, and perhaps shall continue to be, but perhaps what is no longer amiss here is me.