I just remembered I had a dream last night that I cheated on HJ with JKm — and was horrified, of course —
and suddenly everything is less shiny
RK is late to meeting you in the park and you think about how your friendship lately has been one-sided, how maybe a lot of your friendships are one-sided. You haven’t made friends here. You blame it on the city; the city is tough. RK says it’s the real world, oblivious.
HJ finally responds again and he tells you about how his friend came and visited out of the blue. He writes his friend’s name in all-caps. You look at that and think, is he ever that excited to see you? You aren’t so sure. You aren’t so sure why he likes you in the first place. You remember talking with him the other day when he got suddenly quiet and bothered. When you addressed it, he told you he sometimes felt less intelligent than you. You were so surprised at how ridiculous the notion that you were more intelligent/cultured/thoughtful than him that you didn’t have an appropriate response. You felt something like relief when he said that then, but now you wonder if you’re pretentious, trying too hard. Are you making him feel small? Is that the terrible insecure-you poking out, the one you don’t like and that seems to be what drives all your close friends away eventually?
His vacation dates change, he has to work on a project instead of the extremely tentative road trip you’d talked about together. You were ready to change your flight dates around it. You like him more than he does you; you can see it already: the slipping, the ugly self-sabotage.
thinking about how HJ called himself a “buddhist-episcopalian”
I am averse to labels or communities because communities are boundaries. Labels are too laden with extra parts that are not me, and I prefer to not have these extra parts precede myself. Not that I am against certain reputations preceding myself — but I would rather curate these than accept a lump sum of them all at once.
facticity and transcendence — facticity limits your transcendence — haikus are beautiful because of their parameters
I almost started this journal off with the phrase, “for the first time in a long time…” — but I realize that’s not quite right. This has been a somewhat gradual process, an accumulation of being with HJ and living in China with not much to do and now being in New York, the city of my dreams since forever, and now being in it in a unique semi-optional but not permanent aloneness way.
Semi-gradually, I’m beginning to truly realize that life is more the day-to-day happy than the long-term happy, and perhaps that the long-term happy doesn’t exist at all; perhaps the long-term happy has always been nothing but something waved in front of me like a goading flag, always whipped away and out of reach as I think I’m charging towards it. And from there, I’m beginning to learn what makes me this kind of day-to-day happy, and furthermore to learn to actively search for what makes me this kind of happy.
I can bike for hours and be truly content. Rivers, the city, the late afternoon light is all somehow more beautiful on a bike. The wind is fresher. The rushing view is exhilarating. And I get the feeling — no, I’m not even aware of the feeling — that there’s nothing more in the world I could desire other than this: not people, not success, not friends, not family. I know this is fleeting, this encompassingly content state, born from a decent enough day of interactions and the security of the temporary solitude and HJ’s worldview, but the ephemeral nature of it doesn’t make it any less real, or any less sublime.
Loudness is communication. Communication allows for understanding and change. What bothers me about MH, and now HJ is that they are quiet. They do not yell, or protest, or retaliate; they recoil. But this is far, far worse: in their quietness, they are resolute. Their judgements are set, their conclusions wrapped about you and your flaws. I would much rather they criticize openly.
And so, I am sitting on a thirteen hour flight and I am thinking about people, and sex, and the person I have sex with, but also people, and also sex. Junot Díaz is not helping me not think about sex. I think about sex, and I think about all the sex I will not be having in the next three months, and I am a little sad, and I think about HJ, and I am even more sad and while the whole thing is a bit sad I’m happy that I’m sad in the first place. Having people to feel sad about is kind of one of the reasons to live, I decide. Not that it’s completely necessary, but it does add a wonderful glow to living, if you’ve got food and water and shelter and all already.
And I’m still thinking about sex, and I really can’t stop, and I miss HJ so much that I take out my phone and try to look at photos of him. I have only four stored on my phone, because my phone broke. Not that I have that many photos of him or us anyway: we’re both not photo people. And because I have no internet, I can’t look at the fuzzy five-second video of him saying hi in a red shirt that I like, or the photo of us together with the good camera where my face looks a little bigger than I want it to and his eyes are in the middle of closing, like always. But I do have the four photos that I took of him two days ago in the morning on the bare bed in his boxers looking out the window at the blue, blue sky. Here they are:
In the first photo, the exposure is great for looking out the window and not so great for looking at HJ: he is nothing but a slight sheen of skin on bare back and a silhouette of a cowlick. Immediately before the first photo, you and him opened the window shade on the day and let the blue, blue sky filter into the empty room. You lay more or less side by side on your stomachs and looked at the view and the buildings outside but mostly the sky. You kissed his back and jumped up to take a photo because You Wanted To Get The Blue, Blue Sky And You All In One Photo, because Wouldn’t That Be Great? so you hopped off the bed and stood naked behind the bed and aimed the camera at the window and him before the open window and took the the first photo.
In the second photo, the exposure is not so great for looking out the window and somewhat better for looking at HJ: the blue, blue sky is blown out to white and the only vaguely accurate color of outside is are the trees, which are magnificently, stubbornly, lusciously green. HJ and the room are sort of colorless, but you notice that there’s a square fan in the window on the left. It looks like it’s almost the same moment, except you can kind of tell that it’s not because the shade in the window on the left, which is the only one that’s down, is a little concave because the wind is blowing lightly (not violently, which it often does: the window and the wind suck and blow those shades so much that it rattles and flies out with a ghoulish flapping, and suctions the door shut with a bam that is extra-loud because the door doesn’t quite fit the frame and is just big enough that it can only close with a yank, which the wind provides sufficiently). In the second photo, you can see his shoulder blades jutting from his back, and if you zoom in really close you can see one of his eyes, the other one hidden by the blanket, and it’s looking back at the camera with a smirk. You just know it’s a smirk, even though his mouth is hidden behind the blanket, too. You know that look.
Right before the third photo, you decided you Kinda Want A Photo Of Your Entire Face! so you hopped up on the bed and got back next to him and aimed the camera at his face, letting the outside exposure blow out to white because Oh Well That Probably Wasn’t Going To Work Anyway. You take this photo really fast. In the third photo, you can see most of his face. He’s smiling slightly in that perpetually good-natured way of his, but only half his mouth makes it to the picture so you can’t see the entirety of the lopsidedness of it, but still now that you look closer you’re thinking about how He Really Does Kind Of Glow Like Your Friend Said That One Time. His elbow is huge because it’s close to the camera. He’s kind of not looking at the camera and you think maybe he was looking at you with that soft look and it’s both good and bad because Well He’s Not Looking At The Camera Again So When Will I Get An Actual Good Photo Of Him but also He Was Looking At You With That Soft Look and that feels pretty nice, you guess, and Oh Fine It’s Really Nice That You Have This To Look At. His cowlick is sort of blurry. The hairs on his arms are in sharp focus, though.
In the fourth photo, you don’t exactly remember but it kind of looks like you took two photos really fast to get two copies to double the chance of success with the third photo and this was the photo that you would have deleted if you were into deleting imperfect photos, but since you both think things that are slightly awkwardly imperfect are hilarious, you smile a warm smile at this photo. In the fourth photo, his eyes are in the middle of closing. You think this photo is hilarious. You think how this photo is so quintessentially HJ. You feel an outpouring of affection for HJ in this photo. You miss HJ a little bit more. You kind of wish you were more used to outpourings of verbal affection with each other before the summer started.
You think about the goodbyes.
You woke up with HJ and checked the time and hollered that He Was Late and chuckled afterward at the memory of him shooting out of bed instantly, pure panic on his radiating face in his bright green shirt. You scrambled to help stuff the sleeping bag, throw out the trash. You trailed behind him as he ran to the Uber. You stopped at the edge of the street so that he could turn and kiss you. You stood in a dazed mess as he dropped his bags to wrap you in a hug because he knows you like hugs. You watch him load the car and you check your texts accidentally too long and when you look up the car is already driving away. You send a text with all five colors of heart emojis, thinking that you’ll work your way up to sending just one red one.
YM came to the building you were grading essays and you couldn’t help it so you both slumped down in ridiculous position on couches and talked until we hit the time limit, and then YM pushed back her departure time and you talked for more. You planned your TV watching schedule so that you could discuss their sociopolitical implications with YM and affirmed her sweatpants in the ninety-degree weather and made her promise to get a Snapstreak going for you. You explained to her what a Snapstreak was as she stood in the middle section between the inner and outer glass doors of the building.
You ran across campus to say goodbye to GR. You were running to the eatery she said she was at when she yelled your name from the spot she was sitting at in the grass. You hugged each other and walk opposite way, but she calls your name when you’re somewhat twenty feet away from each other. What? you say. It Was Nice Knowing You this Semester, she says in her slightly off English. You Say That Like We Won’t Know Each Other Next Semester, I say, laughing, and she smiles and we turn and continue walking.
You ran across campus again with your luggage that AM was storing for you for two weeks and hugged his mom before him. You helped him saran wrap his carpet and he listened to you complain about your allergies. You gave them a quick wave. You’ll see them in two weeks.
You were waiting for the librarian to find a specific book that you really wanted to read and it took so long that BI and AC just decided to come to you. They walked in the door and you shot the crap for a few minutes and complimented his bag and you all promised to get together a visit and promised It Will Be Amazing. BI said Love You and you said Love You Too Broskito.
AC and MC said goodbye to you. You ran outside with your suitcases when they yelled and you stopped to give them a hug and MC said your name and raised her eyebrows and smiled in that way that she does and you hugged and turned and walked away.
You’ll be friends with ES for a long time, you think as her mom drives you to the airport. You hug her in her camouflage print sweatpants and poofy hair and you know. You are not sad.
You love and hate the goodbyes. You add goodbyes to the list of Things To Live For. You don’t have goodbyes for people that don’t matter.