Wednesday, February 4, 2009

sheik of araby

All afternoon, I, with nothing pressing, felt the weight to write. It came on frantic, as it does sometimes. My brain crafts words in a way that seems circulatory, I desire to shield my eyes from looking at the world because all I want to do is describe everything in any given moment and look for the soul of it, no- it isn't even a want, it feels like a requirement. And then I think about what I want to say, not just on paper but with real words to people that matter, and that's staggering as well. There's so much I want people to know about me, I want to blurt my essence over them like so much vomit, but they would never understand, even if I found a way to do that, they would never understand that it was fair of me to vomit on them because I want the same from them. I want to take a pair of pliers to each of their hearts and crack them open and observe what's been collected inside.

All this to say, I feel like writing so badly sometimes, and it's wonderful but also seems like such a responsibility- to be correct. To have an understanding of what I want to spell out, and to know where I'm going, but that experience is so very rare. That's when I start to wonder, what am I doing? Should I not be writing with intent? Do I really plan on "just writing" like this, for the rest of my life? There's too much to say! But does anyone want to hear it? Does anyone need to? Is it really better to destroy than to create what is unessential?

Walking out of the cafeteria today, I stopped to reorganize my books and things at a nearby table. As soon as I put my bag on the stone, I spotted the word "pier" etched on it. It's strange how evocative any one random thing can be, like we all have well-worn tracks in our mind that words and smells are sent down even before we can properly identify what we are experiencing. "Pier" made me think of the only pier I know, the Ventura pier, at home. It's been rebuilt a number of times, as my uncle reminded me at the funeral. When he last saw it, on a visit to our family, he took great delight in a horn that was situated so that it made noise according to how the waves moved it. The horn is not there anymore. I should know. Now that pier seems to me such a stomping ground. Everytime I'm on it I want to sink my teeth into it and beg it somehow for a reassurance that I'll never lose anyone- which always leads me to the question, did you ever "have" them? This I brush aside, because nobody likes those questions. They don't really have an answer, just an optimistic or cynical response. I am good at giving both, depending on what I feel needs protecting. But anyway.

Once a friend of mine, whose baby fat has since evaporated, clambored out onto the jutting chin of the wooden construction, over the rails. He hung there for a moment, looking over the sides with nothing holding him back. He wasn't even at the end, he would not have been swept away. But in the dark there's no telling with the sea. I don't know what he was thinking about when he did that, exactly, but I'll admit it was somewhat surprising. Now that I look back his swaggering "What?" attitude after he climbed back to our side reminds me of a side of him I was to see often after that, a searching quality that was all too wise to the fact of being lost with good intentions. Nevertheless, we had a conversation a few days after the whole pier incident, speaking in our melodramatic tones that we had come to rely upon in those ridiculous times, and he mentioned to me that he just had a strange feeling as he was looking over the sea, unburdened by rails for once, that even with us watching (or maybe thanks in part to us watching) he felt a weird crazy sense of freedom and calm. Short-lived, of course, but memorable anyway. He began to wax poetic on the subject of the pier- and piers in general, and finally just anything that gives you that "feeling". We then supposed that everyone had a pier in their life, or that we were constantly looking for one- basically, just a place where you can step outside of yourself, watch the sun set, feel excited to live. For some people it's a waterfall in Yellowstone National Park, for others it's a bluff overlooking LA, the top of the Eifel Tower, a desolate parking lot with one streetlight.

Now that I look back on what I considered a sort of sacred conversation, I know that I was and now am inescapably aware of the youthful silliness that surrounded our discussion- we were conspiratal, self-aware, painfully dramatic and overwrought. Everything sucked, nobody understood, and we were going to gather our little troop and live lives so different from anyone else's that by the time we were 21 we wouldn't have to be on the search anymore. Obviously, things just simply are not that way... nevertheless, every time I see the word pier, especially as I did today, I'm reminded of what I think it means, and that I haven't really found mine yet.

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