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once we went to pick up my grandmother from the hospital in brooklyn. she had a stroke. i watched my dad and mom closely, trying to read some confidence, some nonchalance, some “it will all be okay” in their adult faces; there was none. they were silent. they looked scared. then i knew there was something to life, something with which we all had to reckon. at that moment, that single moment, i became obsessed with staving off death ever since. i was maybe 12. Now I’m 22. and i knew we were dying when they told us we were seniors. now a year has passed and our house is emptying out. we gave it character when it had none. we never really loved the house much, but in the random posters and knick-knacks coming down and being packed away, the character we loved is emptying out. worst of all, the characters we’ve become and that we loved are emptying out. like a certain cable channel with hit or miss programming, ‘character is [always] welcomed’. well-come. well we came, now well we go. and our house is emptying out. but i’m getting full and my eyes are filling up with tears. but over these years, tears have been no strange things, i’ve stared through teary eyes at so many strange things. before this my house in detroit emptied out — we gave it character when it had none. we never really loved the house much, but that one guy, that character we loved, my dad left right there, then it was real empty. times were really strange those days. days went by and i wouldn’t leave bed, if i didn’t have to. every single morning i had to wake up and re-realize that it was true and not a dream, even though it was a night mare. it was me that was emptying out, character and everything. times were really strange those days and maybe still are. but in those strange days i learned to ensure that I never did empty out, to ensure that I always could stay full when the rooms emptied out and when life left chasms where we once talked politics, where we once played jazz.   and I learned that life means nothing without death and the everyday hatred of its impending conquest. life means nothing without an everyday commitment to actively scoffing at the reality and the idea:

1. I learned to refuse to say goodbye. I learned that goodbye doesn’t feel good for anyone, and rarely makes people feel better. I learned to replace goodbye with ‘i love you’ or some other truth. thats the kind of ‘goodbye’ you can say before its too late, before the hurt exceeds words.

2. Sitting at graduation ceremonies thinking about my father who ‘forced’ me to come to this school because it was “more conservative”, only to have me emerge politically radical, with valuable relationships, at ceremonies my father would never be able to attend, I realized that life is not unfair — people are unfair, life is just tricky. who knows whether my father was right or wrong, but by having a positive outlook on my college years, i gave myself a fair shake even if i felt that others didnt. looking back on it, i’m grateful– who knows what being educated in a liberal bubble would have done to me. I learned to stop calling life unfair, cuz life was never meant to be fair, people are meant to be fair, we should let life be what it is and be what we are meant to be. I learned that life ain’t unfair, life is tricky, and when the love is steady, the beats heavy, and hugs firm, our feet will be stable and we’ll stand at first, through the worst, and dance when we thought we never would again.

3. I learned that the one is always divided by the other. Life is always divided by death. Joy by suffering. Presence by absence, etc. That when it comes to “hello, nice to meet you”, there will be the moment of “it was nice to know you”. Where there is one, there will be the other. Life is always divided. This is the point of laughter — that involuntary instance of a subconscious recognition of the perfectly ironic. There is rarely a thing, no matter how grim, that laughter does not handle with time. We truly do look back and laugh at a lot, and in that way we are so blessed by the cursedly, tricky ironies of life-in-the-flesh and the ever tugging infinity of time. If we will not consider death, we will not feel alive. If we will not tell the truth about suffering, we will never know joy. Things won’t always  be okay, but when they really aren’t okay and you wake up mornings later, you realize, one way or another, they really are. But only if you’re really confronted with that thing that just is not okay, can you come to learn that when the worst arrives, you take refuge from what you can’t control, you take refuge in what you can control.  If you dont know suffering, you cannot know joy. If we do not understand the concept of “there”, we can know nothing of “here”. If you cannot imagine what you cannot see, what you can see means little at all. Presence is present against absence. This is the rule of life, even in a life without rules. Irony is the only reality, even the irony of this sentence. Irony and the will-to-laugh at irony are the dose and the antidote in tricky times and strange days.

so our house is emptying out, and sadly, the characters too, but in these tricky times, these strange days, it has become apparent that to be a character susceptible and vulnerable to the others around you, aware of that seen unseen before you, you can always take them with you, wherever you go, you can be them, in the lessons they taught you, you can see them, if you’ll lie to your boss and say you’re sick, or if you’ll pause to remember, and at the end of the day, if you affirm life, in that bold moment and say Yes to yes and No to no, it will ring throughout the universe, and certainly make its way back to you. it will be a hug, it will be a joke, it will be a new friend, but only if you sit when you need rest, walk when you should go. if you’ll stand under the weight of the world around you, you’ll be stronger than the world into which you were born. times are tricky and days are strange, but when the things we love sadly go on with time, it makes that much more out of what remains. and most of all, i learned to learn, to stop, sit, lay, stand, walk, maybe run but never too fast to take it all in or never to slow to make it at all. i’ve learned i’ve learned and to all the people for the past year and a half who have asked how i’m doing only to have me promise to answer later, that’s how i’m doing: i’ve learned, and i really do love and thank you for asking.

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