don't know where this is going



if you had told me years ago that I would be this age and still not know how things will go, and still not have a set routine, I would have been very excited to get here. And I am. My biggest fear is that the philosopher’s stone will give me all its secrets before I am old, and that will leave me doddering through the last years. I don’t mind knowing secrets, but I do not want to go through this world being correct. My heart is a plant when I am wrong, thirsty for water and sun and warm hands. 

I have moments of irritation, but I've learned that only the most tiresome people find everyone tiresome. 

Everyone is looking for a chance to form a more sustained narrative, and I found myself living in the margins of one obligation or another for so long, that I thought I was comfortable in the fragmentation, the fragments of story and impulse that might tell a larger story. But I couldn’t find my way into the larger story. This is not just about me, it happens to lots of us. The trouble is that one narrative thread cannot contain anyone. Like painters looking at light, there are a thousand ways to see it, and they all offer something that is not necessarily true, but a way of perceiving. The neuroscience says that we don’t see the way we think we do, we look and we fill in and this is not like a movie at all, and we haven’t captured how we see, but in multiple angles and from multiple narrative threads, there might be something that we recognize. “This happened to me, too, this kind of seeing is what happened to me too.”

I am wearing that suit, the one I wear most, the one where I look like an eccentric artist of Eastern European descent, and it is getting very hot in here. When she moves to the hall to take a phone call, I slip outside, zipper off the suit and I smoke on the back porch, shaking like a nervous bird, feathers wet with sweat. It’s not that I am unlovable, or that I don’t know who to be at the proper moment, but that I think too much about the suit and the zipper and if it’s showing and if it’s the right time or not to take things off or put them on, because I think too much about myself. So when I come back, it is a surprise to catch her zipping up right before she comes back into the room. 

I unzip my suit, the one that is all bravery and enlightenment and “I am detached from the things of the world”, and slip out back to smoke. Out here, I am like I am when I sleep, covered with wet feathers, wet with longing and memories, wet with the weight of all I want to do tomorrow, wet like my tongue is wet. I don’t know if it’s a mirage, but it’s definitely written in water, when she walks out and doesn’t notice me until she starts to unzip herself, cigarette dangling, feathers starting to unfurl. We don’t know what to do, not because we are suddenly revealed to each other, but because we both know at the same moment that we are just like everybody else. 

This is bigger than I had thought it would be. My daughter is going off to college soon, in a few weeks. I just finished a doctorate. I have a car that works and can carry things. All of these things that were leading somewhere are now really leading somewhere, I don’t know quite where, though I have some thoughts for sure. I’ll go somewhere and make art somewhere and work somewhere, and I am starting off on a ground that is more solid than anything I had before, this was all years in the making. Some of it was my design and so much of it was based on the elements shifting, adapting to changes of wind and tides and stuff like that.

There is a terrible weight, one I don’t talk about very much, because I don’t know how to carry it and I don’t know how to put it down. There is a love of my life that got pushed aside by family dramas, death, madness, but more by the title I had as a father, to see this one move into her life as herself. She has a conscience, and she knows some spells (but not enough: conversation in car, “What are some ingredients for a good love spell?”), and she sees with different eyes than the ones this culture gives you. All these things will work for her, but it will be hard, just like it is for everyone else (but if I had my druthers, if I were Prospero…). My sponsor once told me, “That little one, your daughter, is the only relationship that matters, and the only one that you can be sure you’ll still have years from now.” I didn’t take it to heart then, I was all interested in being a Leonard Cohen song, tied up in sweet obsessive love, but by the time this love of my life came around, I took his advice seriously, so that no matter what happened, I wouldn’t break a promise to my daughter. 

Love doesn’t always win out over everything, sometimes it lays its head on your chest and whispers goodbye.


Meanwhile, she is getting ready to leave, and I am sure I will feel guilty about all the thousand things that I did wrong, all the times when I could have been able to see the space we were in, but I don’t think anything would change that, it’s a guilt that every parent carries, at least the ones who are honest with themselves. It doesn’t feel like that right now. Right now it feels like a brilliant movie is ending, and there are reels that are being prepared for the next feature, except there are more than one. At least one is hers, and at least one is mine. But before those start, I want to enjoy how this one closes, because it’s extraordinary, this is an extraordinary story, I got to play a part in raising a most extraordinary human being.

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Kwok Woon said…
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