I started writing this on the plane home from Ireland, continued it on a plane to Vancouver to see Gary (about six days later) and finished it at his home in Deep Cove on the North Shore, a few meters down the sloping garden to the water, the mountains and the trees. On my way back to the US from Ireland, I watched Avatar – one of those ones I’d never seen because I found the hype off-putting. Holy fuck, though, what an amazing movie – I’m sure you loved it. I thought of you throughout. Made me want to start running as soon as I got off the plane and not stop until I was completely lost somewhere in the middle of nature… I feel like that’s the only way that I’m going to get to knowing what I’m supposed to know. So it feels apt that my bro and I are in this setting, and are set to explore the surrounding Canadian wilderness together during these next two weeks. It’s just what I need at this moment in time.
I was kind of surprised to find myself on my return flight, to be honest. My last day in Ireland was so difficult. It was always going to be one of those days where I wanted to go back to bed from the minute I got up; I’ve said goodbye many times before. Expecting little of myself, I was actually able to power through – I saw who I was supposed to see and did what I had to do, even managed to enjoy the evening. I saw Ciara, I saw Joy, I went grocery shopping with Mammy just like it was any other normal day with no end in sight. Had Chinese takeaway (which everyone actually enjoyed) amidst a surprising air of joviality. Mammy broke out a novelty-sized bottle of Prosecco which Nana had a sniff of and was tipsy – you know the drill. It got so gregarious that my soda burst out of my mouth with a laugh onto my (almost empty) plate at one point. Afterwards, we looked through some old photo albums that I’d found in the attic, nesting in the nostalgia of the past to avoid thoughts of the future. We all like to play pretend.
Yes, I was in the attic; I should have been packing but procrastination brought me there. And I could have done with not finding the book. You know. The one you gave me on my last day in San Francisco, just friends who’d had a glimpse of the infinite in each other’s eyes. Keep the Aspidistra Flying. The one that you wrote on its inside cover was filled with “more authenticity, spontaneity and impulse than is to be believed – much like yourself.” The one over which I cried, over the Atlantic, and read once I got to the other side. The one I put safely in an attic-bound box in my non-readerly family home (you know how sad it made me to put books in boxes in the attic), before I decided to fly back and visit you, four months later.
As soon as I laid my hand on the book, everything in my peripheral vision dissolved. I read your note on the first page, re-relishing every word – I’d practically memorized it before, so the cadence of the words flooded my memory. When I left you in San Francisco that first time, we were just friends in awe of this great big connection. And here I was on the floor of my landing, being swallowed whole by the gravity of everything that had come to pass in the four years since it was penned. I wept in a way I haven’t wept before – I fucking wailed. I felt the enormity of the loss for the first time.
That kinda set the tone for my mood the rest of the day. If I wasn’t crying, I was on the verge of tears. I literally had a “crying hangover”, and kept berating myself for going up there in the first place, because I needed that like a hole in the head. What were the chances of coming across this? I’d decided to go through this old, tucked away box on a day when I had no business doing so. The more I thought about it, though, the more I saw that I couldn’t have done without finding it. I needed you by my side in everything I did that day; albeit not under the most ideal circumstances, you were there in your absence, and I could almost feel your arm touching mine by my side.
Then again, what were the chances of any of it? We were haphazardly (were we not?) flung into each others’ orbits, brought together by a friend of mine (who I was randomly roomed with on my first day of college) who happened to get a job, in a little shop in a little neighbourhood, from an online classifieds ad, in a city you’d moved to on a whim and started working in, in that same little shop; a city I had no real business being in, just spontaneously moved to for three months without a work visa, sleeping on whatever corner of bed or couch was available in my friends’ house, working whatever odd jobs people would pay me for.
But when they put us sitting next to each other at that bonfire out the back of the house, at her birthday party, a few weeks after I’d arrived from Ireland in divine disarray, it felt like every step had lead up to this moment and we could hear the song of the spheres – a symphony without a note out of place. The embers glowed in the pit until they died that night, but the conversation continued for three and a half years and is the best I’ve ever had.
Each time I’ve flown back to America since you wrote that note the day before I left, I’ve been flying back to you. First, three months after you gave me the book, after months of lengthly emails, because I felt myself being pulled back to you. Every other time, after a trip ‘home’ to Ireland (my home was with you, I just couldn’t say that to anyone else).
The irony of discovering the book the day before I flew back to nothing and no one weighed so heavy on my chest that I could barely breathe. You couldn’t have known that we would even see each other again, let alone get married. You wrote that there’d the “something wrong” if the universe didn’t bring us back together. Lying curled up on the carpet of the landing, sobbing, in a sea scattered books whose contexts are far greater than their contents, I wondered, is this still what the universe had in mind, or did we fuck it up?
Or, did we imagine it all? Did we project our own desires and fantasies onto each other? Was it fate that we met, or is there no rhyme or reason to it? Either it’s all chaos, or it’s not – right? Or… maybe chaos and harmony aren’t separate at all, but are two parts of a whole, and I’m completely missing the point.
You and I both know that asking these questions is a pleasant distraction. Plus, it keeps you and me – us – in the front of my mind. What I should be doing, what I know I need to do, is to let go. Let go of it all and look at myself. And I’ve been doing it, I promise, but for every give there’s been a little take. A little looking then a little willful ignoring. A little peaceful surrender, then violent protest.
There’s a fire inside me that burns for us, because I know what we had was that big cosmic love that’s bigger than those it befalls. I know that’s why we’ve been able to step away from it and risk losing each other forever, so that we can heal ourselves and grow separately. I’ve always been in awe of our bravery together.
Sometimes I wish I would just have one of those dreams like the ones Ciara has, a dream that’s vivid and bright as a spring morning, one that’s easily decoded and tells me what my destiny is. I want to be pointed in a direction (even though I’m already on course, I just don’t know it yet).
I have the ability to be present with our situation, just not the inclination, so I need reminding. The first few days in Chicago were difficult, for the most part, with some fleeting moments of grace, appreciation and (almost) peace. It was like one long, drawn-out panic attack; for days I felt raw and incredibly vulnerable. But then, in the last day or two in Chicago, and since then, I’ve felt life working on me, figuratively working my kinks out and showing me where I need to put my energy (i.e., in meditation and in the life around me), and where I need to remove it from (i.e., all future thoughts).
Let me tell you about my dream, the one I had the night before my flight to Ireland. I was in some situation where I was being interviewed, maybe I was a musician and this was at a music festival, or I was some sort of academic speaking to a young group of students – not sure exactly. But I was asked to transmit one bit of advice to this group of impressionable young’uns, and to make it count.
Anyway, I was panicking because the other speaker, came out with some flowery, verbose sentiment that made no sense at all but resonated with everyone (me included) for its timbre, its apparent eloquence and insight. I was worried I’d seem like a fraud or a dummy (as always), but the spotlight was suddenly on me, so I blurted the first thing that came to mind, which was “Be in the present moment.”
As soon as I uttered those words (obviously not an original idea, but a crucial one nonetheless), I woke up with a jolt and a gasp – I’d overslept. That jolt into the present is what I constantly need, because I slip into worrying about what’s to come, forget to look at who’ and what’s around me, and then miss out on life’s web of opportunities and connections.
I almost can’t remember what your arms around me feel like, though there must be a part of me that will never forget. I’m letting you go because that’s the only way that I can be free. I’m feeling you letting me go and it hurts like a motherfucker, but I know in my heart that it’s healing you. We’re doing it, exactly as we’d planned, exactly as life would have it.
But somewhere I’ll be forever yours, watching you watch paint dry.