I’m on the bus back from St.Louis now. We just crossed the Mississippi River so I guess that means I’m back in Illinois. Come on, feel the Illinoize, boys! I wish it all didn’t all look so lovely to me from this bus seat, or from the state of mind I’ve been in since I got back here after travelling. It’s so easy to hate this country, but gosh it’s so easy to love it. I feel like I can fully be myself here. Maybe I just need to remember that I can fully be myself anywhere.
Being back in your family home was so wonderful, and so difficult as well, just as I imagined it would be. Not to separate the good from the bad though, because it was neither – I thoroughly enjoyed being there simply because it felt right. I spent yesterday with Mother Tucker and then had family dinner with the two of them, her and Debun. Brussel sprouts. Tofu. Salad with Russian dressing. That roundtable, just the three of us, intimately sharing about our lives, remarking on the parallels, each trying to forge a path that feels joyful and true. We didn’t miss you. I mean, I always miss you. But the energy between us felt full enough to not feel like it lacked you, which was nice.
I’m fine without you, but does that mean that I should be? God. Sometimes I just can’t get my head around this. Sometimes it feels ridiculous to me that we’re not together. And it’s not like I’m not getting on with life, of course my life is as full as it’s ever been, but I wonder sometimes – just because I can live without you, does that mean that I should?
Sleeping under Baba’s blanket with your books at my pillow, and your plectrums and tuners and capos on the shelf like collected shells, with your shirts in the closet at my feet, surrounded by all the pieces of you, I dreamt dreams of the future and I slept straight through my alarm, so that I only got to have a brief coffee with your dad this morning before he went to work. We chatted about his fishing project – I’m so excited for him, finding a way to merge his passions. He had those darling little marks on his face from his sleep machine. After he left, I meditated in the garden with the bunnies, and your mom came home from the gym. I made oatmeal. We ate together. She poured the half-sweetener your dad had left on the counter into her coffee. Then we migrated to the couch and just hung out, half working, for the morning. We had the most stimulating chats about her project; I got really excited about that too.
I reluctantly went to the basement, to get the stuff I’d forgotten about. I went through the two small suitcases whose contents I had been prepared to part with forever when I left them there, but I found that today I couldn’t part with any of it. Traveling had otherwise made me unattached to things, but being in your house, I felt like I’d needed to bring it all the way to Kate’s house where I’d have a better chance of letting it go. So I’m on this goddamn Megabus and I have two awkward suitcases and a shopping bag filled with ornaments and books I don’t need. I have a pillow behind my back, the one with the farm animals that used to be on the couch, and I am so grateful for it right now, this little piece of us to lean on.
Two out of the seven people who are on the bottom deck of the bus with me have been having full-blown, angry conversations with themselves. Just when I was feeling all nostalgic for the US of A, I’m reminded of the specific type of insanity that this country breeds. If you were in this seat and overhearing the inchoate mutterings of this young guy behind me, his teeth gritted, repeatedly uttering the words “I’m sorry” like he’s about to shoot up this whole dang bus, I swear to god you’d have emergency exited out the window hours ago.
And yet, I’m still so in love with this country, I cannot explain it. Everything is a new shade of green or blue I haven’t seen before. Every sign for every bloody highway fast-food place has looked like an oil painting to me. Every scene from every bus or train window is a still from a movie, a frame on a reel. Every goddamn person has a whole story to them, has my love and my understanding, a whole big context that overlaps with mine so that I’m aware how connected we all are. And sure didn’t I come to know America on buses? I rode that public bus in SF recreationally at first, the cheapest movie ticket in town.
And sure isn’t America… you? This is the closest I’ve been to you since last September.
I wanna hate this country like I hate it when I’m standing in airport immigration lines and watching that goddamn vanilla wafer on the screen make me feel like a loser trying to get into some exclusive party I wasn’t invited to and simultaneously making others feel like criminals trying to escape prison. But I cannot hate, because once I get past that human barricade of meaty, ego-maniacs in uniform, I’m amongst the people, all the losers running towards the lights or away from their unique hells, and all of them are so beautiful and so like me.
Even this angry, angry young woman. You know the type I mean? So angry it hurts me and it must hurt her. We’re stuck on this bus because of an accident and I’ve got the young dude behind me with the mental issues in a dialogue with an invisible person he’s about to murder, and then there’s this woman who keeps thinking out loud, not too loud but very clearly and just loud enough, so filled with anger and opinions, her energy is so tense that I’d be afraid if I sat next to her I would break in half. The poor chap sitting across from her has seemed terrified all journey. But even in this anger and this madness I’m just smiling, smiling, I can’t help it, none of this matters, so we’re stuck on a bus because of a crash, close to Chicago, murder capital of the USA – someone’s out there mourning someone tonight. I will sit here and try to spread my serenity by not saying a word for now, and I’ll just grow this sense of gratitude that’s already there – because there was a goddang crash and guess what, we weren’t in it – and hope that it spreads all around me, a fluffy cloud of gratitude. Happily writing to you and waiting for the moment I can get into a wifi zone to send this.
Every time I write something like this I’m reluctant to send it, though, because I feel so exposed and vulnerable. We don’t write like this no more. We don’t talk like this no more. It’s forbidden because I’m letting you go, I am, and I know you’re doing the same, just like we promised. Yet in the same breath, when I write like this I always have this wild and spontaneous feeling that I need to publish it somewhere where anyone can read it. I haven’t thought about why until now, perhaps I’m secretly just afraid that if I send it to you privately, that you won’t read it. At least this way, someone will stumble across it. But more than that, it kinda feels like when I’ve gone out in the rain with an umbrella before and then I’ve been like fuck it and gotten rid of the umbrella and just let the rain soak me through to my bones. Might as well get super wet and accept whatever the consequences are.
Last night after your parents said goodnight, I stood in your kitchen on one leg, like you used to, with the other bent at the knee and your foot resting on your thigh, spooning honey into my mouth bit by delicious little bit. The only light was the one above the stove, the only sounds the cicadas out back. I was wearing your navy pyjama bottoms – I found them in your wardrobe, hanging next to your mustard shirt. I felt so happily alone, and at peace, and mischievous. How I almost always felt with you.
I returned to your room and saw on the bookshelf your copy of Keep the Aspidistra Flying. I opened it to see if anyone had written anything, knowing no one could top your letter in my copy. Some “Dorothy” had written “This has always been my favorite Orwell – Enjoy”, in 1988, before either of us were born. It was the kind of throwaway note you write to someone you love and take for granted. Functional and mundane, but just one line of a life-sized story, like some of our notes over the years. If only I could take all the post-its and the text messages and the emails and make a tapestry, to show the world that all this ordinariness, taken together, is holy, is art. And even still my tapestry would just be a symbol. As soon as we open our mouths we’ve lost the essence. Our love is ineffable.
So I admired the space that Dorothy left, and placed the book right back where it belonged, and sitting for a second at your desk wondering where I belonged in this old room of yours (god knows when you’ll be back here again), I broke down and fell to the carpet just like I did last summer after reading your note in the copy you gave me, in my attic across the ocean. I rested my forehead on the carpet you’ve walked barefoot on since you were a child and I opened my mouth in a silent wail, and I wailed silently and let the tears fall and let the carpet absorb them. I breathed deeply and let it flow and tried not to wake your parents. When I lay down in your bed, under the quilt that Baba made, I felt as empty as a child and old as the earth herself.
Coming into Chicago now, all lit up against the backdrop of blackness that extends into infinite nothingness. It’s looking well. Stunning city. We used to joke, but really, what a beaut. How we grew here, J. All the laundry we did. All the trips to Stanley’s Fruit & Veg. All the trains we took to our separate parties, our separate jobs, our separate meetings. Remember our cinema dates and those freezing bike rides home, suiting up beforehand with our merino wool and fancy gear in the popcorn- and faint-piss-smelling lobbies? Remember the lake, in all the weathers, at all the hours of the day? All the different skies?
Okay, I’m done with the nostalgia, it’s like cheap whiskey – warms you up but does you no good. We’re pulling into the city and around me all the angry and crazy people are softening and melting into each other like ice cream. So lovely to witness. The angry woman who has spent the entire ride eloquently cursing the world and its mother, just high-fived the young man in his early twenties whose terrified Mom almost got on the bus with him, who looks like this is his first solo trip, and finally is smiling a little and breathing easily.
Tonight there’s a New Moon, but I’ve stopped setting intentions since you last knew me. I just open up my arms and my heart like I do every day, and I ask for whatever’s in store. I don’t know what’s best for me. Thy will be done, not mine.
I can honestly say that this is the happiest I’ve ever been in life. And that I miss you more and more every day. And that every day I’m becoming more and more willing to let you go, and that’s really where the alchemy happens – willingness. All the above are true, though it might seem like they couldn’t be.
I don’t need you, and just as well, because the world does. It brings me endless joy to think of you out there doing your thing, affecting people and places and things the way that you do.
Okay I have to go now and figure out how to get to bed. This adventure never stops – never!
I love you, wherever you are.
L x x