So many kept flashing past while I looked out the window, and I thought why does the world have to be so covered in trees? I could look at every tree and never see the same thing twice, and never be bored in looking at them. I don’t do enough of it, probably. I let them flash past and I don’t really look. Like a person hurrying through an art gallery. And I feel a little ill when I realise I’m doing it…like…each tree…what if nobody ever notices this particular one, and I could have noticed it. I could have looked and I didn’t. I wish I had time to look properly.
Memories are funny things. We tell each other a lot about what we remember, even when we are just giving a recap of our days or vacations. But I have been made aware (don’t be absurd: I always knew about them…) of a type of memory that I am very frustrated by. It’s those ones that, for whatever reason, you know that you will never write or utter a word about. What do we do with these memories? I mean, even if I were to try and write about them for my own edification, I cannot. Something gets lost between my brain and the page or screen, and that’s always the case, but with these ones it’s worse because I can’t easily go back and clarify or detail what I remember the same way I can in conversation. It would be easier to tell than to write, but who would I ever say these things to? Probably nobody. You can’t say them to anybody, because in conversing about your memory, you generate more memories of having those conversations about something you remember, and then the conversation becomes a memory that you (or I, rather, unless any of you have this problem) have to find a new person to tell…
I tried. I tried to tell someone about the things she and I have talked about, because I have no other way to illustrate the two of us except in those conversations…but I could not explain it well. And I tried to tell her about myself, but discovered I’d spent hours hurrying it so that it came out wrong. I had spent years already on the one thing I did manage to explain properly, and now I could not do it again if I tried.
I wish I could explain my memories so someone could understand me.
A long time ago, we were traveling in the van (we being my parents, my two younger sisters, my younger brother, and I), and listening to a radio program my dad liked. It was called Prairie Home Companion, and I am pretty sure that it’s still being broadcast somewhere out there. Anyway, being young and easily bored, I hated the program, but I listened because on this day, the radio man was telling a story from his childhood (I never could be sure about whether the man was a real man or a character on the show) about his family taking a road trip, and about how he and the other children were bored. For once, it seemed like we had something in common.
He told about a game he and the other kids played, called “Horses and Cemeteries” or some such thing, where you had to count every horse you saw out your window, and if you had the most horses when the car stopped, you won, but if you saw a cemetery, you lost all the horses you’d counted and had to start over. Then the aunt they were traveling with started crying because she was scared to death about getting in a car wreck and wished the kids would stop being morbid and pointing out every cemetery. I felt some unlikely combination of smug and awkward when I realised that the travel game my siblings and I had been playing was more morbid than the one in the radio show. It had fewer rules, too, since all we had to do was count the most roadkill. Yes. We made a game of spotting roadkill. Not the adult Reeser, who is Goth. Child Reeser. Of course, just last summer Jester and I made a game of counting both cemeteries and broken down churches whose towers had real bells in them. But we’re grownups. Sort of.
I am sick of seeing references to midnight as an hour of stillness or dark. As often as I see that hour, I can assure you that it lacks the stillness and quietude that it may have had back in the day night when it was decided that evil would lurk at the stroke of midnight, or whatever such nonsense. But I cannot get past 3am. I sometimes am still working at that hour, but even if the motions are the same as on a night when I work until 1am, the 3am hour feels different. I cannot explain myself. I just don’t like it, and this dislike is so intense that I feel certain that even if I were deprived of a computer or a phone or a clock or even my pocket watch, I would still know the hour. It is one of the few things that I feel really prevent me from owning the night hours…that desire to be asleep by 3am if possible, so that I won’t have to experience it in my waking life.
Of course, summer is a bad time for me anyway, whatever the hour. I feel different, and am persuaded every time I look that my reflected eyes are paler…a shift from phases to seasons, which I wasn’t really looking for, but I see it now. When I returned was when I started to feel it. Still don’t know what it is. Did I change? Did I lose something? Gain something else? I couldn’t say. It was like the unreal feeling that comes with a fever, except that I felt well. Perfectly well. If I had spent more time in contemplation of this, maybe I could have known before I thought to ask myself. Or maybe I’d just have gotten lost in a tangle of thoughts that I only avoided by not thinking to think sooner. (It seems very likely.)
This day, the feverish wellness spiked. I had got an email, and I was expecting it to be disappointed in tone, but…not so. I am astonished that my stunted beginning of a story, with all its deformed phrases (they never seem so pretty on the page as they did when I was imagining them) and ridiculous happenings (it’s criminal, how much you can fit into seven pages) actually might have some good points. (I have so little faith in anything I do…it’s frightening.) Anyway, I read this encouraging message with all its suggestions for improvement and its agreement to assist with the actual writing…I could have danced. Or sung, perhaps, except that I am not the sort of creature who thinks of those things, and truth be told, my first imagining of how to express my excitement was to have Wolf set things afire…but that may be because of a scene also mentioned in the email. I don’t know. I would not actually set trees on fire. (See opening paragraphs.)
All this then led to a surfeit of euphoria, and instead of feeling pleasantly dazed and feverish, I felt genuinely ill. I have still not responded to the email…but I will. I am so pleased. You can’t even begin to know…all this time I have wanted to work on such a thing, but I didn’t have anyone to work with. I have now. I have what I was needing. Now maybe I will write something.
I did feel depressed after all that. I think part of this is because one of my coworkers got fed up with things and went out Thursday night by himself and ended up passed out on a lawn somewhere in the campus area, and didn’t know where he was when the cops came and woke him up. He somehow lost his flip-flops, and got a cut by his eye and a cut on his knee that needed stitches, but didn’t seem sure if those were from getting in a fight or just from falling down. I felt weird about everyone and their “shame on you, you should be more careful, but…lol” sort of attitudes…and I told him that if he ever wanted to go out again and have the illusion of being by himself, he should give me a call and I would follow him at a discreet distance with a bag containing actual shoes in case the ones he’s wearing disappear. This will probably not happen, but it amused us to talk about it. (I feel like I could get a story out of such a situation. :P) And it is probably not my business if people want to potentially put themselves in harm’s way…but I am a little fond of some of my coworkers, and I’d probably feel worse if I hadn’t made that small, ridiculous offer. (You know I’d do it.)
Really, I’ve felt down about a number of things.
When we were driving up to Michigan, I kept thinking about all the familiar places we passed, and how odd it is to know where I am based on the locations of billboards, buildings, and exit signs for towns I’ve never been to and will probably never see. But I know the signs for them. Like…there is a town called Reese. I always make sure I look at the exit sign when we pass it, like it would be wrong for me not to. At least the town is not likely to go away like some of the businesses I remember. Like this place in Grayling called Wimpy’s. I never went in there, but we always used to point it out when we’d go up there because it had a funny name and the letters were wiggly looking, like worms. But I did not see it this time, and that made me sad. Not that I had wanted to go in, or that I would have if Wimpy’s had still been there…but I was sad to see it gone.
People’s houses are that way, too, on the more countrified and wooded areas.
There is a house that was built maybe during my tween or teenaged years, and they had a big outbuilding put on the property, too. It was a nice, big house, but the last two times I remember going up and seeing it, it looked like they’d let it go quite a bit. It was depressing. I was sad to see those people let their nice house get so bad looking. And I will never see the inside of that house, or know what the people living there are like, but I am sad for them and their nice house.
In some ways, that decay and disrepair are awful, but when I go there it doesn’t take me long to remind myself that these things are everywhere. It’s like the environment up there struggles harder to reclaim whatever gets set down on it. Anything new gets old so much faster, it seems, than it does at home, and even the natural landscape is that way.
I haven’t spent enough time in WA to know if their forests are also this way, but even though it’s a mix of deciduous and coniferous trees in the places I know in MI, I feel like something about the conifers makes all the difference. We have them where I am now, of course, but they aren’t the same. I feel like they’re closer and darker up there. And the ground is different. So much marsh. So much sand. I love the river, and I love the wooded areas around it and the lakes, but they are frightening places. So much there is alive—you cannot move for all the plants and trees and insects and birds and squirrels and deer and all the other creatures—but in the same space where a thing is living, another one is dying. All the trees are growing in the ruin of ones that fell or rotted before them. Pretty little mushrooms are growing on and under all those rotted trunks, and star-shaped swamp flowers are blooming in the blackest, moldiest looking mud puddles. And the trees that aren’t dead are so close you can feel them breathing, or so tall and open that you could leave society and live happily there. It’s a horrifying place.
I suppose that is why I like it so. It’s the kind of place someone like me belongs.