Sunday, November 30, 2008

we wanted to be the sky

Friday night I got out of work early with every intention of buckling down on that awful paper I have been putting off all week, but found myself just sitting back and listening to music in my apartment for a while instead. Somewhere during Colors and the Kids by Cat Power I was hit by a heavy dose of nostalgia. It literally shook me, it was such a heavy feeling. I reverted to my time in San Francisco, and felt again how small that city once made me feel. It was an odd sensation.

San Francisco made me feel very small, but not necessarily in a bad way. I would walk up and down those staggering hills with my headphones, marveling at the vastness of existence; the mechanisms of city life; all the strange characters - businessmen and businesswomen and bohemians and bums, who bump into but never see each other - the organisms of buses and and taxicabs, all the lights set on timers, illuminating that soft fog at night that floats in from the ocean. Everything was alive, in some way or another. And my little, lost self looked up and felt dizzy. I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified. I saw a sea of strangers and wanted to get to know them, but averted my eyes at all costs. Part of me lamented the lack of sodality, but another part really reveled in the ability to walk around, observing, without ever being noticed. And so I felt really small and insignificant, but oddly comforted in that at the same time.

It's how I feel sometimes when I take a solitary drive at night, cruising down dark roads absorbed in some musical moment. I imagine that I could just keep going, without any set destination, without any responsibility or ties. I could turn off my phone and slalom through flickering neon truck-stops, counting the deer-crossing signs, and wondering how long the moon will follow. Each passing road sign would be a reminder of the enormity of the world, each pause between songs a reminder of my seclusion. I'd smile. I'd cry. I'd eventually turn around.

So this burst of nostalgia caused a sudden urge to go for a drive. It was a short one, but lovely. The air felt nice, the familiar surroundings became new, strange, because they didn't matter.

After a while I ended up at Books-a-million, because bookstores are second only to joy rides (and possibly a good record store). I perused for an hour or so, fingering through pages, alone amongst a crowd of people.

But as usual that solitary joy was replaced by pining for company, and I soon found myself in the presence of some dear friends (Austin, Ashley, Dean, and Brandy), sitting in a dark room, each taking turns entreating something beautiful from the ipod plugged into the sound system. And then the tide of the evening shifted again, and I was carried to a birthday party of a new acquaintance, chatting it up with strangers. The conversations were not anything notable, but I was feeling unusually content.

And it struck me: I've been meeting some really great people lately, people who seem to see things in me that I am unable to see in myself. I've always felt that there was a giant misunderstanding in how people percieved me, as if my internal strife was reality and the external affability merely a mask. I'd regard any kind words with silent suspicion, feeling like some grave error was made. (I am reminded of that wonderful line in Juno: "I don't really know what kind of [guy] I am")

So much of my life has been spent averting my eyes, attempting to convey social grace while internally squirming. I'm done with that. I'm tired of it. I'm learning to allow people their conceptions, and in-turn allowing that to inform my own conception of myself (when appropriate).

I'm sorry I've averted my eyes from you. I'll figure it all out on my next solitary drive, and turn around like I always do, and never ride alone again.


I feel like ending this with the lyrics to the aforementioned song, because they're so much better than anything I could write (though probably not as powerful without Chan Marshall's beautiful voice, so go out and buy the album).

It must be the colors and the kids that keep me alive,
'cause the music is boring me to death.
It must just be the colors and the kids that keep me alive,
'cause I want to go right away, to a January night.

I built a shack with an old friend,
he was someone I could learn from,
someone I could become.

Will you meet me down on a sandy beach?
We could roll up our jeans, so the tide won't get us below the knees.

Yellow hair, you are a funny bear.
Yellow hair, you are such a funny bear.

Slender fingers would hold me.
Slender limbs would hold me.
And you could say my name,
like you knew my name.

I could stay here, become someone different.
I could stay here, become someone better.

It's so hard to go in the city, because you want to say hello to everybody
It's so hard to go into the city, because you want to say hey, I love you to everybody.

When we were teenagers we wanted to be the sky
Now all we want to do is go to red places, and try to stay out of Hell.

It must be the colors and the kids that keep me alive.
Cause the music is boring me to death.
It must just be the colors and it must just be the kids,
that keep me alive on this January night.

Yellow hair, you are a funny bear.
Yellow hair, you are such a funny bear.

-Cat Power


c. said...

mmm. nostalgia, causes us to do crazy things like taking a drive, popping in an old VHS copy of Home Alone 2, or watching Lassie reruns just for the sake of remembering.

dMonti said...

Wow Steve, the more I read your stuff, the more you sound like me. I'm interested in hearing about your time in SF, I was born and partly raised in that area.

laurialigns said...

Basically everything about this is beautiful. There is always something about your closing lines too... They're good.