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Some kind of thick black smoke is pouring into the atmosphere some ten miles away from where I sit right now. It’s only news because we all heard about it on social media, managed to read something of a headline in our slack-jawed scrolling.

Now I’m thinking about the smog in China, wondering if I’ll see or breathe anything like it in the next few months of my life. I don’t know if they have smog in South Korea; I’m guessing they do, it’s everywhere. Even here, ten miles away, in the form of black smoke you shouldn’t breathe or look at for too long.

I’ve spent most of this morning re-reading things I wrote when I was with you. It wasn’t much, I was too busy living to write anything down, which is disappointing. How am I supposed to live now?

It’s 2014, and I wasn’t very surprised when it happened, for once. A new year. It only took me 22 years to get used to the fact that time keeps slipping by. I’ve made friends with time, unlike most people, who are shocked when they look at a calendar and find it’s already Tuesday or March.

Is it Tuesday yet? I like Tuesdays. I was born on a Tuesday. Just because I like time doesn’t mean I keep track of it. Sometimes I don’t even believe in it.

The internet tells me the black smoke is all gone, the world ten miles away is no longer burning. This is good news. I wonder how long it would take me to walk ten miles. A long time, I bet. I can’t even walk to South Korea. Think of all the technology that time’s brought along with it.

The other day I was slack-jaw scrolling, having forgotten temporarily how to live, and I thought of you, in some tiny spark in my hibernating brain. I looked to see how you’re doing, and you’re doing the same as always. That was good news. I still have a few memories of you up here in my brain. I even remember what your voice sounds like and the color of those jeans you wear all the time including the day I met you.

 

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The words are piling up again. They tend to do that, even when I type and type to set some of them free. But usually the only words that end up spilling out of my fingertips are meaningless, useless; just like the words I spoke to you.

What can I say? Should I say anything?

I saw you today. It was from a distance but not so far that I couldn’t have walked a bit faster or thrown your name into the wind to catch up to you. I was with my friend, so maybe that’s why I stayed quiet. Probably not. I wondered if you would remember me, after all these years, after all those other faces with names. I found that just watching you cross the street made me thoughtful, made me appreciate the world and the people in it. I still want to be like you when I grow up, but in my own way, of course. Quiet and loud and wonderful and appreciative and vulgar and thoughtful. I don’t think growing a beard would work on my face, though. But that’s ok. I was never a beard person.

The words keep spilling out. Is this what I wanted to say, how I wanted to say it? Maybe. I don’t know.

Lately I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with the people I love. Sometimes I forget how much I appreciate certain people when a lot of time has passed since we last spent time together. And I can’t really say more than that, not in a way that would be meaningful and not cheesy. Maybe: I love you?

Is that it? Is that all? Is there more? Of course there is.

What are you doing right now? What did you do today? I have so many questions. There are so many answers. Slowly, slowly, we will find them. Together or apart. Acquaintances or friends. Words or no words. 

Bang. A gun shot. Don’t worry, we’re in the country, they must be hunting. Hunting what?

The phone rings. You answer. Bang. Another gun shot, this time through the phone in the form of bad news. Your heart drops again. You hang up, wondering, what’s that Mat Kearney song? “I guess were all one phone call from our knees.”

Bang. Another gun shot, hours later. What’s he after? What am I after? What are we all hunting? Did that phone call stop my search or start it?

If today is a bad day, how do all the other days compare? What about the great days? What about those?

Bang. Not a gun shot anymore, just memories; coping, comparing the heart breaks: Your arm put in a cast on your eighth birthday. The crushed front bumper of your sports car. The end of something before it began. A false friend. An empty room.

A phone call. A gun shot. It’s really all the same.

I thought I learned my lesson a year ago. I thought I was done expecting things from people who never promised me anything. I thought I already learned that life lesson – had it down pat. I guess not – for now I’ve had an unwanted refresher course: teaching me things I thought I already knew, and just as painfully as the first time. Do I understand now? Do I get it? Will this life lesson stay with me, or will I go on learning it time and time again throughout my life?

I flick on my blinker and  suddenly realize that I’ve almost driven all the way home without noticing. Twenty miles flew by under the wheels of my SUV as I sat, thinking about other things. Four Corners by Josiah Leming starts to play on my ipod, and I think about how that song always tends to play when I’m almost home.

Josiah sings out of the speakers of my car, and I sing along with him.

“Must have passed at least a million homes,
Can’t but help and wonder which one’s mine”

I got two hours of sleep last night. No, this morning. I went to bed at 5:55am, got up at 8 to finish that paper I had stayed up all night working on. I feel so tired – so tired that I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep. Not the giddy tired, either. Just tired. Bone tired.

“Half of the moon is all that we get this time.” 

I drive down my road, towards home. It’s the middle of december, almost Christmas, really, and there’s no snow. No snow in Michigan in December. I wonder if we’ll ever have a white Christmas again. That’s all snow’s good for, anyway.

“Blink twice, it’s never real.”

I keep thinking about you. I want to hang out with you again. I think about how I’ve seen you more than I’ve seen any of my other friends in the past two weeks. I wonder if that means anything. Maybe I just like you because I like things when they’re new, when I haven’t gotten tired of them yet.

“I wish that my heart could eat away my brain,
‘Cause it swings in front of me and makes me insane.”

When I get home I curl up in a ball on the newish purple rug in my room. It’s comfy. Slowly I come to realize that I’m laying on the floor in my bedroom. I don’t care, though. Sometimes being a girl is painful. Sometimes being alive is painful.

“Four corners make a whole,
And the holes will drag you under.”