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'Dynamo' Sports Club, 1935

Listen, 2015. You seem like a nice year. Everyone has high hopes for you, especially after these past 12 rotten months. There has been entirely too much hatred, violence, death, sadness, failure, loneliness, drought, natural disasters, heartbreak, boredom, poorness, and way too many lost airplanes over Malaysia. What’s up?! 2014 has, we must admit, been a shitty year. I for one hate to admit defeat. I’ve never proclaimed a year as “bad”. But, c’mon. Even I’m saying uncle! And it’s almost over. We all still have hope, us people of planet Earth. We can do better. You can do better, 2015!

We want all of the things 2014 did not give us. We demand it! It has to be better. It can’t possibly be worse! We should all be improving as the years and decades go on. We need nice people, communicative people, caring people. Smart people. A community of one mind, or hundreds of minds — even better — to talk and get along and make things happen, make improvements! Every year should move us forward. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do, 2015. We’ve got an extra year’s worth (at least) to make up for. Are you listening, 2015? Everyone? Pay attention! We’ve only got a few days left to think this over.

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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.

 

Not bragging or anything, but I have a handful of really close really great friends. I’m not sure how it happened, really. Some stuck around from high school, dwindling down from the large crowd of kids  that packed the hallway by the band room every weekday morning before the bell rang for class. Some I met in college — yes, I guess I actually did meet people in college — and somehow I became friends with them during the long semesters and years full of Shakespeare and Psychology and Procrastination with a capital p. Some I met after school, somehow or another, fellow roamers around town, or they were involved in the crazy post-graduation stuff I found myself doing.

And I guess it’s really just amazing. Because I’ve met a lot of people — hundreds and thousands of people — and this little bundle of people I keep close to me, well, how did that happen?

I think about friendship a lot. I think about relationships a lot, and the different kinds there are or can be, and the kinds that exist but shouldn’t.

I think friendship is underrated: the fact that one human, with all of their crankiness, and weird or offensive jokes, and psychological problems, or their introverted or extroverted personality, or their awkwardness, or their favorite music — all of that and more combined — can meet another human, with all of their stuff, and be friends. Like each other. Really, truly, like each other. Like the differences and sameness. Get along. Laugh. Cry. Talk about life or other stuff or bad television shows or cool shoes or good peanut butter froyo or what it feels like to be lonely.

Friendship is one big beautiful example that the world is bigger than you are. That you aren’t really alone up there stuck in your own head because there are other actual people out there in their heads, and you can talk to them and be people together. It’s really weird. Very strange. Very great.

I see two women walking together on the side of the road as I drive past, and I wonder if the woman waving her hands is talking and talking and talking too much, and if the other woman is regretting inviting her friend to exercise with her on this chilly late summer afternoon, since that’s what she really wanted to do, exercise, not walk slower than she normally would and listen to all of her friend’s  updated life struggles. “My cat just won’t stop staring out the window,” I imagine her saying, waving her arms as she walks, pretending that she wants to exercise, too.

And now the women are in my rearview mirror, I can look back and see them, and see the leaves turning orange or brown on the trees they walk under.

People are already complaining about the cold, about how it’s almost fall and the weather is colder than it was a month ago, and I think about how this always happens, every year, everything. Hot in the summer, cool in the fall, cold in the winter, with snow, and the same fetching of the dusty snow shovel from the basement.

I look in my rearview mirror at the beautiful orange leaves and I think about how I’ve seen this all before, seen those women before, or women like them, had those same experiences, talked about that same cat, seen those same leaves change from green to orange to brown, raked them into piles and jumped in them, or left the piles to rot. Again and again, year after year.

“It’s so cold!” she says, another faceless woman in my mind, pulling on the sweater she hasn’t worn in nine months.

Winter will come. Snow will fall. Salt trucks will melt it away, or try, or make ice patches that are worse than the snow was.

Again, again, of course. And of course the people will go on, dealing with seeing their breath in the air on cold winter mornings, plowing through snow drifts and piles of paperwork and gallons of hot coffee. What else can they do?

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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. 

Here’s a question for you: What are you most afraid of?

Me? Not the dark, or heights, or strangers. I’m afraid of living the wrong life.

I’m afraid that I’ll take a job in San Francisco, or Los Angeles, because it’s in San Francisco, or Los Angeles, and I’m afraid I’ll be satisfied with doing a job that isn’t satisfying, and, therefore, living a life that isn’t satisfying.

Maybe me saying this negates all my worries. Maybe I’m  waging a war that hasn’t happened yet; that won’t.

Maybe what I’m most afraid of is not being able to find it, the job I always assumed was waiting for me, somewhere. I still believe it’s out there, I just don’t know how to find it, where to look. I’m afraid I’ll miss it, pass over some link on the internet, or walk by the man wearing a puffy winter coat (I’m imagining this will take place in Chicago, in the winter, of course.) who could make it all happen.

Then again, I feel like if I can’t find what it is I’m looking for in San Fran or LA or wherever I end up, I’ll just make it. I’ll make my dream job. I honestly believe it’s possible.

This is my war, my battle. My I-just-graduated-college-and-have-to-find-a-job battle. I’m off into the real world (because people tell me the real world is a real thing), yet refusing to let the real world happen to me the way I’ve always expected it to attempt to.

And yet here, at the end of this thought, I’m still left where I was when I began a few sentences back. The war is still waging, the fear is still real, and there’s no one-liner that can end it.

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You wake up and you feel it almost immediately. You try to shake it off, brush your teeth, eat breakfast; it’s still there. Maybe it’s in your house, along with all the good and terrible memories. You get in your car, drive away toward somewhere. Where can you go? Shopping? Maybe that’s how people become shopaholics. Addicts. Maybe they’re all the same. Maybe we could all easily become like them; we were just born into different circumstances — found ourselves in a better place when we popped out into the world, and now we all struggle to stay upright where our mothers left us.

You pull into the mall parking lot. You turn off your car, but you know you’re not going in, so you roll down your window and sit still for a few minutes. It feels a little better. But running away doesn’t solve anything. What you’re looking for can’t be purchased at any store. Time is the only thing that helps. Time passes you by out the car window; people march in and out of the store, lugging out bags full of things they may or may not need. You put your seatbelt back on; you’ve sat there long enough, let enough time go by, and it’s still the same and it still will be the same for quite some time.

You could call someone. A friend. But it seems that these days all of your old friends are busy living their own completely different lives. It just doesn’t work anymore. Maybe you need to meet new people. Maybe you need to move. Anything to avoid staying here and falling slightly down, becoming something else. What were you born to be? This? Maybe new friends can’t help you. Maybe a new city can’t help you, either. Maybe nothing can. Maybe everything is just a cover-up, just a distraction. Just like sleep. That’s why you feel it the most in the early mornings, when you can still hear the birds chirping in the dying trees across the street, before the motors start and don’t stop until well after nightfall. That’s why some days, when you don’t have a calendar full of tasks to complete before you head back to bed, when you wake up and look at the clock and realize how many hours are going to stretch out in front of you, you feel it. Life. Just living. What the birds and the squirrels would feel if they had brains like we do. Emptiness. Or, rather, not emptiness. A lack of something that is full of something else. An empty fullness we try to cover up with the society we’ve created. With the laws, the stop signs, the uniforms of employees and school children. With religion. With purpose; an easy purpose, one-size-fits-all, that can be found in several different very old books. And, of course, with shopping.