Things Left Behind
Time to write, I’ll tell myself.
Because the first step is to state it. Even where there’s nothing to write – or, at least, when it feels that way.
Time to write, I’ll tell myself. And then I’ll crack my knuckles and place my fingertips on Home Row.
They feel natural there – the same way they feel natural when holding a camera.
But your mind plays tricks on you.
Even when you want to write.
On the train, I fall asleep, and my sentences trail off, swallowed by sleep. And the gentle, soothing rockabye of the A Train.
The apartment is empty, but for the things that have been left behind. I clean the kitchen and vape some oil. Then cook a big dinner like my parents used to when I was a kid.
After eating, I go outside and stand at the curb, where a stain – red paint or blood – looks like a mouth laughing. I smoke a cigarette and think about it.
Nails like question marks are driven into the wall.
And the longer I go on staring, the more there seem to be.
I think about leaving New York for a weekend. Flying somewhere new. But I don’t want to see anyone.
I don’t want to go anywhere, or do anything.
I want to revel in it, feel it. Like it used to feel, to feel something.
More than a place, a time in your life. To go back there for a month and maybe reset something. Something hardening in your arteries. Something calcifying deep inside you. Money and self destruction and a lack of art for the sake of doing something different.
Somewhere in my older brother’s house, there is a photo of him with his wife, taken on a beach in North Carolina, as they walk away from the ocean. Their backs are turned but their faces are turned in towards one another, talking.
Their dogs, Bear and Diego, run between them.
The photo looks grainy and pixelated up close, because it was downloaded as a low-res .jpeg file.
Sometime after downloading it and printing it, they cut the photo to take out my ex-girlfriend Victoria, who was in the right-half of the frame.
Something about that just seems fucked up and wrong.
Like, you wanted something so badly…this idyllic-looking kind of life. So you LITERALLY cut someone else out of the picture so it could be more perfect for you.
Thoreau said that the perception of beauty is a moral test.
It’s depressing to watch people fail that test. Or maybe not fail it. I don’t know if there’s a pass-fail system to a moral test. I think you just end up realizing you have different morals than other people around you. And that can be kind of depressing.
“I don’t believe in Evil, Carroll.” Rich tells me with a serious look on his face, standing at the counter while my coworkers wrap up a sale with a buster.
“I really don’t. Some people do shitty things to each other. But I don’t think they’re Evil because of that. People do what they have to do because of their current circumstances. But what they’re doing right now? They’re doing that because there is something that is forcing them to do that, right now.”
I think about my circumstances, then. I think about not being that kind of person.
After work, I linger longer on the street outside, smoking a cigarette in the soft, summer night.
“I’m in Chicago now,” Vicky tells me.
I tell her I deleted her number so I wouldn’t bother her too much.
“Don’t do that again,” she tells me.
On the floor there’s a satin sleep mask. And I wonder who it belonged to.
And then I think about a pair of handcuffs I used to have.
Probably with an ex-girlfriend now.
Another thing that got left behind, or cut out of the picture.
Late at night, I leave the door to my room open, and look out across the tiled floor, through an empty apartment.
I think about the places I used to live. The towns I used to belong to. The streets I used to walk.
Late at night, when the world slept.
Everything breaks down and falls apart in the end. Everything gets assimilated. Everything transmutes into something else.
People get cut out of photos. And things get left behind, or nailed in deep, poisoning thoughts. And you ain’t ever gonna stop being different from the people around you, because it’s in your brain at this point.
No going back, no getting better or coming to your senses.
Like this, always.