I read a headline that struck me as vaguely interesting, just before my interest in my interest kicked in.09/19/22
The mountains are empty. They let off their heat at night and fully embrace the moon and the stars. Outside the tent is space, cold and silent. At 3am, I get up to use the bathroom. Up here, I can see and hear for hundreds of moonlit miles, and I know it’s empty and silent. I hold my breath.09/17/22
Leg spasms on the back of the bus. I always forget the bump just before it comes. Some drivers will hit it full speed; in the front, you barely feel it, but in the back we’re bounced up out of our seats, onto our feet, or our sides, or our faces.
Leg spasms, and I’m drinking water. I’ll have to get off in a few stops and face the black sheet of rain and noise. Crossing I5 at 45th in the winter is otherworldly. It’s something I never want to do, but will miss once I’m gone. It’s pure noise, and a narrow sidewalk, and a drop to your left and a busy road to your right. Someone coming towards you is a threat; there’s nowhere to go but towards or away. And as soon as you pass them, you forget you were even worried.09/14/22
I bolt awake, but I’m still in the middle of a dream. I’m falling over after backing into a moped inexplicably parked inside the Fort Lauderdale airport. I spasm on the couch before realizing it’s just a dream, but not before tweaking my neck. Something won’t let me go. It’s hard to imagine a time before the dreams came faster than sleep.09/10/22
The students are back. Each year, the mass of new students is a bit more isolating. It’s a reminder that this place is always in flux, that even grad students leave, despite their advisors attempts to keep them. It’s a reminder that the faculty, bound by tenure, is the only constant.08/30/22
Walking home, but to what?08/27/22
Something feels different tonight. The night feels bigger and more menacing. It feels emptier and larger. Like I’m alone with my assailant, if they’re actually out there, and there’s no air between us. No friction. Nothing to carry sound.08/24/22
From here, my house is a lone floodlight on the far side of the valley. I rarely see it from the highway, and I never see it at night, but tonight I’m only passing through.08/23/22
I still say goodnight, in my own way. I lock the doors, and double check them. I pull the blinds, with the windows open to pull in the cool night air. I stand in the kitchen and look at my apartment. My corner of the house, my corner of the lot, my corner of the world.
Saying goodnight is saying goodbye to a day you’ll never have again, and wishing yourself through to the next morning. Those days become less and less unique, the nights more and more familiar, and more identical. A Monday night is a Monday night in any season.08/22/22
the paths you walk one year will be the same you walk years later. you’ll walk them differently. you’ll come to them from a different starting place, and you’ll be heading to another destination, and the walk itself will look completely different with the passing of time, but for that brief moment you’ll be taken back. eventually, wherever you go, you’ll just be stitching memories of different eras every few blocks.08/18/22
Saying goodnight was an act of faith. Things felt out of his control, out of everyone’s control, when the house went to bed. Like we were all about to brave a storm together. Like all we were hoping for was coming out on the other side.08/17/22
When it came back around, he’d forgotten that there was ever a time when saying goodnight had a magic to it. As if the night really did divide the previous adventure from the next.08/13/22
Sitting around the table, you wouldn’t know things are tense. I would know things are tense, because I grew up here. I can tell if things are tense just by the deep bass sound of the car engine coming down the road. That sense is innate. I can’t describe in words what it is about the sound. Frequency? Intensity?
The kitchen window is a mirror. This late into summer, it takes a long time for the sun to set, but when it does, it sets as if it’ll never rise again.08/13/22
There are a few minutes after sunrise and before the babies wake where the lakehouse is quiet. The water is glass. The teens in their surf boats cutting it up last night will be sleeping off their hangovers. Fishermen are coming back in, shallow boats puttering. The families who will be out rafting are being herded out of the house, maple syrup stains on their bathing suits, parcooked, partially eaten frozen waffles stuffed in pockets out of eyesight of parents.
There’s a sweet spot in the morning when we can plumb the channel in the daylight, without it being too choppy to flood our little boat. We could get a boat that would handle the choppiness of the main channel.08/07/22
The sun has set, but the clouds wrap sunshine over the horizon.08/05/22
Storerooms and warehouses so long and so far away they wrap over the horizon.08/05/22
Sweating copper pipes in an unfinished basement. The copper had been ripped out over Christmas. It seemed less and less likely that he was going to turn a profit on this one. The poured concrete floor sapped the heat from his body, starting at his fingers and ending at his toes. The frontier of pain made its way down his body until, fully cold, he felt it pass from his feet into the soles of his boots and into the floor. Just in time for lunch, where he’d warm back up and the frontier of pain would move back up.08/04/22
I wanted to love them like I wanted to believe in God. I felt that those that believed, and those that loved, had an unconscious peace of mind. I envied them.08/02/22
No matter where you stand, you’re in the way. If you sit, your legs block the hallway. You’re taking up too much space; you’re blocking someone’s vision; your eyes are resting too close to someone. And your anxiety makes others anxious.
You lay on your couch. The door is locked, the radio is on. Nothing left to be done in the day.07/28/22
Tap in to the pattern generator in your chest, in your stomach, wherever it is for you. It’s a low-framerate black pen scribble. It’s a slow pulsing sun. Maybe it’s nothing but a feeling. Pull patterns out. Whether they make sense isn’t for you to decide.07/23/22
Do you know the color of the house across the street? Do you know the color of your own house?07/19/22
Heavy dreams float in with the summer thunderheads. Heat lighting on the other side of the blinds. You sleep so hard, you forget even laying down to sleep. In the morning, the clouds are gone.07/16/22
It feels like nothing, until you feel everything. You’re asleep on your feet until, one day in June, you’re awake for the first time in years.07/13/22
It’s hard to accept that those summer nights in childhood come to an end. My adulthood is divided into various stages of my grappling with that loss. Ignorance, into denial, into attempted recapture, into indifference. But part of me is still there, on a dirt road lit by fireflies and sodium streetlights, unable to contain the potential of the night ahead. The people we’ll see, the places we’ll be. In my head, that night’s always just beginning.07/10/22
I was in it, and didn’t know I was in it. Not until years later, when I realized that part of my life was over, and I began to miss it. Even later, I was so distant from that time that I realized the part of my life in which I missed that part of my life was also over, and I missed that, too. I missed missing. Now, years later, I’ve even forgotten that I missed missing. It came to me on the train, and was gone soon after.07/07/22
Later this month, I’ll lose an entire day. Dreams and waking life will be fully out of phase.07/04/22
I wake up, time after time, from the dream. I sit in bed recapping the dream: I was at a conference in Michigan. I was meeting colleagues, I was going to talks. I was laughing, getting dinner and drinks, catching rides to the airport, even giving tearful hugs goodbye. I lay in bed, shaken by how real it was. The dream keeps me in its grasp as the gray day seeps through the house. I flow with it, down the hallway, down the steps. I wonder if it wasn’t a dream. I realize it probably wasn’t; it was too real. It must not have been a dream, it must have just been a memory of the previous day.
In the kitchen, I see my dad.
“Where’s everyone from the conference?” I ask.
“Most have them have left,” he says, “but some are still catching rides.” He motions to the driveway. Someone I’d gotten beers with the night before is out with his suitcase. He waves to me.
I guess that makes sense. I wave back. I can see his face, but I can’t remember it.
“Wait,” I ask, “did we host the conference here? I thought it was in Michigan.”
“Yeah, we hosted it here.”
“…I’m still dreaming, aren’t I?”
“I don’t know,” he says with a sly smile, “are you?”
And with that, I come to from that dream, back in Michigan. Another day of the conference. More meals, more talks.
And then I wake up in my bed in Seattle. I try again to shrug it off. I use the bathroom and get back to sleep.
Meanwhile, thunder rolls above. Rain drips through the half cracked car door. When I wake for good in the back of my car, it’ll take me a whole hour to shake it off.06/28/22
The neighborhood gives up its heat all at once. In summertime, we know glass-off by the rustling of leaves and the breath of cool air through our screen doors. The kids know it in their bones. When it comes, they’re gone; if dinner isn’t ready when it comes, they go without eating. Empty stomachs waits on adventure.06/23/22
I come to for an hour, a day, maybe a few months. I come to with memories of the last times I was awake, with memories of memories of previous times I came to. The order is scattered, non-chronological; I come awake in high school with memories of college, knowing they’ve happened, or are happening. The rest of my time is all the time. It’s the all-filling expanse of the present moment. Expansive and yet empty.06/21/22
They would appear anywhere—cities especially. They would find alleyways or empty lots. There was something about a hole—they needed to be put in a hole to bear offspring, or to enter their full form. There were four steps, in fact, to their transformation, the hole being just one of them. There was something about heat, as well, hence the knit sweaters.06/20/22
I dreamt of some species of frog or slug whose offspring-bearing form is a massive loaf-shaped thing weighing thousands of pounds. I was in an informational session, because despite them being so large, many people didn’t notice them. Those who did notice them would knit them massive sweaters.06/19/22
There are square miles of Earth where no human has been. By the end of your lifetime, that may no longer be true. Ten lifetimes from now, there will be square miles of the moon, or of Mars, that no human has been. In a hundred lifetimes, that may not be true. In a thousand lifetimes, there will be square miles of distant planets that are yet unseen, but even those will become rarer and rarer. But there will be places no human will ever be, in our entire existence. Should that bring me peace?06/17/22
Balanced on a post in coastal California. The mailman left the letter at the gate—he never stepped on that property.06/16/22
I haven’t been sleeping well. I fall right asleep, but never wake rested. I get up once in the night, always, and the city outside is silent. It may be raining when I fall asleep, and when I wake up, but in the middle of the night the world is frozen still.05/31/22
Spring brings dreams that leave me more tired than waking life. In the few hours before midnight, I sleep, but when the clock turns over I wake to another life, with its own joys and stresses. Waking in the morning becomes strangely like falling asleep, just as floating face down just under the surface of the water is like floating face up on the surface of the air.05/30/22
For a moment, the water blinked out of existence. Tankers and cargo ships hung in the air. The day was clear, sunny, and cold. The day was already a memory. Images streamed straight into long term storage.05/28/22
Have you ever felt the passing of a chapter in your life? Have you felt it not in the months after it happens, but in the very moment? Was it the feeling of closing a chapter, or the feeling of opening a new one? Did you feel sad? Relieved? Shocked?
You’re passing out the front doors when you realize you will never be back here. None of you will be. You’ve spent so much time talking about how others are leaving that you forgot it’s true of you as well. There’s no time to say goodbye, and not much to say goodbye to. You are sympathetic to your future self, who will regret not making a bigger deal of it, but you also know now what you will forget then: there’s nothing to be made a big deal of. Your life is half formed. Your time now is not what it will be worth then.05/27/22
Life is long, and the lives within it are short.05/26/22
The apartments always feel as if they’re attached to—grown off of, perhaps—another building. I come into the dream and I’m standing in the apartment, and no matter how many doors I open, there is never even a hint of getting closer to the rest of the building. I can feel the empty rooms and crawlspaces between me and the rest of the building.05/25/22
I’m having dreams of houses that aren’t mine. Suddenly, I’m living in them; it’s always night time, and I’m always alone, exploring the house, finding more and more rooms, feeling more and more alone. The place feels like it was never inhabited by humans—maybe never intended to be.05/24/22
On a cloudy day, I observe. The variable-lens telescope on the roof of my shack has a makeshift sunshade of two by four and corrugated metal. By midday the metal shimmers in the heat. The thermals rising off the earth make the weather vanes spin.
I’m looking for thunderheads.05/23/22
Everything after that depends on the weather. I check the local station, I check the reports in my inbox, I check the window. On a bluesky day, there is nothing to do.05/22/22
I don’t love the open plains, but they get me away from him.
I start my day with a run, when the dust isn’t too bad. I get up early, ahead of the heat, and wonder how far off my footfalls lie from where they landed yesterday morning. Even the slightest difference is enough to tell myself that today is distinct from every other day—but some mornings, it’s hard even to find that difference.05/19/22
On the other end of the line they heard, in the operator’s voice, “It all rings, all together.”05/18/22
“How does it feel?” she asked.
I blinked in the sun. I was in a diner; the fake deep wood of the cheaply vinyled tables and walls contrasting strangely with the bright light coming in through the wide-open windows. I could see sand tracking in on the welcome mat and I could smell salt in the air. I couldn’t see the ocean, but I could see, just a block down, where the road and hotels ended and the dunes began.
“How does what feel?” I realized I was wearing sunglasses. I left them on—they felt like my last defense against the world.
“Being free,” she said.
“I have to be honest, I have no idea where I am.”
She was quiet for a while.
“I get that. I’m not sure where I’ll go now. Where I’m supposed to go.”
“This is the ocean.” I said it as a statement, though it was meant to be a question. She gave me a look whose meaning was beyond my comprehension but whose gravity was immediately felt. She stood up, kissed my cheek, and left.05/17/22
That summer, we found a tunnel under the building that didn’t connect to anything, and had been completely unused.
The basement of the building was a mess of steam tunnels and re-divisioned workspaces. Walls would be knocked down and rebuilt on a whim; cheap wood frames and unpainted sheetrock that was never quite flush with the ceiling or floor.
I was managing the computer labs, and there was one in the basement. It was my favorite spot to be that summer: cool, dry, and quiet. Somewhere I was guaranteed to never run into her. An entirely unknown room, in an unknown building, on the wrong side of campus.
As we rolled a hand-truck stacked with reams of paper down the stairs, it got away from us—the reams tipped into a wall and pushed in the sheetrock. Through the hole, we saw faint light—a light fixture in the hung ceiling, with most of its fluorescents burnt out. We crawled through to find a space behind the walls, the exposed wooden studs like the ribs of an animal, and we, walking through its insides.05/16/22
Four fifty-eight ticks by on the dash as the road drops into the coulee, and we with it. Sun drops below the Cascades. And then you’re awake, and it’s winter. You lift your head from the kitchen table and wonder where you were.05/14/22
You can choose to believe the worst time in your life is behind you. Even if it really does lie ahead, there will be but one single moment where you’re experiencing the worst moment of your life, and after that it will truly be behind you.05/13/22
Walking the streets of Ann Arbor, I wonder if this is where I will always end up. Not here, specifically, but in a place like this, a place and time like this. A perfect night in early summer, with the cold recently broken and the heat yet to come. Hazy-clear sky holds the clouds like a blanket, gathering them at the horizon. The setting sun barely a presence, here; here, the air holds the heat, and it weighs on you, pushes down on you, to let you know it’s there. It’s not like the west, where the air is crystal clear, almost a vacuum, and holds no heat, and you depend on the light of the sun to warm you. Here, the sun can hide all day behind the haze.
The streets are empty; even the end-of-year parties have finally petered out, in that week and a half that I’m sure felt like a month to the undergrads, about to head out for the summer, and perhaps for good.
It feels right, for me. Alone, and yet surrounded, by the heat, by the memories that aren’t mine and yet I can sense, beaten into the streets and pounded into the walls of the brick houses. I’m somewhere I’m not meant to be. But not me specifically; no one is meant to be here. And so I can walk the streets as a ghost, touching nothing, leaving no trace.05/08/22
The lawn has gone to seed. The kayaks are filled with a winter’s worth of rain, and frogs jump in and out. Raccoons avoid the yard now, as the grass is too high, but birds have started to make their homes among the dandelions. When I get around to mowing, I’ll have a horde of angry robins watching me.05/02/22
Her smell reminded him, of, well, her. Whatever that scent might actually be—some mix of perfume, the spices in her food, a faint hint of sweat from her bike commute—it did not give its essence to her, but instead, her to it. He wouldn’t drive the roads she biked or eat the food she eats without thinking of her. Any woman in that perfume would simply be her shadow. She incorporated those things into herself. Soon, he felt, he too would just be part of her, a character in the story of her life. He was okay with that.04/30/22
He laid down in the grass, warm in the summer air. With his fingers, he felt for holes where his students’ transits might have poked into the earth. His head spun wildly; the trees that lined the lawn ringed the periphery of his vision, and they spun as if about to fly off a ceiling fan. He tried and failed to steady his vision, eventually giving up. His vision spun out and he felt his eyes drift out of alignment. As his eyes involuntarily began to close, he felt close, for the first time in a long time, to something that was his, and his alone.04/27/22
Sleep paralysis, but this time it’s different. You feel your body locked in your bed like you feel the tip of your pinky toe. It feels far below you, and feels tiny relative to what you are. You are the house above and around you; you are the air above the house and the wires that crisscross through it. And from up here you feel the massive bridge in the distance, its thousands of tons. You feel it like you feel your body in bed—far away, and small—but you know it’s not part of you. And as the paralysis fades, you feel the bridge crumple like tin foil, implode in on itself, crushed as if in the hand of a child.04/26/22
Fall is far away, and might never come again. It hasn’t been on my mind since I began marking time not in seasons or months, as I do to get through winter and spring, but in weeks and days, as I will all summer.04/25/22
The forest abruptly gives way to a clearing. The fog lets through gray light in slow pulses like the pangs of pain from a hangover headache.
In the clearing stands a utility building, and nothing else. Its only doors are a set of gray metal double doors with no door handles. Sturdily built, it looks like it could have been assembled elsewhere and dropped in from altitude.04/22/22
Summers are short, and gone before you know it. Winters are a bad dream.04/18/22
Low gray clouds stretch out for miles. Under them, the air is clear and calm.04/18/22
She pads along a few feet in front of him, and a foot to the right. He doesn’t leash her anymore; she couldn’t run if she wanted to, nor could he chase her if he wanted to.
She sniffs fire hydrants and trees like she always has, but increasingly she fixates on things he’s certain can’t have a smell: stones and bricks, for example. Standing next to her as she sniffs at a rough granite block mortared into a stone wall, he realizes that her instinct to sniff remains, even as her ability to smell things fades away.04/16/22
The moon reflects the light of my street across the whole world. For a brief few minutes, on a hot July night, with neighbors trailing us on foot and on bikes, with fireworks coming over the roofs of a few houses, the moon reflects us across the entire nighttime hemisphere.04/13/22
With the dishwasher running and the dryer on a long cycle, the apartment itself sounds like it’s in a barrel rolling down a hill. I lie in bed and close my eyes, and I feel the roll. Long, gentle arcs in slow motion.04/12/22
There’s nothing in the west. I checked. It’s not empty, but it is for you. There are entire lives out here—millions of them. There are lives here which are more foreign to your neighbor than you are to the west. You can live here, but the world will be behind glass. Every step will be a step from the east. You will wake up in your previous beds, but be returned to the west before you blink the sleep from your eyes. You’ll wonder when you’ll wake up for real, and you wonder when you’ll be when you wake.04/11/22
I sweep the floor, inward, from the walls to the center, before collecting the dust and dirt and hair in a pan and dumping it into the trash. Once more, or twice, until there’s no visible pile.
I get on my knees and scrub the floor with a rag. I go in rows, starting from the center and shuffling left and right. My joints creak and pop. The floor kneads my knees. Some days they are fine; some days it feels as if they might have a tear.
The lights are dimmed, but they have a mind of their own. They don’t flicker; instead, they fade, slowly, in and out. I have as much control of them as I need. When I say bright, they’re bright, and off, they’re off; anywhere in between, I leave it to the dimmer’s strange consciousness.
I lay on the floor and feel the ground massage my hips, my shoulderblades. The printed flooring slats are colder than the hardwood they pretend to be.04/09/22
What do you see when you look back? Not much. A view you didn’t have, out of a window that wasn’t yours. A streetlight buzzing in spring. Red awning of the corner store. Puddles of water reflecting stars on the opposite roof. The odd person up at this hour, though the streets are well lit and it’s indistinguishable from early evening. I type and type, and I look up every once in a while to wonder what I’ll miss.04/08/22
A fireplace stands in a field on the long strip of land between two lakes in upstate New York. In the winter, storms bring snow from the west. In the spring, rains from the east. In the summer, the sun bakes its bricks from the south.
It doesn’t sit and wait. It knows no time. But I keep time for it.04/06/22
As a new professor, he was a bit too comfortable with undergrads. He’d go with them to bars at the end of the semester, when they jokingly invited him.
He felt he was their peer; they in their early twenties, he in his late twenties. He wasn’t their peer. The gap between them was immeasurable. In terms of authority, he was undeniably their superior. But emotionally, developmentally, he was stunted. At their age, he’d still never been to a bar. At his own age, he’d still never been to bars the way they had: after finals, soaking in the first heat of spring, not thinking of an upcoming internship or next semester’s research, thinking only of the drink in front of them and the friends across the table. They were aware of the authority gap; they didn’t mind it. They thought it was funny. But had they known of the emotional gap, they wouldn’t have invited him.
A few years in, he became self conscious. He stayed away from undergrads, embarrassed at how cavalier he had been.
Now, though, he doesn’t care. In the spring, he grades his student’s exams out on the patio of the bar across from his building. His grad student TAs join him. They finish pitcher after pitcher. His students are often out there, too, at other tables: when he’s in his cups, he’ll hold their exams up to them menacingly, just to spook them.04/05/22
When you’re lying in bed at the end of the day, you want to feel at peace. The floor is swept and scrubbed. Blankets are folded. Your bag is packed and your clothes are laid out. The dishwasher’s filled and started, and its jets play its contents like singing bowls. The world outside is still, all activity contained to the interstate a quarter mile away. There’s peace.04/04/22
Steady rain and a light-polluted sky.04/04/22
If you care about advancing science for the species as a whole, then you have to make it your mission to commit to something and explore it deeply, while simultaneously accepting that that thing may not be the “right” thing. As a species, we need to explore all paths, which means some individual members may go down the wrong paths. There is nothing to be proud of but the advancement we all make together. Individual achievements in science are inextricable from the achievements they’re built on.
Yet at the same time, I know leadership is important. And maybe egos are important in leadership?03/27/22
Five feet under the ground in a field off a state route in New Hampshire, there’s a human hand, belonging to no one but the Earth. It’s growing there, at least until the winter comes, and the freeze kills it.
On a creekside in Mexico, in the muddy grass and reeds, an ear is loosely attached to the mud and reeds. The next storm will wash it downstream.03/25/22
Three times, and three times through. It’s more than he can say for himself.
Out the window is a changing scene. As soon as he thinks he knows what he’s seeing, it changes before his eyes. It gets worse if he focuses on details; he gets even closer to some semblance of understanding, while still never arriving. Meanwhile that which he isn’t focusing on changes beyond his peripherals, losing even dignity enough to change before his eyes.
He closes his eyelids, but his eyes just flit behind them.03/18/22
The suburbs at night are cozier than the city. It’s easier to believe that the world is just your street, and the millions and millions of miles of space and stars just above.03/15/22
I had a dream I was on Mars. It seemed completely normal for me to be there; there was no evidence of how I’d gotten there, but I didn’t seem surprised. Still, I knew it was my first time on another planet. It was as if that were only as special as my first time in a new city.
The only thing I noticed was a noise. A noise so subtle, it just as easily could have also been the absence of a noise. Something different between here and Earth. I felt the bass—or felt its absence—in my feet, and the bottom of my stomach. I felt the treble in my eye sockets and at the tips of my ears. Enough time and I knew it’d somehow tear me apart.03/13/22
You wake up feeling rain in your bones. It’s a hot July morning; you’re up early, and yet the sun’s beaten you and the world’s wide awake. Cicadas fill the air with their sound; you hear it from your bed, but as you open the window, it pushes through the open air, and you feel it on your skin. The air pushes in, heat and sound, and, ever so minute, a humidity, or a smell, or something beyond description, and instantly you know it will rain.
Others know it too, though many will think it’s just because they read the weather report. So people scurry about, always knowing how far they are from shelter, always checking the sky.
When the rain comes, a new day begins. But first, a twilit, Arctic-circle night of rain, where the air becomes water and nothing else meaningful happens outside or in; the world is rain, and those watching the rain.
When the new day begins, the air is fresh and cool. What was held in it has dropped to the Earth. Everyone and everything relaxes. You remember only the next few hours of daylight; everything before the rain seems unimportant.03/09/22
You might not realize that this is it; this is the same “this” that I experience, or the same “this” the person on the other side of the camera experiences. It can be easy to remember there’s no screen between you and the world. Any story I tell you, you, too, could have been there. Anything you see on the screen, you could see with your own eyes. And yet you imagine me telling you this from some place in your head; some scene based fully on your mental model of where I’d live, the sound of my voice generated by the same model. Remind yourself that I’m here, with you.03/04/22
There’s a hillside in Pennsylvania, reforested after decades of strip mining. By whatever mechanisms decide these things, a few acres of it went up for sale.02/23/22
Crossing campus early in the morning, on a cold, bluebird day. It must have been Spring Break; campus was completely empty.
A healthy young black bear and a sickly-looking adult brown bear wander across campus, each seemingly unaware of the other’s presence. The brown bear walks on hind legs, wandering towards nothing at all, mangy fur looking as if it might leave a trail of tufts behind it. The black bear sniffs at a trash can and swipes at an undergrad getting too close while taking its photo.
As I’m describing the situation over the phone, I realize how incongruous it seems.02/21/22
There’s a glass of water on the nightstand. The lights from the street shine through the blinds, casting a blade of light which slices through the glass. Dust circulates in the water, but my head struggles with the words in English to describe it. Half awake, I find myself thinking in the language I was raised in, and the glass takes on a different quality. The nightstand, itself covered in dust; the bare wall; the plain windowshades; they all take on a warmer quality, for just a moment.02/20/22
Out on the sea, there are boats without crews.02/17/22
There is a pattern, and it’s less complicated than you think. If you saw it, you wouldn’t be awed by its simple beauty, but dismayed at its near-emptiness. It would pass through you, triggering no emotional or intellectual reaction, leaving only a faint feeling of having missed something entirely.
But you won’t see it—and for that, be thankful. The patterns you see instead are its imperfect echoes, rich and satisfying in their complexity. Beautiful spiderweb fractures radiating from a blunt impact. Intricate snowflake arms growing from a careless seed. You fill up on that, and slowly learn to dance through the web, and avoid its core.02/16/22
The sign blinks my name. There’s something about my own name—I know the shape of it like I know the shape of my own face. And so, though I’m too far away to read the other text, I know with certainty that my name is on there.02/15/22
I breathe in and out, wondering if I reach all corners of my lungs, wondering why deep inhales hurt, just a bit, while I sit on a bench, facing the wrong way in a waiting room. It takes me a minute to realize that, as daydreams fill my vision, my eyes are staring directly through the door of an office, resting on a woman at her desk. I move them quickly, looking for some appropriate place to rest them before getting back to my daydreams.02/13/22
What is the shape of life, these days?
Short but sunny days. Everything nearly dries out. But we’ll go back into gloom before the winter’s done with us.02/02/22
There’s a chance the story you get to write isn’t the version of the story that you’d want to write, or that you’d want to read. The characters might not be your own—in a good story, they won’t be. And so you only get a glimpse on their lives.01/27/22
I hadn’t been to the bar in my three and a half years, though I’d passed it hundreds of times. It got to the point where I would daydream about myself going for the first time. On a particularly beautiful, warm, spacious, empty and neverending summer night, I’d make it a stop; after something fun, and before something even more fun. A single drink as the sun sets down 65th.
And then one day I found myself there: it was the very opposite of my imagination. A Thursday night in the depth of winter, where night loses its meaning, because not-night only serves to let you see the gray and the rain, and so you just wish for night.01/20/22
Orange in the dishwasher. In the top rack. At first I thought it was an orange, and then realized that it was the 1 Cup measurement cup from my set of measurement cups, and then I realized that no, it really is an orange.
It’s been a strange week. A redeye at the start of the week totally reset my sleep. I slept all day and all night.
I shrugged and ran the dishwasher.01/19/22
Endless days. Don’t know what I’m working for. Every day is orchestrated by the calendar, and by the task list. But why? What for? What’s the goal? To be happy? To be accomplished? Or to not be? To not be idle. To not be alone. To not be bored.
How is best to live life? By not asking that. By never asking that. By never wanting to ask that.01/18/22
You get used to the gray and wet. Maybe you’ll always feel guilty, for disappearing in the dark months, or maybe even that will go away. It’s a time to hide away. To rest, to regain strength. To sleep nine hours nightly, to make up for the six or seven hours you’ll get on the average summer night. To feel cozy and warm with the rain pounding outside, and the night so dark you can see only yourself /your reflection in the windows.01/17/22
Pushing a scooter around a cracked and broken tennis court on a warm Martin Luther King Day’s night in a park off a cul-de-sac in the outskirts of Honolulu. I saw it from above, flying by on the freeway. I want to believe she’ll take that memory with her forever, because I want to believe I’ll take my equivalent memory—flying down a no-longer-used street on my bike, pedaling as if I was breaking free of my training wheels for the first time—with me forever.01/16/22
Even in paradise. Even in paradise, it comes through. Storm clouds in peripheral vision. Tinnitus ringing at the edge of audible perception. A gut feeling you can’t shake until you do, and when it’s gone, it’s gone, so far gone that I shouldn’t even be able to recall this as a pattern, or use it as an analogy.01/15/22
The buildings smear down the mountainside to the sea like a lava flow.01/14/22
On an airplane over the Pacific. What good comes of the line drawn between you and Earth? Measuring it, bisecting it, drawing it towards you or pushing it away, as if you could. Sometimes you want to slide down it, towards safety. Sometimes you want to climb it. Sometimes you just want it to split you in two, and fold your halves back into the Earth. Sometimes you don’t feel it at all.01/13/22
My memory was going in and out. It must have been heat exhaustion; later that night, I found my laptop in my bag, swollen and melted from heat. If I’d started the day with water, I didn’t have any by the end. Sitting at the kitchen table, head pounding, I didn’t even know how the day had started.
Memory flashes in and I am cleaning dishes in an empty cafeteria. There’s a sense that everyone’s gone, for the day or for the season, though the light is coming in as if it were noon. It feels like I had been here before, like the mess was mine, from some unspecified amount of time ago, hours or months.
Memory drops out. It drops in, briefly, and I am walking into that same cafeteria— is this before or after?— hurriedly, but not so hurriedly as to scare the person heading in before me.
I also found movie tickets in my bag, which triggered a memory of sitting in a cool theater.01/10/22
My corner of campus: a few broad trees grasping for the backs of forgotten buildings and over a forgotten road.01/06/22
Across from my office on campus there’s a glass and metal skeleton of a building lit from the inside day and night. A smokestack rises from the building, tall and wide. Behind it, there’s a room in which it never stops raining.01/04/22
There’s nothing under the ground. There’s nothing in the sky. They don’t want you know that they’re not hiding anything at all.01/03/22
I can barely see out of my hood. The rain doesn’t quite drive; that implies it is going somewhere, and going somewhere fast. Rather, it feels like the rain hangs, suspended, in midair, waiting for me to collect it on my face as I bike past. I keep my head down as much as possible through the rain. I focus on the ring of light cast by the flashlight attached to the handlebars. I’m in a suit of armor against the rain. It took me a few weeks into my first winter to realize what was and wasn’t essential for biking in the rain. Rain coat, rain pants, waterproof gloves, backpack cover, lights. A mud guard on the back is not essential, if you’re already wearing rain gear, but it doesn’t hurt.
I’m coming up the hill on 40th. I5 passes high above. Into the suspended rain the sign casts an orange glow; from down here, from this side of the bridge, I can’t see the sign itself, but in this rain I can see the orange glow of its letters refracted through the rain.
It feels as if all things in Seattle flow through this intersection. Inexplicably placed, confusingly ordered, only some ways in and some ways out, and every turn takes you somewhere completely different. Once you choose which way you’re going, you better be right. And when it rains, it feels as if all water, too, will flow through this intersection, pouring in from four of the streets, and out the bottom street.
Confusingly, four of the five streets coming in and out of this intersection are called Northeast 40th Street, the fifth being 7th Avenue Northeast.01/01/22
The ice has hung around longer than it used to. It didn’t freeze here in the past. Now snow falls and doesn’t get cleared, and then melts and refreezes and hangs around.12/28/21
One night I got in a stranger’s car. They were the only car on Stone Way. It was three or four in the morning. She was looking for gas; I tried to tell her it was just up the road; she told me to just get in. She gave me her credit card and told me to pump her gas while she bought cigarettes. I was happy to do it. It felt like we were on a mission.
It felt altogether unreal. The streets were empty. When she pulled up to me on Stone, she was driving on the wrong side of the road, and yet it didn’t matter. There was nobody out.
She was looking for her girlfriend, who was apparently sleeping with her best friend. She drove me to their house. It was conveniently close to mine. I hopped out and walked home.12/19/21
The story I want to write begins with the bridge. The bridge soars far overhead. It’s hard to ignore; I can hear it even at night as I fall into sleep. But that’s not right. It is easy to ignore. I don’t notice it anymore. If I had real silence, I’m not sure what I’d do.
It’s at its loudest just before you walk under it. As you pass under it, you can no longer hear it, or, rather, the noises it makes are completely different. The roar of the cars reverberating between the two layers of the double-decker bridge falls away, replaced with the strange hollow sounds vaguely hinting at the vehicles rushing above. The ever-present rain also falls away. The city’s pavement, normally perpetually wet in the fall, winter, and spring months, is perpetually dry under here. And then, as soon as you move into that strange dead zone, you’re out of it, the roar of the cars returning.12/02/21
I hope we all remember nights when we couldn’t see out those fogged windows. Panes weeping into the old, swollen wood that nobody, especially not us cared for, and yet we loved so much. Nights where we didn’t need to look out, where we were focused in, focused on each other. Sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, drinking beers. Endless nights that came to an end.02/22/21
Somewhere, there’s a recording of the following conversation:
Person 1: You’re gonna hate to hear this–
Person 2: Lay it on me. It’s not like the other stuff wasn’t [indistinguishable].
[Subdued laughter. A metal chair slides on a concrete floor, and a third voice says something away from the mic. The sound echoes in the hollow room.]
Person 1: Yeah. Anyway, there’s a few parts to this. First, God was in the ocean.
Person 2: Okay.
Person 1: It was in the ocean, but from what we can tell, it went to the moon.
[Again, off mic, we hear the echoey sounds of a third person’s voice.]
Person 1: Yeah. Fled. Fled to the moon. But something else killed it before we got there.
Person 2: …and let me guess—no questions from me at this time?
Person 1: Sorry.01/27/21
What’s the point of living somewhere, seeing something, if you can’t know every part of it? I’d show you how the back lot behind a strip mall in nowhere, Pennsylvania, can be more beautiful than the Cascades, if I could.01/07/21
Winter mornings like nights, and nights like mornings.
Concrete paths iced up and I wonder at how much the university must spend on sidewalks alone. My summer brain makes space for thoughts about how they must choose where to lay the next sidewalk, or put up the next fence; how they must watch the grass slowly be trampled, as the flow of students bends and oxbows, semester to semester; how the grass of the quads gets torn up, the dirt packed hard. But at 7am on a no’s-day in the cold black winter morning I am only conscious enough to be thankful for the salt they lay down in the instant I feel it underfoot, and then, even that thought disappears.
Winter nights we come alive, and so do they. We, out from our classes, our labs, into the snow, towards home. They, out of garages on the far side of campus, where nothing happens and nobody sleeps. Us, to heat and sound and life. Bars are open—have been open—and we file in and out. They, after our ghosts, along the pathways looping back on themselves.01/03/21
I miss the summer nights. The sound of crickets in the warm air. Coming across the field after a night swim. Did sound carry differently through the summer night air? Closed in the field. Heavy and warm like a blanket. The field was a window and we walked under it. Did we know then? Did we look?
Later, watching reality TV with your mom while everyone slept.
Even later, we drive through an empty Kansas, full of people. Space was inches off the ground. We saw thousands of miles.03/23/17
A professor with something, anything, else on his mind, so many other things on his mind, realizes that the students in the course he’s teaching have been reporting really odd data. They are always measuring with those laser transit things, measuring a certain location over and over again, some central location on campus. He has such an incredible amount of data about such an inconsequential and known thing. But he realizes that the data is showing that the place is expanding outward from the center, somehow.
He even sees his students out there sometimes. He waves to them on a sunny day in spring. They wave back.10/01/16
I’m not there anymore, and I haven’t been for a while now. but I found some journals from that time, and I’ve been reading them. “man on lake,” one entry reads. Nothing else. Ice would have been thick by then; would have been thick for two months. So it’s plausible. But who? And why?09/24/16
a college town on an early fall morning, 7:30 to 8:30. one hour to live in for the rest of your life. one atmosphere. it’s perfect—the sun is out and warming the cold ground, not a cloud in the sky. yet nobody is out, no businesses open. you earn so much just by waking with the sun, as so many others do not.
the clouds press down on town this morning, during my run. and I know I’ll get back, shower, and they will have burned off. but for now they press like a blanket and keep us in place. they tell us there’s no need to move. that this isn’t real, it’s not part of our real day.10/21/15
Very early fall or very late summer; so little traces of either season that it doesn’t matter which. For once, it’s me who wakes up before the sun; I get up, shower, grab my bag, and head to the airport to catch a flight for an interview. Waiting in line for security, I see my algorithms professor, and he sees me. We don’t exchange words.
Weeks later, I’m waiting on a call from a recruiter. In my algorithms class, he lectures using the overhead camera. Every lecture he has a different pen, and today, down the side, his pen reads State College Airport.07/06/15
In the winter, we take the thirteen helicopters out of storage. It’s a few weeks of prep, for them; it’s the only time they get used. In the meantime, they start cutting the ice. Two miles out, a rectangle three hundred yards parallel to the lake and five hundred perpendicular.12/09/14
The shadows of the radio towers must fall, somewhere. It changes with the seasons, sure…but to be the kid, growing up, and it’s Fall again—September, and he doesn’t really lament the coming of school, it’s just who he is. Like an old friend, the shadow’s there, in the schoolyard, in the mornings. Outside, they can stand on its very peak, the antenna at the top of the mast; even just as they watch, it moves out from under their feet. And as they grow up in that school, they begin to understand the shadow, and what it means that it moves so quickly…and they grow up different because of it.sometime 2012–2014
mornings, where I hear snoring all over the house, and see things and am completely alone, and people travel in pairs on the streets in the valley in the dark and they look like they know where they belong, right here, in these hours. In the evenings, the cooling air sinks into the valley and the wind comes up, the warmer air comes up the mountainside that we live on, and you can feel it. but in the morning the opposite happens, and you see it, the clouds are low and fast sinking into the valley,and I follow them, because I need to be down there, but I’d follow them anyway because the morning is so dark and so quiet and so damn close that there’s nowhere else to go but where the wind is going.sometime 2012–2014
I woke up this morning and there was snow on the ground. it’s been a weird week, a trip over the weekend left me disoriented, plus it’s exams week…[this is that one, about some XC meet, on a bus, somewhere or other, just like any old meet; coming home, stopping at Mike’s where they’re watching the game, some game; getting back home, and the snow’s gone. or…no it’s not. It’s not that at all, that’s a whole other memory. the Mike thing and the snow thing are not the same, but you thought they were.]…and I came home early, and the snow was gone, and I wondered if it was ever there.sometime 2012–2014
I’m afraid I’ll never see fog like this again.
what’s wrong with the clouds?
there was an article in the Sunday paper about the fog the night before. The paper’s layout is usually finalized by Friday, yet this was on the front page. my friend was in from college, we were stopping at the store. I heard someone ask, “what’s wrong with the clouds?”sometime 2012–2014
a small inn in south central pennsylvania, among farmland that reminded me of home and its unimpressive, non-poetic loneliness, a small inn we ddn’t expect to be there, a small inn that shouldn’t have been open late on a weekday night. a small inn in south central pennsylvania where she texted me, where she asked me if we could start talking again. a small inn where i wished she’d known where exactly i was, and knew how i was feeling, that i was missing her, and where i’d wished she’d known i wasn’t in the right mind when i told her that no, i wasn’t ready; in that instance it wasn’t that i wasn’t ready, but instead that i had no need. because i’d found that small inn, in those farmland-forests so much like home, and everything felt so unlikely that it seemed as if i’d stay there forever. it seemed as if i’d never need her again, because i’d never be leaving that night.sometime 2012–2014
there exists an archetype among your other archetypes—we have different names for all of them, whether one be a nerd or a loser, a jock or a wrestler—there exists among these archetypes the archetype of ‘the one who seems as if they should live forever.’ whether you’ve fleshed that archetype out yet, whatever you’d call it, is a different question.sometime 2012–2014
he’s disturbed—disturbed in the sense that the surface of the water is disturbed—by the idea that the radio is always playing, all around us. at night he tunes his few radios in to those stations which feel as if they’re being broadcast from the middle of empty salt flats, those stations that sound the loneliest. his mind is disturbed, called to resolve the disturbance, and at once he feels both comforted by their presence and saddened by the broadcast-loneliness.
this isn’t what i’m going for. not because they’re lonely, never use the word lonely. not to humor them, not to be the only one listening. giving voice to what’s around us, like unappreciated (too strong) companions. like whoever’s on the other end of that wave is in the same night.
words can’t begin to capture why at night he tunes his radios to local stations and listens in passing as he lies in bed.sometime 2012–2014
as i lock up my neighbor’s house, i can’t help but feel for the second time this week that i’m locking something up. like that scene in every movie where the protagonist runs for their life towards the safety of their home, and reaching the door just as quickly runs inside and locks it, and with a look of relief slides their back down the door until they’re sitting, camera all this time moving in for a close-up. just like that, but turned inside out. the dark of the neighborhood is familiar. the darkness in my neighbor’s house, though, seems somehow serious.sometime 2012–2014
someone driving across a continent, not much backstory, he knows nothing of the places he stops, not even the language, but something he has gets him everything he needs, even trouble with the law isn’t in the question. and he travels west, towards the setting sun, and he can prolong every day if he tries hard enough, drives hard enough. and maybe at some point whatever is following him, the camera, the narrator, however you see it, maybe at some point it simply stops in one place whereas the character keeps moving, maybe the narrator develops more and more of a personal voice, subtle at first but growing more distinct to the point where it decides to break from the character, or maybe there’s no other voice at all but it’s as if the character was meant to stay and kept going instead, OR vice versa, a situation that I like better, the narrator keeps moving but the character decides to stop, and so we see the images captured by a moving camera with no specific subjectsometime 2012–2014
my father never finishes a cup of coffee. A birdwatching club that never sees birds. when left to his own devices he makes the same movie over and over.sometime 2012–2014
[scene opens. a white van cruises down the highway, a spectacular sunset on the horizon to the west. as the camera pans and the sun is hidden behind the van, the lens flares disappear and we see clearly that the van is labeled WYOMING SEMINARY]
[camera moves to the interior of the van through the passenger side window. pointing toward the back of the van, we see three rows of students, western business attire askew, all sleeping after what appears to have been a long weekend.]
[as if moving on a track from passenger window to driver window, the camera continues to pan in the same direction but turns 90 degrees to the right, until we see in a close up profile shot Steve Ris: brown tweed jacket, shirt and tie crisp, sitting straight up with his eyes wide open, not necessarily enjoying the moment but undeniably thrilled to be there nonetheless, and we get to thinking this may be how he always looks. Ris is driving the van, a shot of the sunrise just behind him.]
[Ris is muttering something to himself. the camera begins to rotate back to the left in such a way that it keeps his face at the center of the frame. when the camera is directly in front of him, it stops panning and rotating completely. this close to his face, we can just barely hear:]
RIS: get get get get got got got blood rush to my head lit hot lock
[camera pulls out, out the front windshield as “get got” fades in. title card reads “Sem MUN”. fade out.]sometime 2012–2014
as he walked down the driveway from his dorm, he might have noticed a car similar to the car that his sister’s boyfriend drives, or drove, back when his sister used to live in the exact same dorm, three years ago, when her boyfriend would come visit her on weekends, and park along the driveway. and if he had looked closer, he would have known that it was that exact car. because, as he walked down the driveway that cold day in January, her sister lived there, her sister from three years ago; and in that moment, her boyfriend from three years ago was visiting. but he’d never get close enough to check, and by the bottom of the driveway, everything had changed again.