Monday, February 28, 2011

Cataclysm around the corner

Twenty-six. Last day of 2011's February. Late afternoon sun mere tarnished coin in a sky half-baked, as if an artist ran out of colors, as if a patient dropped his coveralls with a shrug and stepped into the light; redolent of autumn; redolent of infatuation, somehow. I don't dare say love.

Change is about us, a thing arriving like a long-expected house guest. We must embrace. We must accept one another though we are unsure whether to trust. I am sure we will never love. The ones we love are on their way out, to make way for these strangers. The rules will soon be theirs, as it was once ours.

Old men hobble on crutches. Women tote groceries forever up and down a weatherbeaten stairwell that could survive nuclear winter. One day, the days will become unrecognizable. One day we will debouch into the light and everything will be different, as if a great elemental spirit had swept his hand across our landscapes and our homes with their manicured lawns and our yawning high-rises and precious dams with the intent of starting anew, leaving nothing but the attar of nostalgia. Spring, perhaps. Surely spring.

Except this day, as clear as ever: a final day of a second month, redolent of autumn. You can sense it in the air. You can almost hold it for it has shape, it has texture; it circulates within us, breathed out in shared breaths.

Around the corner I see him, plain and recognizable as ever. Change. He extends his hand. We awkwardly hug. I know why you're here, I tell him. I know what you have come to do. He only smiles, that smile of perpetual understanding, of knowing he will outlive your son, your father; the smile one might give to a sufferer of terminal cancer. No trace of mocking. Do not mock me, I tell him nonetheless.

We walk briefly, though at any moment he is liable to disappear. Busy, he says. You understand, I hope. I tell him I do not understand much these days, perhaps nothing. Nothing feels right. Nothing feels permanent. There is nothing to hold, nothing to look forward to. Have you considered Buddhism? he asks me. Smile smaller. I remind him again to not mock me, though I say it teasingly.

He asks me what I want, and I tell him: just this day. Just let me have this day. I renounce these things, I say: these places people go, these stubs of hair on the collar of that man on the elevator, back from the barbershop. I renounce all my possessions, even that which I do not possess, the people I cannot possibly love, who cannot love me. I am renunciate, I am the elements. As I say this, it becomes apparent that I am no longer speaking, that my words have broken down beyond its smallest parts, the moneme atomized; I am communicating directly. I am a shaobing proprietor from Shanxi who cooks eggs and chicken meat over a hotplate; I am a man swerving to avoid a fellow biker; I am a foreigner rejoicing at finding Franziskaner at the local bodega; I am a salty youth in the torpor and ardor of my best days.

Trees reaching toward the waning light like supplicants. Beaks of birds desperate to start their journey. If only they knew the plushness of spring, the desolation of winter. I reach out and tell him -- I tell them many, many things, so quickly and thoroughly that there cannot be any language to translate what was said. They are unlikely to understand, but that does not matter. They search for the antonym of abandonment, an undo for renunciation. I see them stretching across the sky, the last one trailing slightly but keeping pace.

Who owns this day? Who can shake this cheeseparing owner of day by the cuff, rob it of its last penny so our journeys are halted... -- for just one day, one hour? Pardon me for wanting to be together.

I slowly fade back into the world. I am on my bike now. I am biking against traffic, toward home. Change has disappeared, though I know it is just around the corner, as surely as the sun. I am a speeding locomotive. I am watching on the platform, and it is too fast but I fling myself at it. A cataclysm is around the corner, or maybe it isn't.

After this day, nothing will be the same. Thus it is decreed -- and so it shall be, on this finest of days, redolent of autumn.

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