“I don’t quite understand where you’re going with all this, but I can tell you I don’t exactly have the patience for it right now,” she said, pushing the cocktail napkin back to him. “Maybe I’m getting the word wrong? I-idiom? It’s an idiom. W-what I’m trying to say is I think people like us think we’re special, but also like w-we’re not worthy of special attention.” Picking the napkin back up, the words smacked from his lips, “‘Y-you have to treat me special for me to feel average. A-and if you treat me average, I feel rejected.’ Get it?” She let out a deep sigh, trying to use the momentary pause to alert him that sitting in public with a drink at 3:34 in the afternoon is never as much of an invitation for random men to talk at her as they usually seem to think it is.
“What was your name again? Greg? Greg, I don’t think you’re listening to me when I tell you that I don’t want to talk right now. It’s not about you. It’s not about anything you’ve done. I just want to sit here and try to not think about the day I’ve just had without the constant babbling of another human being trying to insert themselves into a moment of my life that I haven’t welcomed them into. You sat down here—what—twenty, thirty minutes ago, and not once have I asked you a question. Greg, I don’t care who you think I am. I don’t think approaching a stranger with this bullshit is cute or heroic or whateverthehell you think it is. I don’t care about the message you’re trying to give me about the type of person you think I am; excuse me, the type of people you think we are.”
Gary sat quietly with his napkin, nervously working it into a tight ball in the middle of his palm. “And because you don't seem to understand that I’m not interested, you’re forcing to me to leave just so that I don’t have to be bothered by a stranger anymore.” Claire stood up, leaving her drink untouched as she walked to the bartender’s station to retrieve her credit card. “R-rejected again.”
While it's not something I've done much of the last few years, taking photos has been a big part of the past decade and a half for me. With 2020 fast approaching, I used the last 50 days to post 50 photos from the last 15 years on Instagram. I couldn't tell you what I hoped to gain from the process when I began—if anything, my mind was probably geared toward a little emotional molting—but completing the project has inspired some thoughts this morning about losing sight on what's directly in front of me that I'd like to share.
I don't quite have a handle on where I'm at with it all, but the deeper I went into the memories over the past several weeks, the more I got caught up in detours. In selecting the pictures I found myself judging their aesthetics, thinking about how they might be received by others, and curious about whether the stories that the photos represent to me genuinely tell the story of what my life has been like. In reflection, it feels like subconsciously weaponizing snapshots from the past to harvest social dividends in the here and now. This must be why they say 'If you have to go up into your own head, don't go alone,' as you can see what kind of mental webs I'm prone to getting caught in.
I hope 2020 will be a good year. It's got a lot of potential—the way I'm lookin' at it—though much of that contingent on letting go of what once was, and being present right here, right now. As easy as it is to look back and toy around with nostalgia, this little project has shown me how much of a trap doing so can be. It might be true that to know where you're going you've got to know where you've been, but it's also true that to keep moving forward the mind can't remain forever focused on the past lives that lurk in the rearview mirror.
Published November 17, 2019
Toward the end, Don is fighting himself as much as his addiction; maybe more so. There is desire that had grown rigid with inertia to not allow himself the victory that comes with recognition of hope that there is—or merely could be—something for him beyond eternal misery. Helen leans into him with her words, the typewriter re-appears, Don lights his smoke and saunters to the half-filled glass that he had turned away moments before. Then, he seems not to extinguish his cigarette so much as bear host for an action that had long before put itself in motion. For the moment or for the rest of his life, it doesn't matter: That was the end. Half slumping on his bed in both victory and defeat, Don's mind quickly seems to reel from painting him as the lowest man on Earth to the most hopeful who might ever have ever existed. While allusion to the silent screams for help of countless others is how Don paints us out of his story, this is the same scene that is replayed every minute of every hour across the entire world. Despair defeated by hope, one action at a time.
Published November 06, 2019