I had mentioned, in the interlude I submitted before I found my own spine, (or perhaps which lead to its recovery,) that I spend a lot of time talking about knobby fingers.
And I do. Among other things.
Let me talk a little, then, about long, knobby fingers, among other things.
There is this thing, this memory, this dream I have. This time and place plucked out of the ether and beat into my heart like an old tattoo. Its edges faded, its pattern no longer easy to see. Sometimes I sleep and find myself on those rooftops again, sometimes I stare past my computer screen into the fuzzy, stripe-y pattern of my grandfather’s off-color armchair and it feels more like remembering.
The world is very quiet and the sun is bright and brittle and a color that I’ve never seen before. Orange and yellow and such a deep, vibrant pink that it leaves green shadows on the inside of my eyes. It’s threatening to rain but it hasn’t. It hasn’t, yet. The salt in the air is so thick. So pure. I can taste it with the dank, murky aftertaste of seaweed and fish and the salt in my mouth cuts it cleanly, makes it water.
The buildings are so high the cars below feel like the distant roaring of the waves, but they’re far away from where we’re sitting. I can’t find any even when I look.
And this one is mine.
Sometimes I feel laden with flashes that don’t feel like home, that don’t feel like me. Intrusions, intruders I’ve been saddled with because of the meddling of others.
But that’s a story for another night. A complicated idea that makes me cringe and writhe, even in the confines of my own, indulgent discomfort. Even late at night, wrapped in the understanding darkness, telling myself it’s okay to believe. Just for me, just for now, I can pretend any of this makes sense and see if that makes me feel more alive.
But this one is mine.
My memory. My hands. My fuck up, I guess. This one is the sweetest thing I dream about; the still air and the sea sunset and the sound of distant birds whose calls that I can’t place.
Sitting here, in this moment now, the me on this rooftop is thinking about something else. A dream within a dream of someplace farther away. Another ocean, maybe. A night sky. I don’t remember.
Just the feeling of it. Just the way that it keeps on haunting me, and how the loneliness echoes. The me that’s here, that’s sitting in dark shorts and long sleeves, trying to keep ice cream from dripping on his shoes, he’s thinking- I’m thinking- about a place I only half remember.
A cycle of forgetfulness and longing.
It’s raining in that other place. Or at least it feels like it might be. It’s wet and cold and all I know, all I can really focus on, is how different it is from right here. Right now.
Right now, I’m just a little too warm. Right now the air is heavy with the ocean and the promise of a warmer rain, and I’m a little blind from staring right at the setting sun. Right now I’m tangled up in someone else whose hands are magic and whose smile is too sharp. Right now, I’m not alone.
But I’m about to be. I can feel down to my bones that I’m about to be.
And I’m young and I’m stupid and I think maybe that’s the way it really ought to be. Maybe I’m nothing but an emotional menace.
Right now I’m about to say something stupid and I’ve had this dream so many times that the part of me that’s me writing it down, the me dreaming about it, the me wishing it away, knows I shouldn’t. Oh, god, I plead with an echo of myself, don’t be an idiot. Don’t let go, don’t run away.
But memory me doesn’t listen. The me this memory belongs to thinks he knows the right thing to do. Thinks he’s a martyr and a hero, maybe. Thinks that being lonely is better than being wrong in a way you can’t take back.
And so we sit, staring out at the little, winding streets until the sun finally, finally sets. We hold hands, we never look at them. Pretend it isn’t happening, even when our tangled fingers sweat desperately in the midsummer heat. Just a little too hot, a little too uncomfortable to be doing it, and we don’t stop. Squeeze a little tighter, because he knows me as well as I know him and we both know if we’re happy then something’s about to change.
I think about it all a lot. About this skyline. About the sound of the cars. About the popsicle of a flavor I can’t quite remember, tucked between my teeth, tingling in the back of my throat.
It’s all blue and red and orange and white and I wake up sad. Trying to grab again for those fingers. Long and knobby jointed and cool against my sweating skin.
But it’s just me.
Someone precious said to me: “they don’t understand, because they’re not ghosts walking around in new bodies.”
Of all the things I have tried to explain my strangeness, this is the description that I like the best. It feels right to me somehow; sometimes I do feel like a ghost.
Sometimes, too, I feel like I am being haunted.
The number of times I’ve come back to this place. The number of times I have, unthinkingly, reached out to try and grab those hands.
Among other things.
It feels stupid.
Embarassing, even in the relatively safety of solitude. And yet, here I have been, will be again, curled tight in a tangle of blankets, or splayed out in the grass of my perfect yard, wondering if a stranger is dreaming about me, too.
And if they are, what do their dreams look like?
Do they wake up with a name in their mouth? Cursing the person who left them alone?
Do they remember the cars, or the birds? The way I sweat into their knobby fingers, or laughed too loud at their stupid jokes.
Are they a banker now, or a cashier? Do they wear the clothes they want to? Is their fashion sense still bad as hell. Do they remember my face the way I can’t remember theirs?
Do they miss me?
It feels selfish to want them to feel it as deeply. To share this emptiness that dogs my steps when the world has slowed down and I have time to breathe, maybe even to feel feelings.
Maybe… They’re not that person anymore. Maybe they’re no longer lost.
Maybe all this baggage is my own to bear, and my once darling friend is at peace, now, without me. Sleeping an eternal sleep, or just born again free of vague and lonesome memories.
That idea, itself, occupies my many thoughts. Would I take that, if I could? The bliss of ignorance, or normalcy. To sleep through nights unplagued by a grasping, curling waiting, if only it meant giving up a deep and longing love of the stars?
Somehow, the idea of not being me is cripplingly frightening
Whatever that means.
I hate that I’ve forgotten so much.