Everyone Says They Know You
by DAN CARVILLE
There is a hike I do every so often, when I am feeling up to it. It is good to take in the air and see something of the world I live in. Maybe this sounds incredibly stupid to you, but sometimes I forget that people are not the only thing in the universe. This self-aggrandizing attitude perpetuates and feeds upon itself until days like one a month ago, when I found myself examining every part of my body with the flashlight on my phone.
On the hike you can still see humanity. Families dot the trail, sometimes carrying a cooler which means they won’t be going very far. Divorced parents abound; their children looking overfed and undernourished. There is a man-made part of the path that suggests a sandbar, and you can see things submerged on either side of you. You can’t go down and touch them, but you know they’re there. That, someone with brown hair once said to me, is what being in love feels like.
I only tell women I love them when they meet the following requirements: they have no idea that I will say it, they are unsure of how to respond, they are unclear on whether I even believe in love in general, and they have made no serious commitment to me or anyone in a long time. Once those givens are established, we move past a sandbar to a small inlet where a little boy found a body when I was in middle school.
Coming back home makes my moods inelastic. This is a good thing, because otherwise I will miss the one I used to be with. You know that echoing part of mourning, when you just feel a twinge and nothing more? I wish for that, but it never comes. In the first gust of September, I had to close the curtains because the trees have lost their leaves.
On a regular basis everyone I know and trust feels insatiable for a certain element of their personality, which if they embraced fully would manifest itself as insanity. What I want to avoid is the panic I feel at waking in a strange place, with a person I love but worry it is not entirely or not enough. Panic fills my lungs then, and each individual action feels irrevocable. The biggest difference between people now and a decade ago is how forgiving they are in the light of day. Secrets that we keep from ourselves or others subsist in a stasis that belies the seasons.
A clean, sweaty smell akin to sidewalk after a rain. Oblong erasers sharpened to a small, thin point. Magnets oriented away from the most of them, praising whoever is in the vicinity. I have been to many natural formations, but none so fine as this, in the place where you said the only sense in turning back is to make sure your head is still on a swivel.
Now I can articulate what I could not before – more than acceptance I desire an understanding completely sexual in nature, simply of bodies intersecting. Once that is achieved, beyond the railroad tracks where boys more zany than me found the juiciest cigarette butts, there is a sort of serendipidity that should flagellate itself on self-worship. It is loving yourself, but it is also loving through someone else’s eyes. They are not yours, the lenses merely borrowed, the irises ground into a ceramic paste that is fed to dogs. I loathe falling in love again.
You can go off the path. These two girls in Panama wandered away from their maps. One hurt her leg, and the other took a fall when she went for help. All they discovered of the women was a pelvis. My only thought upon reading that was that at least they found something. Alone here you can come across nothing valuable, since everything in the forest has been abandoned, multiple times. I think you know the metaphor I am drawing, but I miss her too much to explicate it if you don’t. I drew a parallel reminiscent of Herodotus at the gates; let that be enough for you.
What bothers me most in isolation is how much I tried to reach out and explain my mistakes. On a long enough timeline, we can experience regret for any one of our actions. I cringe thinking about this. Once when I was a boy I ran into my grandmother’s arms accidentally. Another time I laughed when I meant to cry. Vice versa.
You might think me cruel or vain, but you’re wrong. It’s the opposite. You only believe that because it’s what you come to expect, in this year of our lord.
What if I could take back some of it, all of it? Then I would retract without analysis, all of it. Experience of love is pointless without a happy ending. There is no learning experience. Read a memoir of an alcoholic – by the end they want it even more than before, every time. If they say they don’t, they lie. If they say they don’t want love, what they want is to call love by another name: yours.
Slowing down now. It’s all coming to me without any pressure, close enough to matter but not enough to hurt. Our own power, personified on a license plate or a bough. The birds of this area have a distinct call that pushes on the inner ear, asks for a recognition beyond the species. I yearn to find those little ones.
What have I been listening to? The new Head and the Heart is pretty good. I like positive songs, ones that make me feel the evil in the world is just tremors, a muted reflection of the good. Put it back, the tremors tell us, replace the milk in the refrigerator. You know it only gives you gas and makes you bloated. Forget how good it tastes.
Dan Carville is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.