Mid-Autumn Rising

There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. —Annie Dillard

Watching a sunrise is breathtaking. Not actively watching it, mind you, but witnessing it unfold as a backdrop to the daily activities of people rising to greet the dawn, or with the pattering raindrops of sneakers, listening to those on their early runs, steam swirling from the cold air touching their radiated heat.

Watching a sunrise solely focused on the sun itself is to witness only the composer, the cacophony of sound comprising life unheeded. The mundane details no longer seem so mundane when orchestrated together with the rising tide of light that greets the early morning’s day. That is truly the sunrise.

Rain-streaked Windows

“Suffering as the great educator is denied by the Western mind, which always pursues happiness.”
Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit


1

Again the rain begins. And so it’s been. Stare long enough out there into that rain-streaked window and you may start to lose sight of the picture on the other side. What you may start focusing on however, are the little globs dribbling down the panes. Some droplets may defiantly cling, holding on rather than sliding down to meet with others. Some likely pool in a corner, weighing heavily with every patter.

Waiting. Weighing. Waiting…

The magic is in those raindrops you know. Each reflects and refracts a familiar world into something distorted and new. It beckons you to look upon the familiar with unfamiliar scope. There’s a tiny microcosm in those droplets, every one of them. And they all magnify the existing world. Don’t believe me? Next time, take a look through a raindrop and tell me what you see.


2

Tears are probably similar in that way. They are probably similar in that way though I wouldn’t know. It’s been a long time since I’ve shed one.

I’ve forgotten how.

But if I were to use my imagination, I imagine that tears falling from your eyes are similar to the raindrops falling from the sky—tiny beads filtering your view. I imagine you can learn a lot from seeing through them. Not beyond them, but literally, through as you would bifocals, trifocals even, into another world.


3

Tears are probably a bit like the words you hold inside yourself, the words you want to say during all those awkward silent moments. You know those moments, I know you do. Those moments in which you need the right words to mean what you’re saying, but none exist. Those moments that slip beyond cordial “How’s the weather?” and “Did you have a nice weekend?”

I’m talking about those moments where the silence is shouting everything you’re feeling and questioning everything you’re screaming from within. It’s that awkward moment you’ve reached where no audible language can translate what you’re bearing, what you’re breathing.

You know the scene. You’ve been there. Sometimes it’s with a friend on the other line and she’s sitting there listening to your quiet. Neither of you say anything, but she hears it in the void, in the blank gap of darkness I always picture separating phone lines and airwaves.

Or maybe you’re at the bar and your buddy sits beside you picking at the coaster, tapping the edge of his pint to echo the reticence. It’s uncomfortable, but he’s uncomfortable with you. You don’t say anything, but he doesn’t either.

He. She. They are your friends and aware you’re feeling feelings and that you have no way to tell them so.

And so you wrap your hands, slip on the gloves and find a language that can convey the conviction to your thoughts.


4

Hitting the heavy bag is probably similar to the pattering of the rain. It offers a cadence, a rhythm your words can’t describe. It’s like the music others turn to, but here the lyrics are the poetry of a different language.

Because that’s what men do. We don’t give in to things we can’t fight with our fists. We shell up and punch through. Why would we be “man enough” to explore the origins of our sorrows when we can numb them by punching them away? Why should we communicate our care, concern and fears when we’re taught to “man up or shut up”? Why should we do anything but see:

love = vulnerability = weakness

And so you don’t want to shut up. You want to fill that nihility with your speech and so you keep throwing those combinations hoping they’ll unlock the response you’ve been looking for. It kept you safe before. Why not again?

Jab-Cross-Hook.
Jab-Cross-Hook.
Jab-Cross-Hook.

And Hook. And Hook. And Hook and Hook and Hook.


5

Unshed tears are probably similar in that way. You know they want to talk to you, but they don’t know how to break the threshold of silence. So you and those hidden tears acknowledge each other. You’re both subdued allowing solace in knowing you both care.

Men cry. But I can’t. Instead I look out at rain-streaked windows imagining what it’s like to answer a silent vacuum. The world sheds a tear so that I can hear. And when I can’t answer back, I let the beat of the canvas bag answer for me.

And now that it’s gone it’s like it wasn’t there at all / And here I rest where disappointment and regret collide / Lying awake at night / Up all night / When I’m lying awake at night.

Men cry. But I can’t. Maybe if I keep writing instead of fighting I’ll remember how.


Further Reading

Fears for Tears: Men and Vulnerability Higher Unlearning, The Good Men Project

Why Is Our Society Obsessed with Modern Men and Maniliness? Nicole Johnson, The Good Men Project

Egg Yolk Subways

Time. Like passing trains on parallel tracks.

I’m crammed into one in New York, and then Boston, then Chicago. In every one I can clearly see the lucid frames as my window intersects with the windows of the passing carts, all quick snapshots in time. I don’t know the person on the other side of the frame, but for one moment we share a space. It’s so tangible, I want to rewind the film, 35mm subway cars realigning that I may ask through these windows:

Who are you?
Have we met?
How far away was it from here?

He won’t respond, “1,000 miles.” He’ll tell you “17 hours.” That’s how it works. We don’t measure distance with miles, leagues or kilometers anymore. We measure it with time, a complicated conversion rate made up of the division of distances and seconds. Or minutes. Or hours. We finagle the answer, something that would accurately require minimal algebraic reasoning to accomplish. But we’re all so caught up with time, the saving of it, the managing of it, the worth of it, that even our physical distances are measured by it. We’re so attuned to giving time physical weight we are able to approximate its value when dealing with traversing tangible space. You can’t help but feel that same cull as when waking amidst a dream.

Dreams. I dream vividly. Some nights more than others.

When I wake suddenly middream, I don’t simply wake up remembering the dreams as past fog, wisps wiping away towards daylight. Rather, they click through from a continuous stream into the next, one scene and then the next, the next until the moment in which I wake.

If dream and reality were a film, the frames between dreamstate and awakeness would be a jumpcut of one shot to the next. I’m dragged unwillingly into the real world with a physical weight to my back, a fog in my mind, like an egg yolk slowly lifted from a bowl full of egg white. The mass of the yolk and the white of the egg are inextricably connected until that moment of break between glutinous substances: a sudden PLOP and I’m drawn to a waken state. The pull just lets go.

That was this morning. In one frame I’m dreaming of old friends, merry times that probably could have happened, but didn’t. And then within the next frame I hear a closing of the door, see a ceiling stark white, feeling smooth leather on my skin. I’m on a couch and I’m waking up, I realize. I feel heavy and my mind is confused despite the fact that I know I’m now in reality. Yellow yolk yanked from a pool of thickness. The window of a subway car zipping to match its counterpart.

It’s like that moment with friends forged long ago. Wasn’t it yesterday that I saw them together in New Zealand? And then the next day we were all at their wedding? No, it was another friend’s wedding we were all dancing, singing, and racing along the streets of Portland. Or was it the New Years of 2010 when we went to see the big Christmas tree in Boston? And then I meet their precious daughter Madeline, giggling at me like she has ages ago.

That’s the feeling you get when you’re separated by time. Each moment is inextricably linked to the last one. The Katilin and Chris that I meet now with their adorable Madeline only had a frame apart from the Kaitlin and Chris of New Years, of Lindsay’s wedding, of their wedding, of our time in New Zealand. Quick snapshots on subway cars pulled from the egg white of yesterday. I know there are tapestries of woven stories separating those moments, but the possibility to rewind back to see them again feels so logical. Like chosen scenes from a television episode, I’ll just go back to season three when we were in Boston on their wedding day, season four to smile with them on New Years Eve as we’re counting down the moment before the next frame cuts through.

I’m now sitting on a deck. Not the one on South Boston’s harbor, but the deck adjoined to my house in Philadelphia. Despite Matt being unable to relocate those steps he found all those years ago, I can hear from the slight breeze traveled the distance of the Pacific, across the snowy titans dotting the American plains, and over these rooftops reaching me say “Memory Hold The Door.” And with a nod, maybe a smile, but definitely reassured, all I can think back is, “May all the memories lived and yet be lived continue to hold that door.”

But then suddenly, the pull lets go. I’m here, now. That was all then. It’s been nine years. No, wait, it’s been four. Three. Two.

Now.