The individual tendrils of aged carpet licked my fingers with their soft tongues. When they knew I was lost in the moment of another sensation, they vined up my fingers and griped my hands before descending back below the floor. Like a crooked wick warms a single section of wax, one side of my body began to melt. I was a shapeless vessel draining down their soft stems, down to their roots buried deep in a pitiless vortex. Each moment held less form than my dissolving body. With each frantic grasp at consciousness, my body and time were partially renewed, only to helplessly melt again.
I was found in a field where grass replaced the synthetic arms of carpet. The grass too, vined up my fingers and consumed my body, but it reminded me not to fear. And without a fight, I decomposed into the warm soil where I found I had always lived.
Pick apart my mind
Thank You for Your Patience
“We’re sorry for the delay.”
There are few sentences that carry less meaning. An obligatory “how are you” while passing an acquaintance on a street too empty to hide in, or a nearly-forgotten “have a good weekend” thrown back into the room as an afterthought from the doorway of an office on a Friday night—those come close. But a reluctant “we’re sorry for the delay,” crackling through the broken speakers of a train car, disembodied, devoid of emotion, muffled under the crackling of static like a whisper through a paper bag, these words mean nothing. Sorry doesn’t put the wheels in motion. Sorry doesn’t push back obligations, reschedule meetings and appointments to accommodate a delay.
Are you sorry? Truly?
I have nowhere to be and no one to be with. For me, this delay is a blessing. Good thing your “sorry” is meaningless, weightless—I would hate for you to waste it on someone glad to be still, static not in the way your voice is broken by the old, creaky speaker, but static as in fixed, as in immobile, as in stalled. On this train, time is frozen, and for that I thank you. I need this time to think and to heal and to plaster over cracks in my walls. No need to apologize to me.
Have you ever been fly fishing? I know that seems off-topic. I’m sorry for the sidebar—then again, am I really? I’d like to tell you, and I’d like you to listen, and I don’t feel remorse. I’ll be more careful with that word from now on. I don’t want to deploy it just to ease my own mind. That’s what most “sorry”s are for, I think. For the “sorry”er, not the “sorry”ee.
My parents took me fishing once, and I’d hated it, and they’d apologized for making me stand in the cold all day, and I’d apologized for whining. Was either of us sincere?
Hooking a fish requires no skill other than patience. To be patient is a skill, rather than a trait, don’t you think? You must deal with a lot of impatient people on this job. “Sorry for the delay,” you croak out into a crowded car, and the passengers hate you just for hate’s sake, and you say you’re sorry when you’re not, just to make their hate feel unfair. They haven’t learned patience; there’s nothing you can do. Patience is rare to find on the New York City subway.
When you fish, you could stand in a river for hours and never get a tug, by no fault of your own. You could get a tug within minutes, too. It’s up to the fish. Hooking is luck; catching is skill. You need reflexes like a cat—do cats actually have fast reflexes, or is that just a saying? I’ve never had a cat. My father is allergic, and even after I’d moved out on my own, I couldn’t shake the idea that cats are poison, that they might cause harm.
If you react fast enough, your patience is worth something. You reel in your prize, gored by your hook like a matador by a bull. The bull doesn’t mean any harm, I remind you, goring is in his nature. When I went fly fishing with my father, I caught only one fish. I remember the way it glistened, a Brown trout, twitching and flopping at the end of my line. The guide unhooked it once I’d dropped it into the net. He asked me if I’d like a picture. I declined. Fly fishing is usually catch and release, and I remember when the guide released it, dipping the net into the river so the trout could swim away, be carried away by the current, returning to where it belonged, never the same. I whispered “I’m sorry” into the roar of the water. No one heard me.
“I’m sorry for the delay,” I could have said. “I’m sorry for holding you, gored on a hook, while the river rushed by without you. We put you back, that’s true, but it’s not the same river you left. The water and the fish that you were wrenched away from are long gone. In the minute I held you on that line, they were carried a mile downstream. Can you ever catch up?”
Catch and release doesn’t imply a lack of harm. Dear fish, I caught you and I released you and when you left me you weren’t whole anymore. Whole and hole are the most absurd homonyms, I think. You met me and you were whole. You left me with a hole in your cheek. It would be funny if it weren’t so cruel. You weren’t just delayed, you were damaged. For that I was sorry.
Now, back to you, train conductor. I don’t resent you for your empty words. I’m sure someone gave you a script, but I’m also sure that like an actor in a one-act play about loss, written and performed by those who have never lost more than a pet goldfish, your words and your feelings are disjoint. Thank God I have no place to go. Among the things for which I’m grateful, in addition to my abundance of time, is the spot in which you stopped this train. Please don’t apologize. I’m glad you stopped us here, on this bridge. What a view. Can you see it, conductor, out your window too? The East River at sunset—I never knew its power until I saw it tonight. Thank you for giving me this static moment to savor it. Please don’t apologize.
See, what makes you different from a fly fisherman is not any aspect of your character or his. It’s the difference between me and a trout that changes things. I got on this train full of holes—more holes than substance, like a net. I think the netness of a net is contained in its holes not its strings. I got on this train after someone caught and released me—don’t worry, you don’t know her. She never takes this route. She said she was sorry when she let me go, letting her sorry go with me, like it would free her from something, I’m not sure what. I do think she meant it. Breakups are like catch and release fishing, if you have enough imagination to believe that. Patience, patience, until one day you feel a tug, and you pull that person, that feeling, towards you as quickly as you can, and you hold on, and you hold on, and you hold—until your hands get tired, and you let them go, the person and the feelings, both, and you move on, tired and sorry, and they move on too, full of holes. I will get off this train whole, I think, after riding to the end and back and end and back and end and back until I feel better again. But the back and forth isn’t what heals me; it’s the stopping, it’s these delays which you claim to regret. That’s why you shouldn’t be sorry. The river is so beautiful. I really hope you can see it too. It’s beautiful and big. It makes me cry in fat, slow tears, and I don’t quite know why but I don’t wipe them away because when they roll off my face, I feel clean. I need to be static to feel it. I need to see that the sky is every color that it has ever been all at once, and the lights from the skyscrapers on the west side of the East River twinkle and fade and grow and shrink like stars through drifting clouds. If you apologize, no matter how empty the words are, you take away the service you’ve provided me, see? I’m sorry for rambling, but neither of us had anything better to do while stuck here. And I’m not sorry at all. It’s just a reflex at this point.
You’ve started the train again now, wheels screeching and rattling. You’re carrying me away, but you’ve patched me, not gored me. Please don’t apologize. Please don’t apologize. We roll along. We roll along.
I surrender my self
Leaving the Garden
My garden was perfectly maintained with pesticides and chemicals that made all of my plastic flowers look perfect. Everyone applauded my garden but they did not know the soil was calling for mercy, crying to be cared for.
When the scream became too loud and painful to ignore, I burned the garden down and ran to a barren desert with no beauty and no life. No desperate ground to scream mercy to my soul. No false flowers to fawn over and distract from pain that was asking to be treated.
In time, my mind silenced, and I realized that this lonely desert also bore no fruit. So I sought the deep green forest where real life, full of passion, beauty, and fright, grew in and out of each other from every inch of singing soil.
The risk of solitude whispered warnings from deep in the black trees. But in one moment, I found more companionship in the presence of the wild woods than I had ever felt in my perfect garden
Art For a New Earth