Perhaps the lure of first-person narrative is the opportunity to see other human beings think. To see how they think but also to see them in the middle of thinking. To catch them in their interiority. This is the appeal of having characters who have spent an entire narrative apart meeting for the first time, the moment represented from both sides. Seeing what is elided. Seeing what is misunderstood. Seeing what has been heretofore misrepresented to us, the limitations of the human subject when viewed from the outside. (Purported shabbiness is revealed to be composure, or vice versa. Confidence is anxiety. &c.) (This can also work for characters who have been separated and reunited after a long and painful journey—we see their sacrifices and so better understand their joy.) These limitations contrast with the represented interiors of the human subject, which are often limitless, or which seem limitless, or are in any case much more expansive than they could ever hope to appear to others. We can reach out as far as we want, but sometimes there is nothing there reaching back to us.  

Inside, the only limit is our imagination—which too often to our detriment is not a limit at all.  

Wondering how the other thinks. A process completely unknowable to us. This is part of the rupture inherent in speech, the cracks that it introduces through the uncertainty of both the abstract and the unknown. (If only we could know for “sure”!—a leap of faith is often required.) In fact, as fiction often chooses to represent, our own thinking is even often a mystery to us. What we want. What we desire. What we deny. What we are doing to ourselves or to others in the name of things which appear real to us but from the outside reveal themselves to be false: duty, propriety, social pressure… The pain, the difficulty, sometimes even violence that results—in fiction it is both easy and difficult to understand.  

Open palm. Keeping your hand still. When I was lonely I used to sit in Queen’s Park, at a picnic table, and try to call the squirrels to me. Until one came too close and took a gentle nibble of my fingers. But it was then that I learned to surround them on only three sides, leaving them room to escape. (I would hope you do not in any sense feel “surrounded.”) Absurdity: to wake up into a world that seemed estranged from reality only because warning klaxons were not sirening. Quick text to my parents: they say to bring water, if you do go, because the pipes have been shut off. In any case 79 km more reassuring than 35. But of course no reassurance of the kind that I desire, even though a later text was sent acknowledging the error. 

On the walk to school this morning thinking about epiphany. Two epiphanies: one unrooted and one tied to action. I have more faith in the second, though the first was en route to the other. But I expected, that first time, that epiphany itself would somehow provide a religious transformation. Enough to return us to where we should be. But how is religious transformation achieved? Only religiously—that is, through continuous action, constant reinforcement and refreshment. Perhaps there are two kinds of lovers just as it is sometimes said there are two kinds of religious followers. Those that love predominantly in an idealistic manner and those who understand the practice of love, the duty that it requires. Both are necessary—but to love completely these two methods (perhaps not distinguished in any other sense than what a person has been raised to, perhaps even often found to various degrees in the same person) must be combined. 

What does Miami mean to me? Pink skies. Vivid greens. I had followed you there. I had wanted to post about it publicly–just to say “I’m in Miami.” A simple statement of fact. But what Miami meant would have been immediately clear to everyone–Miami, its pink skies, its escape and easy neon drama. It would mean I was with you. I said, “It doesn’t have to be such a mess, you know.” And you said–this was a dream, or the closest that a hallucination can come to a dream–something which seemed to indicate that it wouldn’t be a mess forever. That it would, perhaps, work out for us. But that you didn’t have an exact timeline–it was something you needed to explore.

We were in Miami together. You told me to be patient, as you pulled me close to you, wrapping your legs around me–we were clothed but in public, lying on a blanket at a “dock” underneath a bubble of glass, a little pool, and hundreds of chairs set up for seniors drifting in and out of the structure. The kind of architecture that only makes sense in dreams.

The situation, I thought, didn’t make any sense to me, and I told you that. “We’re already together,” I said, “in all but name.” Which wasn’t true. But I thought I could feel it coming. I wanted it more than I had ever wanted anything. Then we arrived at an airport terminal, with two others, a man and a woman. We got separated–in this Miami the airport terminal was like an MC Escher etching, with sudden descents and confounding corridors. From the lower level I could see you walk away, not alone, anxious for you to stop at the nearest escalator. I wanted you to wait for me while I found my way upstairs. But I was strangely confident that, in time–perhaps not even too much time–we would reunite.

After months of testing and research the scientists came up with a new model for simulating wave erosion on concrete pier supports. They presented the model to the lead engineer prior to the construction of the new bridge. The model would, potentially, undo months of work that had already gone into the bridge, work that was unique to the project because the building site had been chosen in haste, with barely a month of public consultation and surveying. An official was up for re-election and they wanted to ensure they had something to campaign on before the end of their term. The river that the bridge would span had both unusually strong wave patterns and uncomfortably silty soil at the place it was to be erected. These had been accounted for but according to the model, only ineffectively: the new model suggested a complete overhaul of the piers. The email the engineer sent to the scientists was polite, but curt: “Your model is simply too new, and remains untested in the field.” They went ahead with the project, even though their initial contractor—alerted to these concerns—backed out. After five months they noticed an issue with one of the piers near the east bank. This presented serious difficulty, as the pier was already supporting a significant length of deck. Upon further review they discovered that eight of the twelve piers were either similarly compromised or showing signs of developing complementary weaknesses. In their report to the official overseeing the project, the lead engineer wrote “it seems likely that we should have taken the revised model into account.” The official attempted, unsuccessfully, to obtain additional funding to complete the project, but by this point the cost overrun and delay in construction had already become a major local scandal. They were defeated in the next election, and the bridge was left incomplete, with major cracks in the concrete eventually exposing its steel foundations, buckling appearing on the surface of the bridge. Five years later two teenagers fell off and drowned while exploring the site with their friends, and the official’s successor raised capital to have the bridge torn down to the level of the piers. Though they have lost nearly all structural integrity, many of the piers miraculously still stand—they can be seen to your right when taking the western detour into town, or on your left as you are leaving, looking over the traffic coming from the opposite side.

everything reminds me of you
neighbourhoods, tea, tahini
my own bed, couples in love
cooking ambitiously, cars, coffee 
dogs being walked, dogs in coats
books, certain sitting positions
yoga, kale salad, mayonaise
couples holding hands, kissing
the weather, riding my bicycle
reading, watching television
my cats, somehow, going to bed
brushing my teeth, waking up
going to sleep, decaf, desert
landscapes, landscapes, news-
print, talking to everyone I know,
places I’ve never been, places I’m
visiting for only the second time
movies that were just released
empty rooms, curtains, the snow
when the weather changes for the
better and it is spring, suddenly,
telephone conversations, dusk
early morning, sunlight, wind
showers, birthday cake, mirrors
toothbrushes and toothpaste
getting undressed at the end
of the night, the i Ching, tarot
drinking certain wines, a certain
slurred way of speaking when
one is tired, the movie Roma
the movie Little Women, Greta’s,
only just released, dancing, t-shirts,
white, and t-shirts, blue and torn
orange light reflecting off the tops
of residential buildings, light
passing through windows, cast
against walls, mirrors, straight
handlebars on elegant bicycles,
almond milk, five percent cream
and ten, kasha, sidewalks, puddles,
chapped lips, fogged glasses,
leaning, not leaning, pulling,
pushing—it’s hard to not think
of you, to imagine a life where
we are not in contact in some way,
where remembering is an act of will
rather than simply proceeding
through life, seeing you wherever
I look. but I’m also worried 
according to the fear of Socrates
who trusted memory and distrusted 
books, that in writing this all down
I will forget where it came from
until all that remains is an empty
list, no longer populated. no longer
meaningful, or alive. so I’ll stop.

Christmas morning, sun filtering through the trees. Cats tumbling through tissue paper. My dad picks up a string and dangles it for Ripley—I can tell that he’s charmed. Whenever I leave the room and come back I hear about something the cats have done: for instance, sleeping on my dad while Cecile and I are running errands. It’s nice to see how well the cats fit in. It gives me hope that any transition would be an easy one. It also makes me weirdly proud, as if I’m the one responsible for their good behaviour.

Family visiting from Philadelphia. Family from Guelph. We play board games in the basement. For some reason I debate a cousin on the value of the entire medical insurance industry—but in a calm way that I hope may start to change his mind. I am conscious of a difference between us in terms of rhetorical ability that I try hard not to emphasize. Later, we trap him in a haunted basement, and tiles slowly flip to consume him in flames. (He is the traitor.) At nine o’clock, everyone leaves. I’m tired, I think from all of the sugar. I go to bed. 

*

Last night, a new moon. A new season—set your intentions for the new year. Easy advice to offer at the end of December. Easy advice to receive when anxious for answers, re-discovery, new beginnings.

While I am sleeping, a dream: we’re attending a performance: orchestra seats, moody red lighting. We can’t stop touching each other—in the same way, it now occurs to me, we couldn’t at Annabelle, earlier in December. I’m not sure who is on stage, but in the dream it was someone we had wanted to see for some time. During the course of the performance I think how grateful I am to be able to be sitting next to you. 

But of course, in the morning, you’re nowhere in sight. 

Yesterday I went for a run—an hour, longer than I’ve gone in some time, though I have been testing myself, and building strength, on the treadmills at school. Earlier that day I’d finished watching Reality Bites (these days I can only seem to watch movies in chunks). I know there are many things wrong with that movie, but the scene at the very end, on the front steps, broke me down. I’m usually susceptible to reunions of all kinds, but more than ever now. 

I feel open to the bone. Liam asked me—is it a kind of pining, like Abelard? I said—it’s not pining, or idealism, though of course there can’t help but be some. It’s more grief. Grief at having lost something that was so obviously good. Do you think now, he asked, she’s trying to punish you? I said I didn’t think so. Nothing like that. Even if I would understand if some unconscious part of her was. 

In Caledon I talk to Mikka about an essay that she’s written—I’m happy to have the distraction, to remind myself of a life outside of this one. On the phone I’m in a closed bedroom and the door keeps opening. Somehow I’m always shocked when it happens. The person on the other side of the door has left something under the bed, they want to double check my closet, they think it is necessary to lock Ripley inside the room. 

This isn’t what I wanted to write. I wanted to write something clear, and positive, like light reflecting brightly off the snow. A moment of self-realization, of a kind of unspoken quiet determination. Something to match a feeling that I got near the end of an article on rising uncertainty and interest in astrology in the New Yorker—Chani Nicholas’s idea that the usefulness of astrology is to learn how to both cope with and find distance from your suffering. 

And I could have written that—could have mentioned how when I started running again recently, returning to it as a way of dealing with anxiety, I had gone through a long period of thinking I could no longer rely on it in the way that I am now. How it had started to seem impossible that so much change could be again wrought on me. How even feeling close to my grief, knowing what and who I want, having a better understanding of my feelings, was something I was not in the past as able to do. I do not relish this loss, or this uncertainty. But I do like—or maybe a better word is appreciate—that I am able to feel it with so much clarity. 

on the phone

You can tell 
I’m upset

(It’s true I’m
undone)

But you know 
just how
to console me

My cheek is 
touching yours
you say

One hand is
in your hair

Another holds
your hand
further down
your body

What’s your face 
like? You ask

I confirm
it is stubble

You are so sweet
Like a child, 
almost

I’ve never felt
so cared for

Even from 
so far away

Within a month I was thinking about it. Thanksgiving. Oct 22. Nov 4. But I didn’t have the language. I didn’t know how to go back. I wasn’t sure what would be different, even though I wanted it to be. You had said, “This is my last resort—I don’t want to lose you.” And ultimately it had the effect you wanted. (Sustained—even my test began 23 days ago.) But there were other factors—perhaps necessary—which meant we were not immediately allowed the space for the change to take hold. Calmness. Maturity. Now I’m in the airport, staring nervously at my ticket. A one-way flight I’m not sure I should take. For now I will simply hold the ticket, wait until the final warnings ring out over the PA. As from a window I scan the airfield for arrivals, departures. Last minute detours, returned flights. 

Today I finished the last of my marking. I’ve been slow since my exam, waking up early but sleeping in anyway. I’m trying to correct something. In the afternoon I go to the AGO and walk through the Hito Steyerl exhibit before closing, as the sun begins to set. The bright lights and neons look good in the sunset and the fading light. I will go back again and perhaps again after that. I want to let this exhibit work through me, to spend time with the video installations. I began the year reading quickly through Duty Free Art and so it feels appropriate to end the year with Steyerl’s exhibit. The morning I spent reading Gottman at Field Trip, at a space by the window. I’ve been going there often, because The Hub closed, but also because it’s the right distance away for this weather. Gigi’s is a little too far, walking. I want the museum to work through me, in the way that the museum sometimes does. But I arrive relatively late, and I’m eager to see the two new exhibits which, because they actually aren’t that new, are on the point of leaving. Instead it’s a kind of bookmark—I’ll return again. The neon goes in and out of me. Rubens’s angel remains on the wall. The tears of the mourners holding Jesus of Nazareth are just paint, though the red faces of the men and women holding him do affect me. Later, on the phone with Laura, I hear Evey in the background. Her voice is bright and chippy. She’s eating crepes and clementines. Life is very good, whatever I’m feeling. In fact it’s always better to feel something, whatever it is, then to feel nothing. In fact I like living in any kind of feeling.