Wednesday, February 14, 2007


He’s in the middle of another slurred soliloquy, a red-eyed rambling, a drunken discourse on the past pushed through his lips and into the smoky pub air. He’s stuck there, unable to free himself, and his voice has taken on the timbre of an imprisoned soul desperately crying out for liberation. I listen to his would-be eloquence in the same way that a mother listens to her child’s plaintive cries: with one part pity, one part unease, and one part scepticism.

“You ever think about going back?” he garbles.

“Pardon me?” I squint.

“I mean, do you ever think about going back home?” he asks again.

I only get to offer a slight snort, and I mean to answer when he answers for me.

“Of course you do,” he says. “It’d be bloody great, it would. We’re like goddamn legends there, can you imagine?”

And I can. I can imagine what it would be like. It’d be like we were ghosts floating through a world which we’d been irrevocably cut off from. A world which we can no longer interact with. A world which barely remembers our names. We’re not legends. We’re barely a scribble in the margin of that town’s storied history.

He talks some more, and as he does, I’m very nearly whisked back to a time when I didn’t care enough to care. An easy time. The hardest time of my life. But I steady myself against those evil winds of nostalgia, hiding behind this great brick and mortar bastion of the here and now. That wind; a vile, poisonous wind.

The next morning is one of those in which a man could easily lose himself in the cushy, voluminous folds of his blankets. And as I lay in bed with a beery head, the sunlight pushing gently on the front of the house, for a moment I’m swept away.

“Why do you do this?” she cried. “Always so eager to leave, so eager to get away. Have you spent one moment with me happy? Have you spent one moment here wanting to be here and not somewhere else?”

I stuttered the start of a response, and tried, clumsily, to wrap my arm around her, only to have the motion brushed aside.

“I – I am happy,” I said with some trepidation. “But – but I’ve my future to think about, I—”

“That’s the problem,” she said, tersely. “You’re too busy thinking about the future to enjoy the present. I only get to have this flickering, glimmering you. You’re barely here at the best of times, and when you are, your heart is elsewhere. It’s like I’m dating a homesick time traveller. A man visiting the past out of curiosity, thinking only of a time when he would return home to the future.”

I didn’t know what to say.

“You’re a writer,” she accused. “What’s the antonym for nostalgia?”

I stared at her dumbly for a moment.

“Well,” she said, “whatever it is, you’re guilty of it.”

Later that week, I fled my hometown, my past, and pushed ever forward into the future, to another time, another place. And it’s that place where I find myself presently, swaddled in thick duvets, head nuzzling pillowy pillows, eyes shut to keep out the morning light. Here, now, stuck betwixt nostalgia and that other thing, wanting to go neither backward nor forward, content in the present.

Yes, this time traveller has gone now as far as he wishes to go, and these days dreams only of stasis, not wishing to go backward, but not wanting to go forward, either. Laying awake now, my eyes closed against the morning light, I am at ease.

I don’t think much of the those blocks of years we call decades, neither the ones which have passed, nor the ones which will. I’ll happily deafen my ears to talk of the past, and if the Fates were to grant me one boon, I would only ask that they allow me the gift of continued ignorance of my end, for to know it, I fear, would be too much for my heart to bear.

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