Posts Tagged ‘loss’

Owe Me Nothing

I have attached love notes to helium balloons, sent them into the sky. Folded into paper airplanes, they will find their way somewhere. I am a realist, and I know the messages will not carry the weight of their burst carriers. But where they land, it will at least look like they did.

Too many people ask, do you love me? The question is not an invitation, not even a dare. It demands so much: either be kind but be claimed, or be cruel but be free.

A valentine should ask for nothing except the impossible. It should not ask for an answer. It should not ask for a favour. It should not ask for the reciprocation of love, it should not be obliging. It should simply ask the recipient to love. It is, at its best, anonymous, but without the suggestion that the author is watching. The saint sought nothing from the jailer’s daughter when he slipped notes through the bars, not even for clemency. The next day his head was on the block.

You owe me nothing, you have already given me so much. Your note is in the air somewhere, and I wonder how much snow can land on its balloon before it stops rising. I wonder where it will fall; into the Danube? Into the grounds of a palace built for the administration of an empire, now abandoned? The least likely of all is that you will find it.

This city is two things. One is a living thing, one is a ghost. I hate how the heart is written up as if it were the avatar of love. Doesn’t the whole being feel love? The heart is just an organ, like a capital city. It does one thing, then another, and it has never stopped beating.

Fortresses into museums, graveyards into parks, factories into lofts, walls into gardens, records written over the partially erased records that came before. In love, also, what came before co-exists with what inhabits you now, though one is a voice and the other is an echo.

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Not Nearly Lost Enough

When the bear market began in 2007, I thought it would bottom soon. I bet on a rebound that never came. My pulse raced at the news, the win so tangible, the loss unthinkable. They say that hope has strength, but I can tell you, it does not have effect. Every day, I watched another one of my options (bets) expire worthless. My positions turned to dust.

I don’t remember the moment I stopped caring. About a month ago? I became as fascinated with losing it all as I had ever been with winning big. It seemed nobler than trying to salvage some pathetic remnant. All-or-nothing, I doubled down. Over the past couple of days, it turns out that I bet all wrong. I would have to live for hundreds of years to earn it back. The impossibility of this is liberating.

Getting fired sure did clear up my schedule. So I dug out my flute. The old case really did have dust on it, and I sounded worse than when I quit at 23. But the notes were still there, and the endless loops in my mind were silent. I remembered a Bach partita, and played it full of mistakes. I have never been more pleased.

A year ago I barely made time to speak with friends. Always in brief phone calls, often from a cab. Yesterday I just sat on a stoop with my friend (I’m not sure I have any others left) and all we did was bounce a ball. Really, I don’t think we even talked. We downed a forty. It was perfect.

The world is ninety-nine percent poor only if we judge it a certain way. I’m not out to glamourize poverty, but are you sure we’ve got those criteria right? Sure, we want to be free of the tyranny of need. We want to optimize our markets, fund our dreams, extend our knowledge and our powers. But why construct a game where the only way to win is to concentrate capital? Why not reward its conversion into other forms: society, art, liberation?

Think of all the things you have accumulated without happiness. Do you own your positions and privileges, or do they own you? What you would be happy to lose if everyone else would lose it, too? Let’s stay up late and throw it all away. And when this mess is over, let’s dance. We’ll dance like the light playing on the rubble of a ruined city we can rebuild better.

Seen You Many Times

I have seen you many times. You are the one who held eye contact with me as the elevator closed, who mouthed a word I could not read through the window of a bus, who dared me to approach from behind your fortress and your sentinels of friends. These encounters, and even the glimpses of you in other people, they are like the flickering of a leaf in a constant wind; jittery but steady, easily understood but incalculably complicated, never the same but never different.

Any city is an aggregate, a grand statistical ensemble. It does not matter how random I think I am, how unfathomable my movements are to me, or even what coincidences and diversions enter capriciously into my day. There is a graph just the same of exactly where we drive, exactly how we shop, exactly when our lights go on, and I have seen it: crushingly, despondently, predictable. As for the collective miracles and inspirations, the lovers who meet by chance, the withdrawals from the world, the sudden deaths, and the manic bursts of energy—they are not excluded. It’s worse. They cancel each other out.

The traffic pulses, orderly, like the signals on a wire. A helicopter cameraman can see the cars form into a standing wave, stopping and starting again for no other reason than the brute mathematical inevitability of it. Then I see you standing across from me at the intersection, there, in the gaps between the cars—if only they drove at the rate of thirty-two per second, you would shimmer as in a film. And all I do is look.

Our habits are our jailors. We glide past a thousand chances every day to change it all, and all we learn to do is never dwell.

Next to you on the plane, I fantasize that it will crash, that we will feel it sweeping down, our stomachs fluttering like on a swing. Finally we are introduced. You tell me you play oboe, I tell you I take pictures. Perhaps then I take a few. Perhaps they are my best yet—honest art the impact will obliterate.

This city has burned to the ground before. They tell us that our enemies wish to obliterate us beneath a mushroom cloud, that even now their plans are ticking. Such explosions are said to be beautiful. Perhaps today the bomb goes off, it has been waiting in a skyscraper, in an office leased ten months ago, and the light from it is like ten thousand suns. Our shadows have become sidewalk ghosts of us, and we are in the fireball, the air itself on fire, the city core in vapours, glowing embers float high into the clouds. The two of us have turned invisible.

Now the dust begins to settle. It lands on your shoulders and your head, making it look like you have risen from this radioactive dust, like we both have, a new species. To see each other, we make ourselves a skin of ashes, rubbing, pressing in, immune to the terrible heat, like we are sketches of ourselves.

We are mute, now, but then we always were, and as we wander the landscape after this apocalypse, there is always dust for us to trace in. You write that our stories are told with light and I write back that sometimes accident does prevail. But what I always wanted, most of all, was to hear your laugh.

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