Today was a not-so-cheerful day. Somewhere in the span of yesterday evening or this morning, something shifted in my outlook--the turning of the cosmos, perhaps, or more likely a song, maybe an offhand comment, any innocuous trigger--and I had a pensive day. Pensive? No, pensive suggests quiet, rational contemplation. On days like this, I am restless, itching to move, to change, to do something. But mostly to change, to burn like bridges the things that are keeping me where I am, physically and mentally and emotionally. Set the entire apparatus on fire, step back, and watch that motherfucker burn. And then I stop, shake my head, and continue with my regular routine, channeling the agitation into other more productive endeavours. But it's there, always there, that urge to re-invent and move on and keep moving on without a backwards glance. To vanish in a sea of anonymity in a large city, a sort of passive self-immolation.
But I catch glimpses from time to time of another possibility. This one is quieter, simpler. When I visited my aunt in her small California town, I had the opportunity to accompany my cousin in taking the dog for a walk. It wasn't very late, but it was pretty dark, and the town was small enough and far away from the big cities my restless self craves that the stars were visible. Some streets were dark from a non-working streetlight or two. But I didn't feel threatened by the dark streets, just safe, content, relaxed, in a way I know I wouldn't be in a downtown urban setting. In that moment, like other similar moments, I set aside my derision for small-town life and bought its mythos of close-knit contentment and strong family-like connection. It got better when we wound our way through the streets down to the delta. The sound of water lapping at the shore is one of the most relaxing ones I know, and this was similarly peaceful. The bridge was visible, but the occasional passing cars were rendered silent by the distance, leaving only flashes of color in their wake. The next day, we met up with another branch of the family, another aunt and her three children, the youngest of whom is four. Surprisingly, she seemed to remember me and even attached herself to my hip whenever possible. That afternoon, with an armful of kid be-decked in all her Dora the Explorer finest who was cheerily belting out, "Yo ho bo ho, a pirate's life for me!" I couldn't help but feel a slight twinge of... what? estrogen? Never mind that my genes are faulty and I generally don't like small children; at that moment, I could see myself with a family of my own, settled in the corn-pone goodness of America's heartland, content with my life.
They're so contradictory, these visions, and always mutually exclusive. They're both false, both misleading, both exaggerated. But they're both powerful.