The City Dismantles the Memory

Published in conjunction with the show “Have I been Here Before” at La Esquina, a Charlotte Street gallery.

 

Winter: I experiment in ways to retreat from you.  I test the city at each road, looking over my shoulder. The places we frequent follow me—approach me as I should be approaching them.

Spring: We erupt a phenomenal demand: “Cry for Kansas, cry for Iowa and Nebraska. Hold all applause for Wisconsin”. Buildings hang over our personal walls, their inhabitants modified by the lonely swath of plains. Its expansion goes unnoticed by the stars. Somewhere in the middle of this city, the highway reaches out over the edge of a cliff and points down toward the floor, the very bottom of the place. I round the curve and hold my breath as the city disappears around me and I convince myself I am above the ocean.

Summer: The city burned us up. The women fell asleep inveighing. The years are sneaking behind my back and the wind is pushing the porches around.

The wild edges of our language are explicit in the distance. I see you at the parade holding an unlit sparkler. I see you buying vegetables. I see you nightly, unfairly, while the man beside me shivers. From this far away I see what you mean. The truck driver, the bottom feeder, the gallery owner, the restaurant. The photographs on the edges of bluffs and oceans. The dare. The burden. The prompt. The amputee. Like Gogol’s Nose, you wander the city your own man, your own system, a part of me that I have cut away.

In the fevers of the mid-day summer the drive gets incredibly longer. We sweat out our hedonistic nights while standing forgetfully beside the traffic lights. Car tires are sticking to the ground and we start to park on our lawns. Even the tone of the radio changes—the host falls asleep mid program—likewise, our patience is burning out on the dash. Even without the heat, I sweat. I panic and excite in varying severity. I watch for you on the opaque horizon—the mirage that never approaches.

Fall: Increasingly, it is useless to hang onto memory. I saw you in the aisle with the sleep aides. My eyes were swollen and red, your angular jaw was an instrument of mockery. Years later, the city would defend my nostalgia while I regret to attack it. The places, the checkpoints, the maps we unfold on the dash, pushing out the creases in frustration, saying: “This was not what I had planned”. Saying: “Oh, for God’s sake!”. Saying: “No”. Saying: “Put that fucking thing away, I’ll just turn around”.

This is where I change my memory: In the car you didn’t teach me to drive, in the place we never ate, in the house I always felt welcome in, with the friends I found arousing, in a bed near the ground, on a couch too dark and short. I will never change them back to what they were: Honda. Brunch. Hilltop. Shallow. Loft. Chartreuse. In the bull I found a peacock. In the peacock I found a stone.

The lights behind the sign are groaning. The architect lies in the field in front of the building. The party moves beneath the tension cables. Still unnoticed, the architect gathers the prairie grass around him, inhales the wet smell of earth, hears the low buzz of bees in autumn. I watch uncomfortably from across the street. Musicians dressed as wolves still croon inside the bar, their male comes to hang above me. The architect rolls with his arms out and mouth open. I have to make a decision.

Winter: (When you saw her again, her hair was longer than you ever saw it before. Your favorite trait now extended passed your reaching hand. You saw it growing slowly up your block, through the yard preceding yours. Through your own front yard. You watched it tangle in the rare city bushes, pulling itself free and growing towards your neighbors. Her hair, which began several miles away, grew extensively toward you, and then suddenly and permanently away.)

Spring: Somehow once a year has passed, one can start forgetting. The memories persisted by the city dilute and the city itself becomes an image on paper. I watch you at the table, but not with any interest. I watch you at the table, but not with any interest. I watch you at the table, but not with any interest. The sunset side of the city is always imperceptibly brighter, contrary to the recent news report. I’m standing at the table laughing at the wood grain. You believe my gestures are a sign of truce. We come together unharmed, unarmed, and silent. In the city we try and avoid each other, but the city orbits unaided around and the places between us are shrinking. When the last decrepit memory of you is eaten up by flies, every cloud above the city will break apart and let in the light at my summons.

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