I miss the sound of crickets. And the breeze coming through the window late at night. And going outside and smoking a cigarette and looking up at the stars.
Now I can’t do the math. Can’t make sense of numbers. I’m the person who tries to please everyone, or I was that way once. Now I ignore everything I can. I keep trimming away at everything around me, hoping one day there won’t be anything left.
It’s a very gradual process.
“You know you can just turn off your cell phone?” someone tells me.
But I like it better my way, always have. It always has that dash of Carrollness about it. A little bit extreme, a little bit crazy. A little idealistic, a little naive.
That’s probably what people think, anyway.
I have a dream about Katelyn, who I probably haven’t spoken to in a decade. She got married a long time ago, and was living in St. Paul.
The last I heard, anyway.
I remember something she said to me once, about me being unrealistic. About how no one else would go along with it. About how impractical I was, about photography and the projects I wanted to do, the people I was willing to photograph, maybe a lack of orthodoxy or my reluctance to go about things the way they probably should have been done.
It seems strange to me to try and curtail what you really are, deep down. The gut instinct or impetus to go out and do something, raw and uncut, that pure genesis. I know we’re all getting older and trying to be better, but that doesn’t mean some things about us weren’t right from the start. I guess the hard part is figuring out what to keep alive and what to let die.
Outside in the street, I wear an N95 mask and a tee shirt and jeans. Late at night, I love the feeling of the cool just-before-summer air on my skin, my long wet hair growing longer, and the sound of Brooklyn winding up, winding up for a change of season.
I think about empty subway cars, and empty streets, and empty shelves in busy grocery stores and the news always the same, same, same. One could think the world was coming to an end, the way people seem to be collectively losing their minds.
And I think of things I can do to stay busy, until late at night when I open a window and listen to the sound of crickets, playing on repeat.
A box fan set up in my living room to chip away at that heat. A cocktail sweating on the butcher’s block while I cook dinner, alone in a lonely apartment. And I could swap out this chunk of time for so many others in my life, I realize, almost sadly, or sweetly. Years of living as a bachelor, years in Philadelphia while I was in school, and the times I lived with women, a parade of girlfriends who didn’t get me or maybe got me too well.
Maybe it’s who you are, the kind of person that keeps coming back to loney apartments. Walls bare from all the art you never hang there, but print out and send to other people. Furniture you never buy because there’s always a better use for your money – a friend who might need help or more photography equipment.
A mobius strip is a one-sided non-orientable surface. “One-sided non-orientable surface.” It has a kind of poetic beauty and horror to it. Something you can never make sense of, from now until forever, just going around and around and never going anywhere, never knowing anything, never able to get anyplace else. Something blank and immutable, as wide as the universe.
Nine days. Nine days of whatever. Nine days of sunshine through the blinds. Nine days of mindless errands and chores. Nine days of check-in phone calls. Nine days of thinking, of mulling things over in my head.
It looks like a circle, broken, and re-joined. But something is off, something is wrong. You’ll come back to the point you started from before you’ll be free from it.
No matter how old you get. No matter how much better you feel, or how highly you think of yourself. You are where you are, chasing your tail until the breakdown.
I stumble upon a Reliant K album from 2016 and listen to it, and think about how things continue long after you leave them behind. When I was 15 or 16, I would hang out with some Christian kids who turned me onto that band and some scripture.
I find a particular bible on a bookshelf in my mother’s house and take it back to New York with me. “Did you want any other translations?” my mother asks.
Just this one, I tell her. There’s an inscription inside from the friend who gave it to me.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
What impact words have made on man. Love, your friend.
(I pray God will reveal his Word.)
I think that’s a beautiful gift. Whether you believe or not, a gift of philosophy seems a very wholesome and pure thing. Those Christian kids all got older and probably found smarter ways to ease the pain, or explain it all away. Maybe they didn’t need those particular words anymore. And I can’t fault them for any of that. Everyone gets older, and starts to feel wiser, and maybe they’re still at it. Maybe there’s no real weight to any of those words. But I still find comfort there sometimes.
Some years ago I tried to reach out to Josh, but I guess he didn’t want to talk.
I feel like that a lot, too, these days.
Having slept away another day, I wake up at 5 and make dinner. Then I have a handful of drinks and edit some photos.
Later, I remove the neck strap from my 6D and replace it with the hand strap from my old Nikon. And I hold it up and feel the weight, the leather strap pulling at the back of my hand, feeling tight, feeling solid, and a warmth spreads from my wrist to my forearm and up into my chest.
“How would that even work?” Katelyn asks over the phone. Many years ago, I was laying in the grass in the backyard of my childhood home, looking up at stars. Maybe I was trying to convince her to let me photograph her, trying to show her what I could see ahead.
I had theories. Now I have guesses. Life has tempered some of my confidence away.
But there’s an unshakeable core that seems to stick around, infecting my thoughts still.
Pretty sure I can make it happen. Pretty sure if I find a way, the rest will just fall into place.
And if no one else sees it that way now, someday someone will.