Familiar

Familiar – 2019 – Sept. 28

“My head is a weird shape.”
I heard your words
as you searched among the piles
discarded hats
given their second chance
at the thrift store

you brought us here
together seaking
picure frames
and I couldn’t stop picturing you
picturing us
as we moved
through frames together

your enthusiasm
when you heard that I liked hats
set you on
a new mission
in your eyes
as we waited in line

A weird shape you said
weird
as if that were somehow
a bad thing
but bad is a judgement
it must be held
against
some exemplary standard

where is the standard
its shape or size
for a head
the one in question
doesn’t exist without you

weird
isn’t that strange
strange is unfamiliar
weird isn’t good or bad
we say weird
when something is
unfamiliar
but you are not
unfamiliar to me

there is discomfort
in that which we find
to be unfamiliar
as long as you have been
that is
as long as we have been
you (we) have never been
unfamiliar to me
there is only comfort
only what I know

I know your head
its size and shape
I am familiar
with it
I am comfortable
with you

“My head is a weird shape”
doesn’t make sense
the words
I know
the concepts
I know
but its meaning
is unfamiliar

Your head is a shape
it is your shape
I am familair with
the shape of you
and
I am wrapped
in comfort
whenever I am
with you

Journal note: We went to the thrift store today. This is one of your favorite activities. In preparation for your sister-in-law’s birthday, the next day, you were searching for picture frames. We found three frames. One 4×6, one 5×7, and one 8×10. These would become the homes of three images I would print for you to gift to Suvatsala. You took great care in selecting these frames. Finding only the ones that would match the aesthetic of her apartment, and work will with the theme of each image. You also found a nice trench coat and remembered that your sister had said she was looking for one. The tag was yellow. Only Red, Blue, and Green tagged items were 50% off. The rest of our time was spent trying on silly clothes, mainly jackets with wild, yet oddly attractive patterns. You sent your sister images, and called her seven times to get her opinion, and hear if she liked it. I told you that were I ever to find seven missed calls from you on my phone I would worry that there had been a terrible emergency.

Journal Entry – 9.22.19 – Sunday; Princeton

9.22.19 – Sunday; Princeton

. I woke up late today. Last night I had stayed up later than usual, reading at what for me was a feverish pace, Richard Bach’s novel The Bridge Across Forever. I had read Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah just the day before. My sister had mailed it to me along with some chocolates which had melted during transport. She always knows exactly what to send. A book and melted chocolates where exactly what I needed to recieve. I’m so grateful for that package- and that book. It was good that I had read it before beginning The Bridge. I suppose it wouldn’t have happened any other way though. It was only during my reading of Illusions that I decided to also purchase a few of Bach’s other titles, those being The Bridge and One: A Novel. This book seems to be the sequal to Illusions and One may be yet another continuation.
. I was reading at such a fast pace, because the character I had developed such a connection with in Illusions, Richard himself, was, at the time of my reading undergoing some terrible transformation. He had just learned that the publication of Illusions had made him incredibly wealthy. It isn’t immediate, but it is startling to witness his drastic change in character. His incredible, incurable emptiness and subsequent lonliness, or maybe it is the other way around, is what affected me so much. This man, who had learned, or at least revealed the secrets of the universe (seemingly) to his readers… that he should then become so deeply and negatively affected by wealth. It was disheartening and troubled me more than slightly.
. I also found myself relating, all too well, to his struggles to find his soulmate, or really any romantic partner with whom he could enjoy a deep relationship with, and that which did not merely stave off his boredom and confusion with what to do now. I found his list of desired traits of his soulmate resembled mine somewhat (the mark of a good writer, or an obvious description of humans today), and I despised he and I a bit that there had been a list made or even considered. Isn’t love supposed to just appear? Take you by storm, like a sudden gust of wind, or having the (same) wind knocked out of you? I applauded his honesty, bravery, and humanness though. This was a different Richard than in Illusions. A less lofty, more achievable and relateable character I suppose.

. I felt sufocated this morning. Groggy and toxic. I decided that I had to take a trip into Princeton so that I didn’t subject my self to a day sequestered in my apartment. My dog and I walked for several miles. I transfered a piece of furniture to my neighbor. I left my apartment and was on my way to Princeton.

. The streets of Princeton were full. The school year had begun. Being that is was Sunday, students flooded the streets and shops. Visitors from out of town were walking about enjoying the beautiful weather. I was hungry and new that I wanted Sushi. I had been maintaining a vegan diet for the past two weeks, but I ever since I woke up I had wanted sushi. What’s worse is that since I had woken up late and skipped breakfast, my hunger dictated that my pace be quicker than usual. I walked down several blocks with Tomo Sushi as my intended destination. It is a small business with only counter seating that looks out the storefront’s large windows. It was far enough away from the parking garages and popular stores. Many people would not bother to walk that far, so it would be a good place to sit alone and eat while listening to music and watching the activity on the street.
. It was closed. I photographed the empty shop. My disappointment. I then walked to a newer sushi place. I knew where it was, but not what its name was. Closed as well, but with a sign in the window reading “Help Wanted.” Perhaps once they had more staff they would open on Sundays as well. Growing more and more frustrated and overwhelmed by the crowds, I sat down in an Indian restaurant called Chennai Chimney. As I was being seated a church group filed in behind me. There were maybe twelve people in total. Based on their comments and expressions of anticipation this was to be a new experience for what sounded like all of them.
I sat in a seat which could not have been closer to the buffet dishes. I had taken two plates of food. One contained a mixture of vegetarian dishes. The other contained only some rice and about six pizza slice shaped pieces of naan. I ate with my hands, as I have been doing more often.
. “It tastes better when you eat with your hands,” She had said.
. Those words came back to me along with images from that evening. We had sat across from one another and I made a foolish comment about how there was something sensual about eating with hands. What I had meant to say was “there is something sensual about the two of us eating with our hands while staring at one another.”
. It was only me and some of the employees and fellow Indian diners who ate with our hands. I felt my emotions swell thinking about it. Belonging, but not belonging. The staff made note of this peculiar, small white man dining the way an Indian would. Tearing pieces of naan with only his right hand, scooping pieces of paneer makhani with bits of rice and folding the naan over them. He lifted the food up to his mouth and, careful not to let his lips pass my second knuckle, shoveled it into his mouth. My friend Supranav had mentioned that “rule” back when we lived in New York city.
. I continued on eating that way until I had run out of naan but still had just a bit of rice and sauce. I thought of the sign taped to the wall at the front of the buffet line. It was placed just above eye level and above where you take your fresh plates. It read “Please eat all that you can. Yesterday’s food wastage could have fed 18 people.” I wondered if it meant to say “please take only what you can finish,” or if they were refering to the amount of food left in the buffet bowls that had to be (for some reason I don’t know) thrown away last night.
I paid my bill. Added a tip even though it was a buffet service. It was for their kind recognition and appreciation of my eating habits. When I walked out the door and put my ear buds back in my ears Bill Evan’s Minha was still playing. I had forgotten to turn it off, and while dining had only once recognized that it sounded as though a small fly had landed on my shoulder and was playing the piano.

. Yesterday had been the celebration of my grandmother’s 85th birthday. My aunt and uncle who live outside Boston had come down to visit. This seemed to cement the importance of the occasion, as seeing them is, understandably, rare these days. My sister remained in Indiana, but upon receiving images from the celebration expressed how difficult it was for her to not be there and how thankful she was to have received the pictures. Today’s phones can be wonderful things. The gathering and talking and laughing and laughing had been so nice that today seemed to begin as an emotional “coming down” so to speak. The high had worn off while I read from “The Bridge” last night and had further subsided and soured during the night. Perhaps that explained why I felt the way I did when I woke up.

. During my entire time walking throughout Princeton today, a live performance of the Bill Evans Trio’s “Minha” (All Mine) was playing in my ears. It’s been in my head as well. It started there, but I decided if I couldn’t rid my mind of the song, I might as well fill my ears with it. It is just beyond three and a half minutes long, yet I have been listening to it for nearly three hours. When I settled into a plastic Adirondack chair, one of the many that are spread around Princeton’s campus- this one happened to be in the Rockefeller College area- I listened to it on repeat as I typed up what would beome nearly all of what was written up to this point.

. I returned home and took my dog, Shea, an energetic and powerful hound, Pit, husky mix with spots which make her look like a cow for another walk. Shorter this time. Only a little over a mile and a half. Minha in my ear on repeat the entire time. I brought her back and decided I would bike to the hill beside the school and watch the sunset.

. “You need to see the sunset right now.”
. That was the text I got from Her. The first, and I thought, only text of the day She might send me. I replied by showing Her an image of the hill I was sitting on, which I had biked out to alone. In the foreground of the image lay my laptop. The LED illuminated screen flickered in the image- the refresh rate of the inexpensive machine not maching up with my phone. As a result it made a portion- the center- of my screen seem black. With that laptop I would write this event down. The text. The biking. The sunset. All of what seemed necessary. It had made the short journey from my apartment with me for exactly this purpose. Only I dind’t know what was going to happen. I suppose it came along for the potential of this moment.
. In the distance, a subtle, yet beautiful pastel sunset was painted in the sky. The sun had fallen behind the trees, and ants were crawling across the keyboard of my laptop, and Bill Evans was still in my ear playing just for me. Minha is a song about breathing. With those building, spiraling, and falling passages he breaths life, knowledge of the stars and of the sky and of the cosmic winds into my ear. His drummer (Eliot Zigmund) accompanying him seemingly on an only “as needed” basis. His cumulative contributions adding up to no more than several seconds of vibrations in the air. The bassist (Eddie Gomez) seemingly inseperable from the piano, as though the keys and the strings were one instrument in conversation with itself. They had soundtracked my entire day, and I thanked them for that. Now they would play the score to my sunset as evening approached. I hoped they enjoyed the stage they were playing upon. I thought, “how nice it is that She and I are watching the sunset together. Well, not together. But how nice it had been for Her to think to message me about it.”
. I laid back and stared up at the tree overhead. My eyes traced the long outstretched branches, they rested upon the leaves moving together in the warm evening breeze. I stayed there, watching the tree, closing my eyes momentarily to pick up the music again. “What was this, the fiftieth time the song had started up?” I thought. With my eyes open, I let my focus pass through the branches like Bill’s fingers gently pass over the keys bringing them to sound. I laid there and felt ants crawling onto me. “It’s alright,” I thought. “You can all stay. There’s plenty of room to explore. Just be nice. Be kind to me today. Stay with me and let me feel your legs run across my skin, climb through my hair, and dance across my face. I’ll let you know when it is time for me to go. I’ll be gentle.” With that, I closed my eyes and was wrapped in the sounds of Minha. It swirled around me. It swadled me, spiritually. Wrapped me up somehow. Me and my little ant companions.
. I rolled over, onto my side, briefly forgetting that I had become a small mountain for at least a dozen tiny explorers. I looked into the trees, realizing how sad my day had been, and how sad I still was in this moment. I looked at the color of the sky just visible between the leaves above me. The faintest hints of blue and pink and tangerine hues shown through.
. “I can be happy right now, if I want to be.” I thought to myself. “I’m alive. I am able to witness this moment. I am able to see these colors, hear the surrounding crickets, feel these ants and smeel the scent of the grass carried by the wind. Someone dear to me thought to send me a message about the sunset, and because of that it was as if we were able to watch it together.”
. I felt a definite lift in my spirits. Then I felt fear. I recognized a sudden shift away from that happiness and back towards sadness. Fear was the vessel which would take me back to that familiar place I had been living in all day. It was the fear of being without that sadness, that familiar longing and lonliness.
. The bottom of the sky, where the sun had been thirty minutes before, now glowed a resilient deep amber. The last triumph of the sun before its final retreat as it surrenders to the night. It was time for me to observe my last few minutes of daylight, prepare the lights on my bike, and head home. I stood up and gently brushed the ants off of me wherever I still felt them. I knew they would survive a fall onto the soft grass. Ants are much stronger than we humans are. As I looked out into the sky once more, A bat signaled that the spectacle known as the setting of the sun was to be considered basically over. Like the ushers at a movie theatre when they begin to sweep the fallen popcorn and candies even though the credits are still rolling. The bat darted around the dim sky, snatching up bugs here and there. I shut my laptop, headed over to my bike, stuffed it along with my camera in the bag affixed over my rear tire, and zipped it shut. An Indian couple, an elderly man and woman, had walked out to a park bench just as I had arrived. I’m not sure when they left, but they were gone now. I had come to know that this was a routine of theirs. I loved that. It seemed to be such a pleasant experience for them. I smile whenever I happened to cross their path while walking with my dog.

. The rest of the night was spent writing this journal entry and editing it. I changed its form somewhat. I wanted it to be more readble and sound a little less like a journal entry. It is still very much that though.