The Misty Mind

I remember my first night at boarding school. Walking into the bathroom I saw a boy wearing the same Marks and Spencer pajamas. Naively, I pointed them out. Maybe we could be friends, clearly we had something in common. I didn’t understand sarcasm. I didn’t understand “yeah let’s be friends” meant I was the underdog, he saw it, pecking order established.

Five years after my first night at school all my friends went traveling. I didn’t go. I was on the year below. I didn’t go the year after either. I’d fallen for a girl and decided I’d stick around. When she was done with school I’d decide what I wanted to do; maybe we’d go to the same uni? She didn’t show up to school after the holidays. She’d decided she was going to stay in Bali. Her House Mistress broke the news. Her friends were too embarrassed to tell me as I passed them in the hall.

In five years, I went from bullied to bully, bully to comrade, comrade to alone. With a little help from my old teachers I found a place at University. 15 years have passed. In those years there’s been no less change. With all the change life’s a blur; dive deep, you’re alive, step back the distance obscures meaning. That’s remained a confusion.

I should explain. I’m lying in bed staring at a dark shade of blue silhouetted by cracks of branches. It’s night. The tree in front of my window is a shadow ready for confession. The last 20 years just flashed before my eyes and I didn’t feel a thing. And I wondered, is it all worth it?

It’d be a lie to say the sky is dark at night. There aren’t stars in this city, not in LA. There are too many lights. Have you flown into LA at night? You can see every car on the freeway, headlights and all. It’s like the opening scene to 1980’s sci-fi movie, only it’s real. This is the future and that’s kinda the point.

The fan is blowing a breeze in my face. It’s hum sends me to sleep, it doesn’t cool the room, but it’s whirling is hypnotic. Looking out the window my mind blanches. How many moments are there? This is a moment.

At my feet is a dog. Occasionally he rests his chin on my thigh giving resistance to his head. I figure it’s his kind of loving. As he curls I resist moving. He’s sleeping now.

Come morning I’ll wake, I’ll wake with resolve. The silhouetted tree will be glow with the embers of sunlight. Heat will permeate the fan. Bleary eyed I’ll span the day. It’ll be a Saturday.

The cycle will span again. Another 24 hours. Another 13 before I ask questions. Next time I’ll have a different view. Lying in the same bed I’ll look in the same direction and wonder. A week will pass, again, questions. How many moments? Moments, moments… they make a life. That’s all life is, these moments. Right?

I knew a guy at school that took a lot of acid. Baggy jeans, hoodie, blonde hair cut short. One day I was standing in the school’s parking lot talking to him. He told me acid was solving all his problems. The only issue was that with each trip a new problem appeared.

I didn’t appreciate how funny his problem really was. Dead serious he asked “do you have any ideas? You’re smart like that.” I suggested he stop taking acid. I don’t think he listened.

I’m still lying in bed. The dog got bored and moved to a different room. The fan’s is still blowing.
Life is littered with moments. Seconds of experience disappearing to bring new ones in their place. With each moment, reality, a truth about to open its doors. Moments beg questions; what of the moment before? And with these moments fickle appearances raise their heads.

I remember my wife’s first few years in England, I lived my own country through her eyes. The fresh perspective brought a light to something that had become dull. Suddenly the confusion of the tube map was an opportunity to explore, to discover new territory. No longer were there destinations, but there were encounters with unknown territory.

I remember my first trip to America. The clarity betrayed my ignorance. Over the years the country has become nuanced. It’s not a dream, it unfolds everyday like a new reality lived before.

When I first arrived in America it was 2002. Life was on the fringe of innocence. I was a student. A long holiday ahead, Tahoe, evenings in Santa Monica, a drive back to the East Side at 4am. And that was America; boxed booze in the mountains and an SUV touring Brentwood. That was reality, then.

Since then friendships have evaporated. Others have formed. Smiles in old photos seem like dreamS. Life happened, it keeps happening. It betrays its own moments; that betrayal feels like a lesson. But how many moments, how many lessons, how much life? How much before life stops teaching and living begins? How many episodes does one have before one is clear?

The answer seems never. But the answer suggests surprise, for it implies living and death. The death of repetition, the tiresome plough of time; but also the occasional smile, an awakening, a surprise.

What we can’t escape is the mist that clouds us as we drift. Moment to moment, awareness to confusion and back again through the minutiae of our lives.

Image by Saul Leiter

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