This is from my old blog, written November 30, 2005. I get a little reflective in February, which used to be a bad month but now is full of anniversaries, which I’ll tell you about soon.
I remember very little of what I learned in college. I learned that correlation does not imply causation, which is a great thing to learn, but other than that, most of what I remember involves creative writing classes. I took poetry writing twice. I remember a poem somebody wrote about a mad woman in the trees and in the water, and a poem somebody else wrote about taking your pet to be euthanized, describing how the cat or dog looks at you with his “triangle face” from a cage or a table at the vet’s office and I probably went home and cried after that class for hours, and I’m not even kidding. There was another poem where somebody said that she (I’m not even sure it was a she) named her son Gray to see what he would become.
That makes sense. Gray is so unspoiled, I guess. It can go with anything. It’s unassuming. It can become whatever you want it to become.
In Chicago, I realized that Denver is my Gray.
When we were home, everything reminded me of something. This is the way we used to go to my aunt and uncle’s house. My first real job after college was over there somewhere, although I forgot one of the cross streets. My cousins and I ran across Higgins Road to this hotel one time from my grandparents’ house, which was right over there and had a pool. This is the bar where my ex and I hung out almost every week and the bartender recited the poem he wrote about me in a hushed voice, and actually it wasn’t bad but it would be tacky for me to repeat what I remember of it now. This is where I used to speed back and forth to college. This was my gym. This was the bar where I left with the bartender after playing pool and the Blue Note used to be on Armitage and my car was broken into outside Holiday once and I used to know this guy who lived above the bar and I guess it always comes back to guys and that’s stupid but true because it was such a big part of life in Chicago.
Everything then was punctuated with stops and starts and stupid things I did. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not about regret. I don’t regret a second of any of it because if you’re not out doing stupid things when you’re young, you might as well be waiting to die. Everything was about living and being, really being, right in the middle of everything, doing as much as you could and trying and touching and feeling everything.
The thing is, I don’t have a filter that makes the memories stop coming. It’s the same thing that makes me very sensitive to music I don’t like — I can’t ignore it, and if I even see the name of an annoying song mentioned somewhere, it will be stuck in my head. (That happens to everyone, though, doesn’t it?) I can’t look at the two flats in Chicago without getting this weird ache-that’s-not-really-an-ache somewhere that’s not quite my heart. The architecture is, for the most part, the same; the bone-chilling cold that I’d all but forgotten is the same; pumpkin ravioli is the same; but I’m not and the city doesn’t know that and speaks to me as if I’d never left, as if whatever I’ve done since then never happened.
There’s not much left for me in Chicago other than the past. My parents are still there but talk of moving west. My grandparents all died. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends — they’ve all moved away or slipped into the oblivion of sporadic email that doesn’t really matter. So many neighborhoods have changed, little cafes where you could bring your own wine and draw on the tablecloths are gone and more ugly buildings are squeezed in where they don’t fit and it feels like when you go away to college and you come back and see your former best friend and you realize that you have nothing to say and of course it seems that if you admitted it, you’d seem snotty, like you went off to Iowa and think you’re better than everyone from your past, but that’s not it at all. It’s just not the same.
We meet people from the way past for a beer, and it’s weird because as we get older, we become more convinced that the way we live our lives is better than the way anybody else does. It’s true, and it makes it awkward. They don’t understand why Ben still does stuff with music and you can sense the unsaid judgment that he should’ve moved on from that by now. We don’t understand why they have kids and live in the same town where he went to high school and they know everybody at the bar because don’t you go somewhere and do new things? Nothing is wrong with any of our decisions, but it’s hard to understand someone else’s when your life is so different.
I don’t mean to sound like any of this was bad. It was a good trip, aside from having to drive way too much. It just made me so happy to be home, happier than I knew I could be, happy to sit around in pajamas all day Sunday, eating pizza and watching football in our little house. Denver’s gray hasn’t faded at all. It’s still so new I can’t even begin to imagine what it will become.