You think equally in images and words, but lately you can’t find many meaningful ones. You crave for colors while you speak in black and white.
You live in silence among others who have the same luxury. You live where you do because you want to, or because you feel that the city has betrayed you and you need to prove that you still exist by looking at a sky full of trees instead of one full of steel and glass towers. Sleep is also a luxury. You keep thinking that you made only a few good photographs in your entire life. You throw away a lot of them into the bottomless digital garbage can. You could never tell what time it is. You float like a strange specimen inside a formaldehyde jar. You move from room to room, heavy, like a portable cemetery. You want art before dishes, but your creative rooms are empty while your kitchen sink is perpetually full. The unicorns of hope lost their majestic horns and turned into comical donkeys. In a closet, you find an old pair of snowshoes and you decide to learn how to walk again. The river is hidden under muffling layers of snow.
You can’t see it but you know it’s there continuing to flow regarding of anything you might feel about of it. The only thing you do best these days is feel. You pass by no trespassing signs stapled to the elephant skin of dying ash trees. In your mind you trespass every time you are told not to because you have always colored outside the lines. There are other signs saying private property, and you don’t care about those either. A long time ago you’ve been told that you could own things, but you know that all you could do is rent. You rent the house you bought, the car you paid for in cash, you rent your body.
You rent everything you are able to see when you open your eyes. You own your past and your present and your memories. The snowshoes are uncomfortable and make you feel clumsy. You count your steps slowly, the way you used to count cash decades ago when you first came to this country and got paid under the table to do menial jobs. Everything is confusing: the new country is at a standstill and the old country is imaginary. You are afraid that one exists only in your imagination and the other just in your memory. You tell yourself that these trees are American, but you are not sure if you feel American yourself anymore. You live on a snowed-in island listening to Miles Davis and to Debussy. You miss the world and its colors. You had become self-aware rather than self-centered. You take selfies in the bathroom mirror as if you need a new passport to get out of your mind. You improvise, but without gusto. You find joy the way your pets do – a piece of string, a bird dancing around a bird-feeder, an old snack. You don’t remember your body except for when lifting one foot in front of the other and the occasional headache. Everything stands for something else. You happily accept that and you don’t question what’s being offered to you: a blanket instead of an embrace, an Italian black and white movie instead of a plane ticket to Europe, a glass of Chianti instead of a kiss – a whole cheap airport literature existence rather than Borges or Dante.
You feel like a snob for wanting more, for remembering how the world existed when you existed in it. You think of the city’s jazz clubs, the birds in Gramercy Park, the independent bookstores, the happy chatter of people enjoying their drinks in the bars of East Village. Somewhere you see a photo of a couple dragging their suitcases through an European airport terminal. They’re wearing hazmat suits. You feel that this entire past year has been nothing but a badly staged play full of unprepared and unqualified actors dressed in strange cloaks of grief and anger. You want to make art but you wonder what is the point. You envy those who are able to create the best songs, paintings, and novels of their lives. You often think of death, but that’s nothing new. You’ve been thinking about it since your grandmother’s death back in that old, surreal country whose name you’re not sure you could remember anymore. You think how one day they will come and pack up your stuff. You will be outlived by the trees surrounding you, by your books and by your furniture, by your living room’s oak floor, by the antique lamp resting on your writing desk, yet you look at death as the best fertilizer for hope. Mortality is the most potent aphrodisiac. You stare at the computer screen talking to your students, convinced that you don’t make a difference in anybody’s life.
You don’t know how to be a teacher anymore – you are a fellow sufferer; you have no qualifications to give advice to others except for being human. Your students are often stronger than you; often, you pretend to be stronger than they are, but of course they know you’re lying. You miss booking a flight to Florence and having your favorite trippa a la fiorentina in that mom-and-pop restaurant on the Arno River where the owner always gives you a second bowl for free because you told him you are flying from New York just for his magic food. You remember listening to Vivaldi while bathed in the stained-glass light of Sainte Chapelle and to Bach irrupting out of the pipe organ of Église de la Madeleine’s. Your soul is still wet from a magic rainy day on Mount Fuji, ages ago. You miss talking about Proust and Neruda in the charred shadow of the Notre Dame with the woman you love, browsing through old record stores in Montparnasse, or having lunch at La Palette. For now, using your snowshoes, you carve your way through the silence. Suddenly you realize you had forgotten to switch your phone to silent. From across the ocean, in Paris, on the quiet Rue de Furstemberg, a woman you haven’t met yet sends you a text message, like a signal from a rescue ship: “Merci pour vos délicates pensées, je vous attend pour poser pour vous.”