excerpt from Chance Encounters
He buys me a drink.
I swear looking back at that drink, that single entity, it seems as if that one drink spawned every drink after it–and there were so many drinks after it in the summer of 2014. Almost as if everything bad that happened after this drink happened because of this one drink, like it all could have been avoided had I just not taken that first drink…
That’s how life is though. You’re going through those everyday mundane repetitions [yawn] then suddenly BOOM. Life gets turned upside down. It’s unpredictable and nonsensical. Call it a moment, an event, an incident, an encounter, whatever–shit happens. It takes you captive and all sense of time disappears. It consumes your totality. The past and the future exist only in the void. Something happens and it’s unexplainable and unprecedented. And even violent in the sense that it fully disrupts, dismantles, and eradicates everything you thought you knew about yourself and the world around you. History becomes a myth, a mere symbol. Memories become tainted with truths you’d much rather surrender.
Like a magical portal opens and suddenly you are in a new time and space entirely. Like you are standing at the threshold of some new dawn you never quite bargained for. Suddenly you aren’t yourself any longer. You are a new person. Someone else. And even though you are still you, you barely recognize that old you. You look in the mirror and still see some semblance of you, but that old you is long gone. For better or worse.
Sometimes you are grateful for the transformation, like if you won the lottery or if your lover proposed to you (or didn’t), or if you found out your best friend in 3rd grade wasn’t going to move to Florida anymore and you could still eat bologna sandwiches together everyday and she would still give you one of the home-baked cookies her dad packed her and you loved that cuz your daddy disappeared a long time ago and your momma worked too hard to bake cookies or pack your lunch. Other times, you long for that old you, you feel nostalgic or even regretful, like if your innocence was stolen too soon, or if you found out your lover cheated on you with somebody that you used to know and now he felt like a stranger when his eyes met yours, or if you got that call that your Grandma passed away and you felt like goddamn, you never really said goodbye…
Like looking in the mirror but she’s laughing at you because she’s more real than you are. And you have nothing to grasp onto except her taunting reflection that matters more than you feel you do. You feel sick with the smoke of a thousand foul fires of fear. You float away from yourself. You wonder how on earth will you ever crawl back inside your own skin? You try to pull the fragments of your being back together and cling to any sense that remains.
But there is no sense in it.
You’re in a dream world. The twilight zone. A different planet, galaxy and universe altogether. Or even more terrifying–like you are actually finally awake for the very first time. Like, this is the first day of your life. Like everything else, your whole existence, everything, was nothing but a dream. Like everything you ever experienced, all those times walking with your little brother to catch the school bus in the snow, hoping not to slip on a patch of ice in front of the other kids, all those painstaking awkward silenced Thanksgiving dinners with a family you barely recognized anymore, seeing who could eat the fastest and just be done with the whole ordeal so you could all isolate yourselves in different rooms in different corners with the doors slammed shut, all those empty jail cell letters in a box under your bed, bullshit fucking promises from the ghost of a father who you never, ever got back, all those mornings you got out of bed just because you thought, maybe, somehow, you, YES YOU, could make a difference… Gone.
All those sweet precious moments of heaven under the blanket, those little kisses on your forehead, those “I’ll never hurt you”s, those big brown eyes that held the whole world in them but now only occupy dead space in your memories, deflated illusions in your mind, those legs tangled up like a knot. A knot. The most beautiful knot. A knot. Like if those limbs unknotted, the bed would drop out beneath you and everything would disintegrate into particles you’d never get back and now you never will. Gone. Gone. Gone.
But you are in a dream world. Aren’t you?
Suddenly everything is colliding around you in a tornado of chaos and nostalgia and there’s nothing tangible to grab onto. Nothing. Everything you’ve built up, all the foundations you thought you constructed–falling the fuck apart before your mind’s eyes. Metaphorical bits of concrete and strips of siding tearing off the houses of your heart. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it now because it’s swirling so fast your black lungs barely remember to breathe. Layer by layer everything you thought you knew or understood about yourself and the world around you is peeled off into the abyss. Torn up in the storm. Annihilated by the forces of peculiar and mundane chance encounters. Bits and pieces of everything you ever thought you worked so hard for blown to smithereens. Everything you thought you could count on has splintered into dust and ash.
Fasten your seat belts, and put your goddamn folding tray in its upright position–we are ready for take off. NEWSFLASH: You are now un-becoming. Or perhaps this is your first taste of truly pure Being.
And these chance encounters that keep us going, propelling us into some unknown future, keeping us trapped in an illusory past, they can be large events. A birth. A death. Spending the summer in India. But even more fascinating and terrifying is that they tend to be minuscule seemingly meaningless moments. Like that one drink. Until retrospect has her say. [HINDSIGHT’S A BITCH] And then you look back on those seemingly meaningless moments long after they’ve passed with awe and wonder. It says something about the unpredictability and precariousness of life. Causality, for what it’s worth, is bullshit. A graduate seminar on French philosopher Alain Badiou taught me that. We want to think A+B=C because the illusion of control over what happens to us is comforting. Whatever helps us sleep at night, right? But really–but really, really–shit just happens. There’s nothing at all you can do to stop it. I’m not saying we should all give up or that nothing even matters. I’m no nihilist. But once you accept that you have no control, once you are empowered by your lack of power, once you learn the delicate balance of that tightrope, you won’t ever be content,