“Escape can feel like a reward.” – Marc Lewis, The Biology of Desire
Someone committed suicide yesterday morning just a stone’s throw from our apartment. The streets were abnormally quiet like they are on holidays and early morning weekends, so I imagine it was too tempting for someone who was already contemplating taking their own life. It must have seemed like the perfect time to just fall down past the railing and fizzle out like a star. To go from here I am to not here anymore, at all. Oh god. The streets were completely silent. No one was out there patterning themselves along the sidewalks, along their invisible dotted lines that would normally take them around on any given Monday. No one was there to witness, or to observe this transitional leap across the line, lying in the road:except for the few of us up very early grabbing coffee, but I was not the one. I did not find the body. It was not me because I did not walk the extra two hundred feet of road past the coffee shop and underneath the rows heavy potted plants out to where the ivy covers more brick than it shows. I did not make the quarter turn with my torso out to the street clenching my phone with the 911 call. I was not the one. Instead, my coffee and I strolled on home without a second thought to any of it. Down along 11th we walked like we had every other early morning in Portland since our arrival. Had they already jumped at that point? How long was the body lying in the street like that? Or worse, what if they had not made any decisions by that time? If so, how long did they pace around on the balcony, on the edge of everything dragging their finger tips along the cast iron railing in contemplation. How many times did they ask the question, the only question, over and over again? Or maybe it was nothing like that at all. Maybe it was all very decided without any pacing whatsoever. Maybe there was a handwritten note addressed to a special person that was left on a table in the living room before they gently walked through the sliding glass doors like an angel making a swan dive of final acceptance. The end is a choice just like any other, and”The End” of a story happened just 200 feet from my own little unfolding narrative.
From birth to death and everything in between, how often have we thought about jumping? Behind all of this, you have to ask yourself how the giant quilt of your life is really turning out. What have I become up to this point in this pattern that I am unfolding? Think about your quilt at the end of your life. Will it comfort you to know that you are wrapped in the metaphorical art work of your time here, or will it be something distant and casual like any other blanket taken out from any other drawer. Will it be a pattern of one million tiny, meaningless squares faded out and undistinguishable from one another? Will this quilt bury you, smother you with reminders of how you fell for all of the bottles of wine that you thought meant everything in the moment, but instead, without fail, left you alone again in some sort of distorted shrine of green glass and overflowing ash trays? As you unfold the days that become months that become the years of your life, what will you say that your attention was most honestly focused on?
Today, ash falls like snow clouding the Portland skyline, clogging window sills and car windshields all across the city. These are heavy smoke clouds from a gorge fire roaring its way around and evacuating counties not too far from here. It is an inside day in the space. I am inside avoiding any more damage to my lungs. No more than what I have already accomplished at this point as a reformed smoker. I do not mind it though. This is home. This apartment reminds me of the place I used to live in West Midtown with its clean edges and concrete floors. I wonder what kind of sealant they pour over this surface to make it so smooth. I want to know, so I can imagine watching them pour and prepare the surface that supports me. The essence of the floor that supports the ball mounts of my feet and invites me into a place in my mind that I thought was long gone. It only takes a minute or so of rolling my feet around in a very thick pair of socks on this surface, and I am already there remembering the movements and marking them timidly with my hands and chin, reminiscing around. Is that really how it was? I think to myself as if I am back in time to the grinding and spiraling of my fluctuating form in Atlanta, in West Midtown, in an apartment just like this one covered in layers of tailored socks up to my knees, my thighs tending to a camera that is constantly rolling. Action never stops.
Documentation was everything. For science, for art, for myself because I needed to know. I did not know that my left dorsolateral Prefrontal cortex was underdeveloped and struggling to perceive a complete, global aspect of life, so I was living largely and openly in a very small and tight-circled universe commanded by the right dorsolateral PFC. In The Biology of Desire Marc Lewis describes how addicts get stuck in the moment because of a disconnect with the left dorsolateral PFC, so they “can only imagine the reiteration of the present”. I really thought that if I recorded every inch of my creative mind on video that maybe I would finally be able to know myself. I thought that maybe the camera could catch my worth and show it to me somehow, so I could see it through the precious gestures and progressions of my limited cyclical thoughts. It was all worth it to me because it was all immediate. Everything was usable in my little choreographic pack rat realm because I could not grasp myself as something with longevity, so to follow the arrow of now with a maturing vision and outlook on life is a true gift. I am a whole person. Lewis says that “addicts experience something breathtaking when they can stretch their vision of themselves from the immediate present back to the past that shaped them and forward to a future that’s attainable and satisfying.” This is how we move past addiction. We have to stay in the present and conceptualize the future. Embrace yourself in your own life. ❤