17 March 2014


I've been trying to put my finger on the difficulty of writing this year. I sit down again and again and keep failing — trying to avoid writing about writing, or writing about the inability to write. But I can't seem to do it. So here, I'll just write something. Tell you how things are. When you don't write, you write the same thing over and over and the same story can go from happy to depressed. Give any story enough time and it will change.

On Friday, I walked around the University of Birmingham in the sun, feeling like I needed to enjoy this spring twice over. The smell of the flowers, as I run up the hill to the Newman campus, is a memory and then another memory: first, of every spring in Milton Keynes for four years and running up and down the old railroad path towards Newport Pagnell. And then, a memory of the trees blooming on the Shinano River in Niigata City, nine years away now.

Stephen at the ocean

Or ten years ago, a selfie in Fukuoka before there were selfies, where the digital trail drops off and all the other memories, the ones older than that, are stuck inside of me, or in photographs somewhere in my parents' basement. Or dispersed in the basements of parents all over the Midwest. The very edge of recovery.

How do you reorient yourself. This missing plane: they talk about invisible GPS points in the sky that work as markers. You go straight until you reach one, and then you turn, all the time arbitrary and precise. Of course, you need training to recognise them, the places you should turn.

We all have to wade through the collective insufferability of a generation with its past perfectly preserved — in digital artefacts that we can all recall immediately — struggling with getting older, while all the while too cynical to actually do anything, to tell any real truth. Here, look at this. Look at how much older we all are now. There are so many pictures of it.