21 June 2022

Who you say you are and who you are

The Spring seemed to go by quickly this year; I've been sleepwalking through most of the days as they've gotten longer and longer, drugged by my phone and the dread that it brings with news of violence, always violence. I keep waking up in the middle of the night to eat, after having slept for ninety minutes, exhausted and bloated. Some people are suggesting to me that this is normal for a man my age, that I'm just going to bed too late. If that first ninety-minute cycle happened from eight to nine-thirty, and it was in front of the TV, I will have officially become my father. I'm still managing to run every morning, but only on the routes that I can run without thinking, up and down the Woodgate Valley path, seeing the same people day after day, people who I feel like I know now, but have never actually met, people with dogs and older couples and men with tattoos. 

I was running on the canal two Sundays ago and looked up to see a young man coming towards me and looking nervously over his shoulder. I looked down and saw he had drawn a switchblade knife and I didn't have any time to turn around or do anything but keep running, and I imagined in the seconds between when I saw him and we passed what it would feel like if he were to plunge this knife into me, how it would feel. Nothing happened, I ran past him and then past the man he was presumably looking back at and I came home and recounted the story to Yoko, but in a way in Japanese that couldn't capture how I actually felt: There was a man with a knife on the canal. I was running. I ran past him. I was scared. This long string of simple sentences that makes me sound like a child experiencing the world as a child. It reminded me in a way of a time I fell off my bike in Japan when I ran into a barrier at full speed in the fog and fell over the handlebars. I cycled to Yoko's house after I cleaned myself up, cut and bleeding, and in trying to tell her the story, I started crying. I remember a sense of profound frustration in my own inability to convey my feeling about it like I was trapped in a language that wouldn't let me say what I needed to say. At twenty-three, I didn't recognise how important that was for me, how much I needed it, and what a big mistake I would make by ignoring it. 

I'm turning forty next week and want to say something profound about it, but all I can manage is a series of complaints. More people expecting things from you: more maturity, less desire and passion, more goodly old man, and I'm still stuck on all the recriminations I have from when I was twenty-three, like some football player arguing with the referee about a call five matches ago. I ran this last Sunday and an elegant crane, the sort that will see you coming and fly away in what looks like slow motion, was standing in the path, looking at me, and then stuck its head into the grass and pulled out a mouse. The crane flew up and away and about 100 meters later, I saw it again on the other side of the canal, swallowing the mouse whole. That was it. I saw a crane. It ate a mouse. I kept running. 

The dentist says to me yesterday, 'What are you doing after this?' and I say, 'Going to work,' and I pause and then I say, 'unfortunately.' And he says, 'Is it unfortunate?' He's right, of course, the thing he implies is right: it is not unfortunate, it is in fact very fortunate. How ridiculous to feel dread, to feel unsatisfied and want something else. Ezra Klein answering a question about why he chose to have kids when everything is burning asks, When in human history has everything not been burning? When half of the children didn't make it to 13? We are spoiled, I am spoiled, as I get annoyed that people misunderstand my feelings of frustration about whatever small thing that has annoyed me. I'm sorry, you're right, it is fortunate. My teeth are fine, the sun is out. These are all blessings when you are forty. I'll accept that. Help me accept that.