a postcard from the edge

Somewhere between the amuse bouche and the moment we first drew our pistols at dawn, the one-year anniversary of this blog passed, like shooting star, or a fart in a stiff wind. I hope you got me something nice for my birthday—and by you, of course, I mean the AI that routinely crawls this site, realizes it has nothing to do with Warren Zevon beyond a shared ennui that even machine learning can’t yet parse, and files it in the deep end of the most ragtag SERPs where nobody goes on purpose. Nobody reads this blog, but still I am compelled to whisper my gibberish to its welcoming ether. Something so cursed about cheekily creating an end times journal just weeks before a pandemic nearly leveled humanity, but what a long, strange trip it’s been. Along the way there’s been plague, protests, too much politics, and when I haven’t been online, I’ve been trying to hammer out my manuscript, because what better time than the approaching Dark Ages to lean into the world’s worst paying profession?

I’m fully vaccinated now, and last weekend I had prolonged, indoor contact with other humans for the first time in over a year. It was truly bizarre, but not in the way I anticipated. I assumed I’d have some difficulty forming sentences or displaying good table manners or accurately reading freeway signs, but all of that muscle memory remained blessedly intact. The weird part was the sensation that, awash in all this normalcy, a year through which we’d been gripped with so much existential terror suddenly felt like it had never happened at all. An absolute fuckin’ fever dream, my dudes, to be plunged to the depths of anguish and then just as violently rocketed back into the most banal concerns of everyday life, as if the abyss had never opened itself at all. 

I had to remind myself that not so long ago, I was entertaining vivid internal dialogue about Shit Getting Too Real For Me. There were times, times as recently as this spring, when I thought, Jesus Christ, this scourge really never will be over. There were times, times as recently as this past January, when all of us thought, Jesus Christ, this country’s finally gonna fall apart. We were not even six months ago entertaining scenarios in which our government collapsed and our infrastructure, riddled as it is with pestilence, racism, dysfunction, and unrest, followed in short order—and frankly that seemed like a reasonable, if not utterly appropriate, conclusion. (It could still happen, and probably will, and honestly, might be for the best.)

And yet somehow, none of it happened. Even though I’ve got all the angsty journal entries and terrible ecommerce impulse purchases to show for an episode of fearful certainty. It’s as if I arrived to the summer of 2021 by time machine, straight from the year 2000, bypassing everything dumb and showing up just in time to roll into the community center and get immunized. I find myself standing in the Mexican supermarket buying hot chili chips and blinking up at the fluorescent lights and feeling certain odd contours of my teeth that I never noticed before and I couldn’t tell you what day it is or how the fuck I got here, with the coolant-charged breeze making my bare face tingle as I raw-dog reality for the first time in 365 days.

It’s there, on the tip of my tongue, all the things I want to say but can’t bear to rehash. I know in my heart that they matter, those potent revelations of the last twelve months, no matter how ready we are to forget them. We’re a mutant species that way: everything we don’t acknowledge gets encoded in our DNA regardless of consent, it all coats the linings of our collective consciousness like microplastics seeping into the water supply, every trauma and terror and ear-worm and weird strain of flu. And all this perverse psychic energy will present itself again, eventually, in the widened eyes of some future generation. We have longer shadows now, whether we look behind us to see them or not. 

The inventory of my emotions has changed, but I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing. Like a roomy new pair of shoes, it feels fine to step into fresh weirdness and journey in some new direction. Though the pandemic is not yet completely over, it is in some way behind me now, like all the other long days of my life. I have deep cleaned and re-arranged and begun to study new languages. I’ve prepared a mood board. I’m reading thick tomes of parapsychology and pulp fiction. I’m taking vitamins. I have been humbled by something that I survived through no cunning of my own but entirely gratis of sheer, dumb luck. 

I don’t think a person’s ever really ready for anything, but I do notice that most mornings now I greet whatever appears with a sort of seasoned quality I didn’t entirely have before. It reminds me of the way I felt after I almost died, but didn’t, years ago. My skin has that tight feeling of too much sunshine, even though I’ve been indoors for the better part of a year. And I’ve thought more than ever about my favorite aunt. Every piece of advice she ever gave me inevitably tied back to her experiences living through the Great Depression, and how that one deep glimpse into the absurdity of modern life assured her that she could probably live through just about anything—so she did. 

And so have I. And hopefully, so will you. 

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