Wednesday, April 6, 2011
postcards from reality
Every so often, I have these reality checks when I suddenly remember that I'm alive, that time is passing, that other people exist and aren't just Vonnegutian robots programmed to make my life more interesting. I stop being and get meta, and it usually blows my mind for a little while. I hate the mortality salience, but I love and remember the moments.
The first one I remember having was when I was around 10, and I had just gotten permission to go down the big hill in my neighborhood. These days, it looks like a gentle slope, but back then, it was like Lloyd Dobbler on the K-12 in Better Off Dead. The ride down was exhilarating and amazing, and I felt like I was flying and one with all the world. And the walk back up, pushing my hand-me-down lead bike, felt like I was a thousand miles from home and would never be safe again. I think it was the first time I understood that I was alone in the world.
I had one in France when I was about 17. I wasn't having as great a trip as I should have been. I spent so much of my time in my head then, worrying. Worrying whether the other students liked me, if I was looking and acting the right way. And then, one night, we were by this amazing fountain, and it was all lit up, and all the other kids were dying of boredom, and all I could think about was that someone had cared enough to carve it from solid rock, and hundreds of years later, I was feeling the spray on my face, connecting me to the artist and the models and the world.
I thought about ordering a gelato, but I didn't, because I always felt too fat. Now, I wish I had had the gelato.
I had another one in France, a few weeks later after a half-hearted suicide attempt. I was drunk for the first time in my life with my host student and a group of boys, out in a field on the wild Spanish-French frontier. I'd never seen so many stars or felt so wild or been at a bonfire or cared less about what people thought of me. It was exhiliarating. And for one second, I thought about how dangerous it was, how anyone could rape or kill me in the middle of nowhere. And then I realized that I was having the best time of my life, so instead, I started singing along with their Led Zeppelin and Nirvana cassettes, and they thought I was cool because I could explain the lyrics in French.
After that, I spent a lot less time trying to be cool. Maybe because for a few minutes, I was, without even trying. I just stopped caring. And life was a lot more fun after that.
I had one in 11th grade French class. I had one at the bowling alley. I had one in Milan, on top of the Duomo. I had one in Greece. I sometimes have them in front of the bathroom mirror and have to poke Dr. Krog in the face to make sure he exists.
"Yep, I'm real," he says. He gets them, too.
I could go on. But I think you get the idea. I love and hate reality checks, because they remind me of how unbelievably special life is. But they also help me fix points in time and remember moments with startling clarity.
Anybody else have reality checks?