Sometimes We Need Our Demons

I remember sitting on the front lawn of the campus reading a short book on the world that Thomas Pynchon created. I wasn’t actually reading Pynchon, however, just reading about him, which still bothers me in some way. The day was getting cold, and I think that the month was maybe April or late March. There were enough clouds in the sky to get me concerned about the weather for the night. Was it going to rain? I hoped not.

I had just walked back from Book Alley down the street. It was the coziest little place on days like this. There were stacks of books littered all over the floor, and long shelves in the back where everything was haphazardly organized by genre. I was thumbing through some old astronomy texts, and looking at the pretty diagrams of the different kinds of galactic spiral arms that formed throughout the history of the universe. When I finished, I returned the book to its place on the shelf, and wandered a little more. Science fiction, French literature (in French), auto repair manuals, and mass market paperback romance novels. There were plenty of each.

I thought about calling X, and maybe going to see a movie with her at the cheap theater. But for whatever reason or reasons that I don’t remember now, I didn’t. I left the shop, and walked down the block to buy a muffin and a hot cup of coffee at the gas station. I don’t think that I had a car during that time, my license had been suspended for racking up too many moving violations, and since I was a relatively new driver, that was the first privilege to go. So, I may have been waiting for the bus in front of the campus. But I could have just been killing time, waiting to meet with a friend. It was a busy time, a busy day, and I wish that I could remember more.

It was pleasant, sitting, reading. The cool gusts of wind breaking the calm of the day and making the clouds looming over the San Gabriels, contrasted with the golden sunset of the west, all the more dramatic and interesting. I might have also been smoking a cigarette at some point, I smoked then, but I’m not quite sure about that either. I finished the Pynchon book, and walked over to the library to return it, telling myself that I actually had to read Pynchon at some point, and not just about him. You actually have to do things at some point J, and not just read about them.

The trees rustled hard in the wind, the little leaves at the ends of each branch fighting for survival. To stay alive and close to mother, if only for this season. I wore a dark green jacket, with a black hooded sweater underneath, and was much thinner then, thinner than I am now, even though I moved around a lot less. My hair was long, and dark, and everyday seemed new, and bright, and exhausting. Pregnant with unfulfilled promise, and hope, maybe some dream of some better future somewhere, but who knew where? I actually do think that this was around the time when I got my car and my license back, so maybe I was driving, and I was indeed killing time.

I was glad to drive in Southern California again, because at a moments notice you could go to the beach and watch the sunset, and get a bite to eat at some warm little place not far from something so pretty. Sure, it was an escape, but I had always been the master of escape. Of escaping fate, of escaping stagnation, of escaping morosely being relegated to mediocrity. Escapism as a past-time, I made it into an art.

I might have put my headphones on after I turned the book in, but I don’t remember if I even had an iPod or some device with which to listen to music. I like to think that I put my headphones on, and looked through the artists, looking for chessie, and then finding them and going down to Daylight, which was a favorite then. When that song was on and you were out in the world, participating, it was almost as if the veil had been lifted, and you were given a fresh set of eyes with which to see and absorb. Life was worth more than the accumulation of parking tickets, and a suspended licence, and a 3rd rate retail job folding clothes. A second chance was somewhere, but where?

If I only could have stayed out a little longer, and maybe looked a little harder, and maybe felt a little more, then maybe I could have held back the pull of time, even if only for a moment. Would I have found it then?

Now, however, I look back at my naivete and laugh. Not a lot, and definitely not in condescension, but my memory trapped in time is only one of a billion tiny fragments that make up a much much larger whole. It’s a part of a more complete narrative that has shaped me, and though I would like to assign it some weight, I know that I really can’t. It means just as much as all the others. Maybe that day keeps on replaying itself not because it was a point in time when I realized something great, but because it was like so many other quiet days. Calm, big, real. The exploratory madness of the process still burns, and I don’t mind it so much anymore. I can take it now. I cherish the long Sunday drives on PCH, and the cloudy days, and even longer nights moving around the quiet western spaces. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I still need my demons. Isn’t that what it means to be?

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