It felt mysterious and confusing, yet it touched something inside me that first time, seventeen years ago. I knew it to be true somehow. And the story blew me away on so many levels. I found myself both drawn to and appalled by the characters and situations that rolled out before my eyes and into my mind. Some of the scenes had played out in my life and other scenes were descriptions of what I wanted to do.
This quote etched itself into my psyche and won't let go. The scenes and characters of my own life, even now, seem tangled and interwoven, but still do not add up to a total sum.
And I think this is what drives me mad. I keep dropping the beads, scattering across the floor.
"The facts even when beaded on a chain, still did not have real order. Events did not flow. The facts were separate and haphazard and random even as they happened, episodic, broken, no smooth transitions, no sense of events unfolding from prior events-" Tim O'Brien, Going After Cacciato
Many years later, I read O'Brien's book. The daydream took me by surprise.
I dream about the Future like Paul Berlin. From the back of the line, trudging along in dirty boots. I dream a life much better than reality. And it always ends by a cold campfire on the side of the river. Could I actually make that walk from Vietnam to Paris?
A bead falls:
You wish a friend a Happy Birthday on Saturday night. The chicken is delicious. Cigarettes in the open night, the moon peeks through the leaves. A paddy wagon drops a man off in the middle of the park, "your home is that way, now walk!" Breeze turns chilly, and you warm yourself by the fire. You tell a friend you love the smell of jeans super-heated by campfires. You think back to camping with B.C. and W.V. You miss the energy and magic of youth, then think, "was that ever true?" You can't get enough to drink, you feel out of place. Something's missing.
A bead drops:
Sunny Sunday afternoon walk with a friend. Indian food. A cigarette. Conversation with strangers, yet you notice you're really quiet. You add little to the voices mumbling incoherently around you, speaking about people you don't know. "you pack these smokes really well, impressive." A sky on the ceiling. Sprinkling laughter. A chance meeting on the street with friends. The sun warms you. You buy some CDs, and see your friends again through the window, they look good together. You wonder how they see you and what they think. You walk. "you're fine with us being Platonic friends, right?" "Sure," you say, but you're not really sure what you mean. The sudden label makes your heart drop momentarily. Something's missing.
A bead rolls:
You've been offered a job at your store by someone that you'd hate working with side by side. It gets denied a couple of days later. You're both disappointed and relieved. And go back to dusting shelves and charming conning comforting customers. You don't know what day it is. Something's missing.
A bead bounces:
The wheelchair lady isn't at the front door today. The afternoon is hot and smells of concrete. You take the stairs to the lobby slowly until you hear the stairwell door open below. Loud voices sends a brief spurt of panic through you and you run the remaining stairs to the third floor and through the grey doors. You meet with your new shrink. She's matronly and thin, and for some reason you feel a little sorry for her. She nods and smiles and says little phrases to push your babble along. You've told this story so many times it comes out in a jumble, barely making sense. You don't even recognize who you're talking about. She compliments you on your attempt to make life better. You prattle on about writing, trying to explain blogging in 30 words or less. You seem to focus on writing, you quote a line Bret Easton Ellis said in an interview you read years ago; something about how reading is necessary for a writer, all types of reading because the bad writing inspires you to do better, and the great writing inspires you to try and achieve. And you suddenly feel like Clay in Less Than Zero and you want a cigarette and sunglasses because you don't want to see the fluorescent lighting and the toupe colored walls and yourself in your own Mind's Eye, but that passes as you realize this insane rant and rave you've just unloaded about writing and women and you don't know why you don't date and you mention the "not living up to your potential" phrase from the last break-up and lack of interest and not connecting and lack of sex and job loss and depression and anxiety and repeat repeat repeat blah blah blah slump has in a strange way put you in a passably good mood. And you go home. Something's missing.
A bead drops:
Your Grandpa S. and Grandma B. keep popping up in your daydreams. And you don't know why. You tell a friend she should go to the hospital to see her grandpa because you're thinking how you didn't and have never forgiven yourself for abandoning such great people on their deathbeds. And you choke back a mental tear and make a joke and regret it immediately. You need to learn to stop avoiding the gravity of situations. But you have enough pain in your own heart. Something's missing.
A bead falls:
You have a job interview at Corporate on Thursday. You don't know how to prepare. Your resume needs updating and rewritten and all your clothes are in a pile on the floor. Your Store Manager corners you in the stockroom. She informs you she got a call from The Big House and raved and raved about you to some manager in the Photography department. She wishes you well and the best. She's pulling for you. You thank her, and say you hope for the best. Such enthusiasm focused toward you and about you makes you nervous and you realize after she walks away you've torn two fingernails off under the basket you held throughout. Something's missing.