*A Personal Note with a Nashville Playlist*
What happens to a city in the summer? Perhaps, no matter how much distance expands between my life of endless days and the rigor mortis of academia, I will always see September as the mark of a new year. It is in September that excitement for structure and a slew of new goals reemerges, to quiet the banter of uncertainty.
In the summer, we purge. New thought patterns, strategic goal setting, and fine-tuned practices melt from our consciousness; we become puddles of sludge, exposing the loose ends of chaos that pricked up from the fibers of our skin during the last three seasons, brought to the surface by a blazing sun and an oppressive heat. We evaporate.
This summer I evaporated in Seattle to chase after my chaos. For me, Seattle is a utopia that appears exquisite and untouched as a dot on a map, but its actual existence plays out like the end of an asymptote, always edging in on euphoria, but never quite touching the line. I escaped from the south for a brief moment of summer, to purge a beautiful and delicate love that I thought existed in this northwestern city. In reality, its brilliance lived comfortably within my own mind- if it is to be brilliant, it is only if we feed it properly, with an adequate dose of illusion and excuse. So I went to Seattle, to manifest this illusory love for a Norwegian musician, and I killed it, valiantly, realizing the truth to be an inimitable David against the Goliath of my sickly imaginative brain.
One evening I spent there, a young girl with a pixie haircut and thin lips that curled upwards handed me half a rose. “Because half of your heart belongs in Seattle,” she smiled, dropping the pedals into the cup of my hand.
Later that night, buzzed from coffee and infatuation, I found myself hobnobbing with locals in the green room of a Capitol Hill venue. The party was sponsored by a startup company that aims to make medical and recreational marijuana more readily accessible to the public. I sat in observation and a pool of gin and tonic, while one man reeled through photos of his cruise to Alaska, and another spoke excitedly of the profit margins and business goals in this foray into the great state of venture capitalism.
Moments later I was ushered into the bean room of a café, where my conjectured love was playing a midnight show; golden candelabras squatted blissfully across long clothed tables, with two hundred or so rainbow-eyed, tattooed people bowing to their grandiosity. It felt heavenly. This was my surreal dream, the closest I would get to the fantastical asymptote’s end, with rivers of fine wine on all sides of me and a host of people whose names I would never know. Not unlike a dream, I stood entirely unrecognized, ghostly, tasting the potent sweetness of anonymity while I foolishly watched the audience applaud the made-up man on stage.
And not unlike a dream, the rampant applause turned into desperate screams; a rainbow-eyed man fell to the floor, convulsing with seizures and gasping for air. Sirens wailed. Feet scuffled and chairs screeched, making room for evacuation. I found the tall made-up man with the cello strapped to his back in the heavy murmurs that crowded the street, and I held him, for one infinite moment of bliss.
Just minutes later, I was squatting atop the waste leftover from a block party, wrapped in a homeless man’s blanket, listening to a crack dealer spout theories on God As An Alien as he casually massaged the gun in his pocket and interspersed tragic lines on love. I looked wistfully over at the made-up man for protection, but he was consumed by his own dream, played out on the church steps between cello strings, an audience of two strung out lovers calmed by the sounds. I felt resentful, that at 1 AM in a park strewn with drugs and litter, the lovers, the dealers, and the party goers who could feel the last tweak of vibrations roll from the cello strings far down the hill, had all fallen in love with the made-up man too.
On a Tuesday afternoon, I was driving through Seattle with an old friend, heading toward the peak of a sunny day’s Mount Rainier. I wanted a cigarette. As I stepped out of the car and reached for my light, I looked to my left; there was the strung-out lover, as skinny and faded as he had seemed in the park. He didn’t see me. Instead, he squinted from the irrepressible light, climbing uphill, as the sweltering heat melted his dreams.