Two years ago, you would’ve done a backflip if I told you I was happy to be here. Right here. Right in the middle of it.
This street buzzes. I know everything about it, as if I fell to all fours and licked the very asphalt below. You remind me of that bitter taste; some sort of gritty ash. A witch’s brew of burnt rubber and tobacco regret. Real black shit.
There’s a point where “coincidence” is a lazy word to explain a series of parallel events. Like when a baseball pitcher decapitates a pigeon mid-flight and the feathers go a-flyin’. “Coincidence” is sharing a birthday with the gas station clerk. This shit: the vigor between you and I and every memento on this road. This shit is spooky.
The French use this phrase, déjà-vu, when the gas station clerk is a phantasm of some past life. A recognition of something that has never. ever. happened. That’s deja vu. “Already seen”. It’s also some blah movie with Denzel.
You don’t have to be French, though, to know what it feels like. Coincidences, déjà-vu, this street. There’s an energy. I can feel it.
The opposite of déjà-vu, though, is why I’m writing tonight.
I’m bored, thumbing through Facebook. I drift into some chick’s profile, then scroll backwards. June, 2009. She’s all different, younger, less-stylish, more insecure. You can tell. She’s holding a Solo cup, an arm around some fuckboy, a real angry-looking kind of dude. I keep browsing.
October, 2010. Our girl has shorter hair, blonder. Eyes wider. She’s got stripes on and a big hat. Something’s changed. Less of a teen. More of a mother-in-the-making, but with a record player and white eyeliner. I’m mindlessly clicking across all these photos of our damsel, and suddenly I freeze.
“It’s all moving, all the time,” I whisper to myself. If only I could speak to June, 2011: a boy about to take some real big adventure. I’d tell him to take even more photographs. To kiss her. Sleep less.
I slam my laptop shut. I can’t look at her anymore. I want to yell at her about regret, about the dude around her shoulder, about the things that will happen to her. I go for a run.
On the trail, I’m maneuvering around groups of old folks. The elderly. I can’t stand the sight of them. My young body sweats, beats to the rhythm of a healthy heart, strong knees, calcium. Their wrinkles are like quicksand. I’m swallowed by oceans of disability, of uselessness. Of strolling around in sunglasses that blacken identity and the smell of thrift stores. Like photo albums and a time that has been buried by progress and the youth. I’m about to have a heart attack.
I run back to this street. I swear I’ve been here before. I replay the memories in my head, of heartbreak, of freedom, of gliding around in the middle of the night to headphones and art-rock. I know I’ve been here before. But I feel nothing.
I just don’t feel anything at all.
Like I said before, you wouldn’t believe how happy I am to be back here. But that’s just the thing: I don’t remember what it felt like. What I went through. These images of what transpired: they’re aphasic. I wish for the old moments. For a clock that ticks in reverse.
It’s knowing the letters make up the word but the word doesn’t mean anything.
And now I can’t stop saying “jamais vu.” I can’t stop screaming “this is temporary!” I can’t stop my beating heart from wishing it was yesterday. And I can’t stop myself from knowing that, one day, I’ll wish it was today.
It’s 18:23, and I’m out on this street.