I’m back in New York for a week. On Wednesday I told some friends here that one thing I like about myself is I don’t get very nostalgic. I’d said it without much thought but I’ve been asking myself, Is it really true, do I not get nostalgic?
For most things I have a short memory. I can’t recall the plots of books or movies, and I’m even worse at song lyrics. People tell me that for a writer it’s a useful trait to have. Helps you let go of what you’d written before. A. and I talk about this a lot over the phone and he’s the opposite – he remembers things so well that he sometimes references things we’d talked about months or years before as though they had just happened.
It’s not that I don’t have access to these memories, it’s just that I tend to look away from them and toward what’s next, and if I do feel nostalgia, it happens underneath. After catching up with friends I haven’t seen in a year I end up walking around in neighborhoods where I used to live. I crave foods more out of habit and context; when I’m back in Michigan I do not miss much the soup dumplings at Joe’s or the steak burritos at Calexico. DB likes to quote Basho: Even in Kyoto … I long for Kyoto. For me it’s more: Only in New York, I long for New York.
I was in Canada a few weeks ago, just across the river from Detroit in Windsor. We were driving back from Point Pelee and along the side of the freeway there were long greenhouses walled in semi-clear plastic that with the light of dusk and coming storms made the fields look as though they were covered in fog. The car’s taillights would reflect on the siding and streak across it, like some kind of long exposure photograph, and that image is what I see now as I think about the present and past. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be life if those streaks drew out a little more, faded at a different rate. The things I miss most are the closest to vanishing, the almost-invisible ends of light. I want to keep burning the fire that’s about to die.
All this is half-true. And I must say, Dear Friend, that I am too tired and the thoughts are too green for me to work out which half. I’m typing this from bed, and what I long for right this minute is simply to sleep.