Last night I fell asleep reading some of my old blog entries from when I first got to Armenia. This morning I woke up with blood in my mouth, and though I was fairly unconcerned, it happens every so often, I wanted to juxtapose this image with that of a return to the memories I cultivated in Armenia. I want to show in the opening lines of this entry how those memories are painful in a way, but also quite passively received, much, I’d imagine, like the process that causes me to wake up with blood in my mouth. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s still there, the evidence of something that is causing me harm that I’m oblivious to until I wake up.
In reading those old posts I think about all the life that I’ve had that I can’t communicate with many people. Back in America, I meet new people, usually mention having been in the Peace Corps in passing so that it doesn’t look like I’m bragging about it, but when I personally revisit the experience of being in Yeghegnadzor, sometimes I still can’t believe it’s over, while at the same time I can’t believe it ever really happened. I find myself sitting on my porch late at night asking myself, “Did I really used to walk up that hill that led down into Getap and watch the sunset almost every day? Did I talk to that old man who poured me shots of homemade vodka (they said arak in Yeghegnadzor) while cutting up a few of the apples he had piled on a table? Did I drink all that coffee in all those different homes, smoking proffered slim cigarettes?”
What I have for a coherent thought on the subject is turning into a collage in my mind. As time passes, and I move farther and farther away from the experience it attains mythic proportions, becomes detached and separates itself into moments and scenes: A concrete roof with pipes on it, sitting on a towel with a cup of afternoon coffee. The grass is long and almost fluffed-looking in the late spring warmth and dryness, like linens fresh from the laundry. A bird sings and laughter can be heard. Inside I can hear the echoes of the kitchen as though I were in it.
Of course, I have a million scenes like this and writing them all out would really serve no purpose than to make them slightly less tangible by embellishing them and putting them on the page where they are no longer what they were. To do this would only further distance me from the experience, I would take the stories from the realm of myth to the realm of the everyday. Instead of being edifying descriptions on how the world (my personal world) was made, I would be left with a bunch of hammered-out newspaper copy.
Instead of writing anything I take a chair and go back out to the porch. I smoke a cigarette and look up at the sky. I think of all the times I have moved in my life and left a part of myself behind, only to find it again, years later, buried in the Styrofoam packaging of the present, a little cleaned off, and looking like something that wants to be sold rather than just considered, but still an aspect of my past.
Outside, watching the clouds blur the edge of the Redwoods in the misty green lights that coruscate from the tennis courts to the east, everything is damp and nebulous, water spurts from the drainage pipe down a forged path that is outlined in dark green mold. The traffic on the 101 coughs and brays, out below me somewhere. Everything is gurgling in the basin of this rain. I walk inside and hear it lash against the windows. The memories are already fading. They become hypotonic in the rain. But I go to sleep with them somewhere inside, enough remains to bloody my mouth over the course of the night.
I wake up at 6:30 and begin writing. I write what I was thinking about last night. The radio is musing about the possibilities in Bahrain in a static-y sotto voce. There is condensation on the inside of my windows from the rain that wept through the lose molding in the night. I stare up at the lamp on my desk fulminating through the cold-wet aura around my windows where a soft blue light is beginning to rise.
It’s Wednesday and Friday morning I am going up to Portland with some friends. I think, briefly about their arrival the following day. I realize if something needed to be done for this now would not be the time to think about it. I think about Portland for a while instead, of the incongruent Appleby’s somewhere in NE, the clock tower on the train station and the shivering metal bridges. I think about going there three years ago, stopping in Ashland on the way. Feeling feverish, drinking a beer with my hat on inside so as not to get colder. Lying down on a skating rink later that night. Taking Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind-type photos of everyone lying on the ice.
I come back for a moment. The light outside has brightened, cerulean clouds can be made out on the southern horizon. There’s a valentine hanging up in my closet, opposite the colors of those clouds outside: a warm red and newsprint that I first saw through the window as a silhouette, a chunky inverted triangle that I assumed was meant to surprise someone else rather than my jaunty self at 9:30 in the morning, just back from Spanish Class for the Uninterested Freshman. Coffee and red valentine, like a picture I’d take with me, walking at night with headphones on in any of the places where I’ve been alone Chicago, Rome, Arcata, Solak, Galway. The places with tunnels that cover four empty lanes of street, with lichen growing out of the old stone walls and everything closed at nine PM. The places where I’ve walked around for hours on end with no real questions to ask myself. In such places, usually while cold, I’ve imagined the look of lipstick on paper and the murk of a burnt cup of coffee at once.
Now the radio is fulminating and the light outside is ruminating. The signal has been lost and it hisses uncertainty. I take another sip of coffee. It’s gone cold, which seems to bring back the taste of blood from earlier this morning.