I don’t need to apologize.
But my brain says I should.
arent you sorry?
No I don’t have to
you know you want to
But I don’t need to. I won’t be sorry about I thing I didn’t know about.
Now shut up.
I don’t need to apologize.
But my brain says I should.
arent you sorry?
No I don’t have to
you know you want to
But I don’t need to. I won’t be sorry about I thing I didn’t know about.
Now shut up.
It snowed the afternoon and night before, and lay in a quiet blanket over all. In the morning I rose and went to get a shovel from the garage. I made a path and walked up the driveway. Then I noticed them. Footprints. And I wondered contentedly, who has walked up to my house? Was Dan out there? They tracked from the mailbox to the door. A delivery that did not fit in the mailbox then? But no. Nothing lay on the steps. Nothing was wedged in the door. A single set of tracks leading from the mailbox to the door. A one way trip? That didn’t make much sense. Then it dawned on me. Those are tracks leading from the door to the mailbox.
I had a friend over, and when he left that’s the way he walked. Single set of marks made by feet. Look, there’s the place he turned to make sure the door closed properly. I had to shovel a few of the tracks away (the snow compacts and turns to ice on the steps if I leave it). The rest I left there. They’ll melt away. But for now, there’s footprints on my yard. And other things.
I do not love you.
Be gone with your howling. Crying, keening, leave me be. Wretched thing!
You threaten me in my peace. You are the sound of the throbbing at my temples. You are the warning bell ominous. You are the sense of dread, my aching head, have you no remorse you monster? I do not love you. Go away.
Really what I should say is straightforward. Because what I meant to get into before is what the hell is romance?
Because what the hell is it, right??
I feel I should first mention the common answers before I immediately throw them out.
Roses, wine, diamonds, dinner- are these things romance? It just doesn’t seem like random collection of things with cultural significance as sweet or special should have EVER done it for me. Still I have enjoyed a nice rose, knowing both it’s a pretty flower to hold and look at, and it’s a symbol of effort towards affection.
So maybe romance is about the effort. At the beginning of a relationship it’s all like “what do girls like?” “what do guys like?” and the answer is so much easier. Get her something she likes. Not something girls like.
I’m very drawn to thinking it’s the affection part that makes it romance. But it’s more than that. Liking being with someone is sort of different from enjoying it when someone is happy. And it can be absolutely thrilling to see the one you love happy.
When people say “this is romantic” I think maybe they really mean, “this makes me feel extremely noticed and special, by one I love.” For me the word romance has undergone a change similar to the word love. When you are small and have never experienced romance or love, you have to guess what it feels like. Then when it happens you still have to guess that it has. There’s no one particular thing that tells you you’ve finally found it.
I don’t remember the moment I knew for sure that I’d experienced love- but I remember romance. I remember thinking this, THIS is romantic! I don’t know why I can suddenly detect it, but I have found it! And I think the components must be a strong sense of what the other person likes and how to give it to them, combined with knowledge of why it’s being given. When the gestures of love truly convey a depth of meaning from one person to another, that is romance. It is by nature an individualized thing, not any stock answer. This is why it is so hard to grasp then. And why you only get it once you get it.
I like a band called Tally Hall. Big surprise right? IRL folks already know this. I will now talk about a few of their songs for a bit.
Originally I shazam’d this song off the radio sometime in the 2000 oughties. This song was on my playlist for literally years before I listened to any other songs of theirs. I honestly thought they were a band among the 70’s greats that I had simply never heard of. I’m not exactly sure what about this song made me think 70’s. Its chaotic energy? Its strange meter? Its dynamic changes and different sections? The album art is reminiscent of something like Revolver or Sgt. Pepper. I simply had no idea this was a band consisting of men younger than me. Timing is everything in this case, and I missed even the opportunity to attempt to see them in concert because of my error. Perhaps the very recent time of my introduction was when I really needed to hear them most anyway. The honeymoon of ecstacy in hearing new music you immediately love doesn’t last forever. And I benefited from the distraction from sadness.
Welcome to Tally Hall:
I list this song second because it was my first indication that the band must be in fact relatively new. Having become bored of my at-the-moment music, I cast around for something new and decided to listen to more from “that Good Day band”. I found a Tally Hall list and played it at work through the crappy quiet computer speaker. Greener played softly and I was able to half listen. Then came this song. As soon as the rapping started, I knew just how wrong I was about them being a 70’s band. Simultaneously I knew that the crappy quiet speaker was doing them a serious disservice and that I’d need to listen on better speakers ASAP. Once I got home and did, I was hooked. Which brings me to-
Taken for a Ride:
So I legit almost had a heart attack listening to this because it so strongly made me think of Marvin the Paranoid Android that I was momentarily convinced it was a deep scifi reference. I think now it must not be. It is still a fantastic song with a fantastic video however.
This song is one I created a little emoji lyric thing for. I used a bee to represent the humming. For a day on Twitter I was microfamous with the Tally Friends. Someone quipped “new Tally Hall single: Bees!”. So that was nice.
Sweet little song about a baby’s birth. The Pingry version of this is pretty nice. I made James a playlist of Beatles songs mixed with Tally Hall songs and I’m particularly pleased with my decision to place this one just after Why Don’t We Do It In The Road. Heehee
Are you or have you ever been obsessed with the Olsen Twins? Well someone was once and this song happened. Reportedly one Andrew has some regrets over, this is an amusing ride through obsession town. Fun fact: “Mary Kate and Ashley” has the same patter as “Tally Hall and Bora”. Guess how I like to sing this song.
Out in the Twilight:
So this one kinda reminds me of a game called Grow Island. I don’t think a working version is available now, but it was Flash lookin thing that involved making choices that affected how life progressed on a little island with human life, trees, a volcano, and sometimes extraterrestrials. If you made a bunch of right choices, the music would change. The final music has a quality to it I love, sort of bouncy and fun. This song is like that.
I knew there were problems. I knew it might be a bad idea.
But I also saw pain and wanted to make it stop.
failure failure failure
“I love you”
You’ve said such words before. Meant them! With fervor. And depth. Your head and your heels have been inverted so often, it’s a wonder you aren’t permanently dizzy.
Before, when you thought you understood it.
It felt both swift and dangerous. It made you giddy and squeezed your heart. It felt warm and painful.
And you were sure, positive! That you knew its extent.
The possibility of love. A wider thing than any you’d known, but tinged, touched, colored by reality. Love the wonderful, yes. But also love the painful, the practical, the distant, the destructive, to name a few.
You have felt it change. Each time there is something new, it shows you love is larger than what you thought. Each time you are astonished. Each time you have thought, surely this is it! There can be no more! And yet again you are surprised.
There is no conclusion. How can anyone say what love is when it won’t hold still?
They’ll all be weird things.
The way someone touches their nose as they straighten their glasses,
That small sound he makes while focusing intently,
Her lips when she begins to drift off to sleep,
They’ll all be things like that.
You’ll see them and to everyone else, they’ll just be weird-
but not to you! To you they’ll look endearingly adorable.
They’ll all be weird, though.
So here’s what happened. I needed to clear my head and deal with some bullshit. So I took a really long walk. I had some trouble deciding where to walk to and from, then I realized there was sort of no question at all. Skye Farm. I drove up the Northway and parked in the small lot near the exit. It’s probably for people who like fishing or something. I wore a scrub top and blue sweatshirt with one patched sleeve, and soft plum-colored pants with bedazzling around the rear pockets. I carried a bag made of an old rainbow tank top that I packed with a half-full juice bottle, a mostly full package of baby yogurt* bites, a packet of peanut butter, a packet of honey, and my cell phone. I wore the bag as a backpack and strung the car key to the zipper pull on my jacket.
Even though it’s been ages they’ve still never fixed the bridge that was washed out. I doubt they actually intend to, but they can’t be bothered to demolish it either. This bridge connects, or would connect, parallel roads running on either side of the Schroon River. I took the wrong side. In fairness, they should have fixed that stupid bridge. In the first minute or two of walking I accidentally strode past some plant with barbed seeds and dozen or so stuck in my pant leg. I would have left them there, except they were poking my ankle. I stopped at a yard sale with the pretense of shopping in order to pick them off. One of them stabbed my finger deeply. It still hurts occasionally.
When I got to the bridge I toyed with crossing anyway, but it actually looked really well blocked off. And I figured if did mange it and the bridge collapsed under me, I’d look pretty silly dead in the cold river like that. So I turned around and walked back so I could cross next to the Northway like I would have in the first place if I’d remembered the bridge was out.
As I walked I ate baby bites and looked at things along the way. I recognized some of the slightly muddy flowers on my way back later. I’ve never walked the way to Skye Farm from the Northway but it felt kinda more authentic to walk it somehow? Some cars passed me and I wondered how I looked to them. Did my appearance scream, local who’s just out for a stroll? Or woman having a freakin existential crisis and doesn’t know what the frell to do next? Or depressed weirdo who might accidentally on purpose be outside all night to disappointingly warm temperatures and accidentally on purpose not die? None of the vehicles stopped, whatever they thought. I saw some daisies, probably and some leaves that reminded me of nasturtium. I wondered if the walk would be prohibitively long and whether I might have to turn back. After a while I saw the right turn. Skye Farm, and the family camps, this way!
I knew there was still a slightly uphill road the rest of the way there, with the first part extraordinarily uphill. When you make the right turn in a car you sort of feel the car struggle. I started to climb, and felt tired. Then a thing happened in my brain. I don’t know how this works for other people. Maybe you can call it a daydream, or a vision, or a regular thought that’s just stronger than usual. But a thought just appeared there inside my brain. It was a very tiny piece of an episode of Star Trek Next Generation. (I actually didn’t even remember it properly, but I’ll get to that.) The episode itself is called The Perfect Mate. The plot involves a being that remains in stasis until she meets her betrothed, at which time she will love him, becoming interested in all his interests, and adopting whatever personality traits will best complement his. She also has like, crazy pheromones or something, probably meant to help cement her marriage bond, and those can affect people around her. Her marriage is supposed to seal a treaty I think. Anyway, something goes wrong and stasis fails. She wakes up and everyone starts being affected by the pheromones. So naturally they hand her off to Picard, who’s self-control is kinda miles above everyone else’s, and because she’s also going to please and act like anyone close to her, so maybe he can act as a stabilizing influence on her. The ship puts on full speed so they can get her to her betrothed already and she and Picard hang out.
I forget what exactly they do together but he gives her lots of agency and checks that she doesn’t need sanctuary or anything. She’s really composed and self-aware and extra perceptive too. She thanks him. She tells him this is her path and she assures him she’s ready for it and no one is forcing her. And she understands things about him. She sees him trying to help her and appreciates it. Then Picard has to hand her to her husband, in a formal ceremony that resembles a wedding; Picard acting as father of the bride “giving her away”. As they are literally about to start walking down the aisle she starts speaking to him in a hushed, very calm tone that the bonding has already happened. She’s bonded to him. She’ll never bond to anyone else. Picard becomes noticeably upset, which for Picard is like an eyebrow movement and a muted vocal cringe. And she says a line to him. In my memory she says, “I am most like myself when I am with you” which isn’t exactly right. Her line is “I like myself when I’m with him”
The little piece of the scene that happened inside my brain, as I trudged up the first bit of hill after the right turn was her saying “I am most like myself when I am with him.” It was so powerful I stopped walking and had to write it down. On my phone, in notes, I wrote “Picard and Jean Gray”.
I reluctantly started walking again. I really wanted to find a lovely rock to sit on and keep thinking about Picard and Jean, but I was concerned if I lost the sun it would become uncomfortably cold on my return walk. I had to keep moving. I thought then of my memories of Skye Farm. I had no idea if there’d be anyone around at all. On the one hand I figured maybe I’d find Tim Rock in his cabin, sitting on the porch. Perhaps Art Hagy was still around someplace doing off season maintenance. It was also possible I’d be met on my way in by someone new who didn’t know me. I envisioned them asking me who I was and what business I had showing up out of nowhere looking for answers as if they were in the habit of providing them. I saw them telling me I was unscheduled, unwelcome- maybe they would accompany me on a hasty tour of the grounds out of obligation to courtesy, grumbling all the while. I made better time then I thought I would and all at once I could see the cabins and the split between lower and upper camp roads. I had made it.
A few steps more and I could hear squealing laughter. At the base of the big hill, four teenagers played a running game. An adult sat smiling nearby. I approached and she continued to smile.
“Hello. What’s happening here today?” I asked her.
“Youth group retreat,” she answered me.
I said, “I’m going to wander just a bit. Hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” she said, still smiling.
This is essentially, the magic of Skye Farm. You show up, people welcome you. It felt like it always felt. Another day perhaps I’d have been met with some resistance. Impossible to know. But for this day, I was welcome.
I wandered behind the dining hall to the waterfront. There I found a piece of charcoal and scratched the words “Tracey visited” into the side of a wooden bench. I walked around and saw the old things in their places; the chapel by the waterfront, the little hut with the lifeguard stuff, the mugs, the freakin mugs still on the mug rack, just like always. Yet so quiet without the campers and counselors calling to one another. I walked slowly up the big hill, looking for signs of life. Kessler Hall stood just as ever.
I stopped in the bathroom across from a basketball court where Bachelor Hall used to be. Something different! How unusual. I had to turn on the bathroom light. I remembered to turn it back off when I was done. I hoped no one would begrudge me a little electricity and some toilet paper.
I wasn’t sure what to do next. I turned on data so Dan could detect my location and would know my whereabouts just in case of random emergency. I ate most of the peanut butter. Then I told Dan I was ok and turned data off. I knew there was one more place I should achieve before leaving: The Castle.
The Castle is the shell of a building once intended as a center for treating alcoholism. It’s perched high on a hill which must have once boasted a majestic view though it is now overgrown. The center never reached fruition and the building fell into disrepair, eventually catching fire, possibly due to trespassers who as the rumor goes, quite ironically partied there drunkenly. The stone parts are all that’s left. Technically The Castle is not on Skye Farm property, but the camp was always given leave to have hikes there. I used to frequently hike it alone on my day off.
The trailhead is near some cabins that looked like they were being winterized and another bathroom. I took the path and began walking. The trail runs through woods of straight and often slender tall trees: birch and evergreen, maybe some other kinds. Trees are not my speciality. The dirt beneath my feet reminded me of countless walks with Joe. I wondered if I’d see those little teeter totter lizards he calls efts. There were none.
At one point a tree lay across the path. I wondered aloud how long it had been down and made a mental note to leave a message with maintenance, if the message box remained. Then all at once, there was The Whale Rock. I’d totally forgotten about The Whale Rock right up until the moment of seeing it. I think I said it aloud “The Whale Rock!” I was so astonished.
It’s not that The Whale Rock looks so much like a whale. But there is something undeniably whale about it. It’s not round enough to look planet-like, nor evenly broad enough to be a loaf of bread, nor pointy enough to resemble an oversized teardrop. It lacks a characteristic whale tail. But somehow when you look at it you just go, yup whale. After that I knew I was very close. The whale rock is the place we always stopped to remind campers that the ascent would be steep and to avoid horseplay, and remind them the hill had a very sharp dropoff they’d want to clown around near, but to please not. In my experience no one ever gave any counselor problems.
The hill slopes sharply and I used quick steps to get up. Then, there I was, The Castle before me. I went to the place we always told stories and sat. I finished my peanut butter and the packet of honey. I texted Steve briefly to thank him for some amusing texts he’d sent earlier. I sat and thought some things but mostly just breathed. Then I began descending.
On the path back down I remembered times that I had not quite fit with others and perplexed them. Although the best people just cared about me still, even in their confusion. This thought seemed important enough to record so I wrote “I’ve always had a very weird brain”.
I easily walked the remaining steps back to camp. Everything was now familiar and easy to walk because my brain was comfortable seeing it for a second time. I passed the cabin a favorite director of mine had once stayed in with her twins. I walked down the “erosion prevention devices” Nick M always insisted were not steps.
I returned to the area I saw the teens before. They had gone. I sat down and ate more yogurt bites and resumed a conversation with an online friend through Twitter, but my battery was getting low. To conserve it I turned data off again. I walked back to the car, down the steep area of road, past the muddy flowers and the closed bridge. I took a moment to stop by the river and noticed my feet hurt. I was ready to go home.
But how does the story end? Why did I do all this? To see if I could. And what changed because of this? Well, maybe nothing. Maybe that’s a suck ending if you like good endings. But I have a walk I took and it’s forever now because I’ve written it down. I decided to do it and it was what I wanted. It was an all me thing, and those can be ok.
*just wondering does anyone use the spelling yoghurt? It’s vaguely bothersome yet somehow I’m also drawn to it.
I’m alone in this break room and no one to talk to.
The princess in under an enchantment and basically no one understands her words. She’s trying. They’re trying. But no one is getting it.
Bake the hall in the candle of her brain- she tells them. But it’s too twisted up. They don’t understand. Even her best friend can’t get it.
If mine was such a simple instruction, I’d try to give it. But whose broken staff might aid me? I am incomprehensible.