In the Age of the Dictators

Pre-Virus & Personal

ANY DAY NOW, we will move. I don’t know where. But when the cat died, something changed. “I feel a little movement,” said my wife, as if there’d been a shift. Part of this was getting through the ordeal, the fact we’d faced it. I felt lighter, open to the breeze. The other thing was the bargain: we had liberated Callie, she had liberated us. The cat had spent almost her entire life within 150 (?) yards of this apartment. She had her meadow, hillside, and acequia. The thought of taking her away from that seemed cruel, if not impossible. Maybe I’m projecting. It’s the symbolism more than anything.

We want more space. A little land around us and a view. There must be trees, a place to keep our tools, a porch to shelter from the rain. A good-sized but simple house that’s easy to keep clean, with room for all our things. A place to spread my treasures out and write or paint or get real loud. A music room. Two studios, in other words, one for her and one for me.

I’m at the point where I’ve begun to care what people think about me when I’m gone. Sometimes history tells you what to do or tries. If this were Poland in the ’40s, I might run off to join the partisans. It could come to that, I guess. The old man telling stories by the campfire just before the flares go off and his comrades scatter in a hail of bullets fits the bill but isn’t realistic. Nowadays they’d check the database and pick you up at 3:00 a.m. and you’d just disappear.

Short of that you simply have to do the thing that you were born for. More than ever I think that’s living long enough to be all right. Maybe I already did that. Maybe I don’t see because I thought it was a struggle and I tried too hard. Maybe all right is a thing I’ve carried with me since I was a little boy.

How much do I owe the zeitgeist after all? Save your own damn selves he said with love. I know what feels extraordinary: the sense of possibility. The way she felt the instant that I shot that photo. The lightness when the armor rots. The letting go of thoughts that hurt me.

Any day now, we’ll be gone.

Originally published 12/9/2019.