Rendered Fat Content


Katsushika Hokusai: A Mild Breeze on a Fine Day (Gaifu kaisei),
from the series “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjurokkei)”
(c. 1830/33)

" … enough distance to change the past."

I woke up AThousandMiles away from home, and feeling the distance. I sensed a deep familiarity along with an accompanying alienation, for this place, once the site of our extended exile, no longer belongs to us or us to it. When we owned a home here, I could at least believably imagine that I belonged. Since we left, I'd hardly given it an idle thought. Yet here I am and here it is, confronting each other again. Me, with my muscle memory still so well-tuned to this context that my fingers remember when to change the cruise control speed in perfect anticipation of an upcoming change. I remember which lane sets me up for the turn, just like an old hand.

I notice that this place has not stood still in my absence.
It might notice some changes in me, too. I might melt through traffic but those people I never knew still don't know me from Adam, though we recognize each other without really knowing why. Memory's eternal, or might just as well be. Reality's different stuff, indifferent to our preferences. That mom and pop nursery, reduced to just a foundation sprouting weeds, stands no longer, as if it had either evaporated or never existed. My old routines were gone the moment I disappeared from here, never to return. That I can travel AThousandMiles to return here resolves nothing. I left a shadow and return a ghost.

I spend some of a marvelous morning running errands, awakening sleeping giants. I realize how comforting my routines had been then, when we lived AThousandMiles away from home, where our hearts always were. I developed some patterns, some reliable sources which sort of lulled me into acceptance of the ways things were which couldn't change. I held myself in continual restraint then, making few friends, more tolerating than fully engaging. I felt the distance primeval. I could have lived on the moon for all the identity I invested in living here. I reeked of Just Visitor, a carpetbagger wondering what he was doing here when my heart and soul always ached to be AThousandMiles away.

I'm back. No brass bands greeted me. While The Muse tidies up her career here before her retirement exit, I wander as I used to wander, not quite aimlessly. I paced this place as if I was a caged tiger and this my cage, the extent of my reach. I should have expected a flood of nostalgia, for even a caged tiger holds memories of his past and shudders as if touched by a ghost when it revisits or when he revisits it. I looked for familiar faces and found none. I settled for familiar storefronts. I buy some things I cannot find at home, evidence of something more than that we roamed here. I will upon return possess a few artifacts of a time before this time, when I knew for certain where I was going but remained uncertain when. I return already gone, already in possession of the future long withheld me, and I feel a little lost at no longer belonging here where I was once incarcerated. Not even AThousandMiles proves enough distance to change the past.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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