Thursday, September 20, 2018

sunny meade and side

Tonight, I went cycling out to the end of the river path where, in my glory days (10 months ago) I used to run all the way down to the end and back. I can barely believe I used to run that far. I think of Good Friday, the last time I ran it—with Domenic—and I am in shock to think I ran that far with minimal exhaustion. This bike ride seems never-ending, an endless gauntlet through the crazy batshit phenomena of small-town Indiana. As I bike down yet another street whose street lamps are out, and some strange city sanitation truck is flashing its lights across from an RV parked outside a house and buzzing with nighttime activity and generators, I remember there is a reason that Stranger Things is set in this state.

At the corner of Sunnymeade and side, I am hit by a wave of restlessness—Where should I be going? What should I be doing?

The post-thunderstorm air hangs heavy over the evening. My feet are itching for movement, and something dangerous and fey lingers in the thick humidity. The pressure crushes down on earth, and in its grip, I feel an erotic restlessness. It’s the sort of night meant to be spent in flirtation. I think of all the doctoral students in theology who are notorious for their lack of romantic integrity, and I wonder if there is something preternaturally unhealthy about being an overly intellectual person cooped up in a small, limiting town. No one at the age of twenty-six intends to be a serial dater with a bad reputation at thirty-two, but perhaps boredom makes mincemeat of all those good relational intentions.

So I grab my psalter and download all the music that’s hanging out in the cloud of my iTunes onto my phone. I stopped using iTunes in 2011, and you can tell. As I pass two men getting high on their front porch, Taylor Swift’s “Fearless” spills out into the quiet street, causing me to look almost as sophisticated as I did earlier when my arm was covered in melted ice cream dripping from my cone.

On my ride, there are a lot of men getting high on their front porches, and a lot of embarrassing music coming from the basket of my bicycle.

The sunset is beautiful in the sky behind the high school. And the moon is luminous and grows even more so as the sky darkens and the stars emerge. I do not know what I want, exactly, as I cycle down the familiar path. I am sick of inhabiting a world where every bend of concrete, every bench, and even bicycle racks are saturated in memory. I am tired of still gathering the pieces of the puzzle, waiting to collect all the missing pieces, and painstakingly trying to find a place for each. I'm eager to be done with plans for next week or next month, and ready to be living in today. There is something missing, and I do not know what it is.

It has probably been too long since I’ve made art.

I am eager to find a solution to the malaise that’s washing over the evening, and that's a convenient (and most likely true) one.

But I probably won’t find the answer. This is the sort of malheureuse that’s got no rationale for being here, so probably can’t be dismissed rationally, either.

Maybe it will be there even in the monastery. Maybe it will be here even in New York. I certainly felt that restlessness, I remember, when I wasn’t in school. I wonder why I am cycling down this poorly lit and poorly maintained concrete sidewalk when I should be reading the Balthasar volumes on my bedside table or practicing my Arabic.

But I am restless, because I am not staying here and I do not want to stay here. I am like a tree who sucks her roots back up into her trunk instead of letting them sink into the earth.

I wonder if my quiet ride into the night was a running-away, or a running towards. Am I running towards the silent space of river and lighter air that could offer clarity and fresher memories? What am I running from? A small town where there are too many relationships hanging in the air like thunderstorms, perhaps. Or perhaps from my own dissatisfaction. Perhaps an overabundance of mental restlessness set a fire underneath my feet today.

Finally, my heart hurting with the church spires of the downtown, the roar of the river, and the lights sparkling on it, I stop and pray the hours. We are often hounded into prayer. Every word of psalm is dripping with a peace that seems to untie at least a part of the knots that are tangled up inside of me. I can think a bit more clearly, and love a bit more quietly. The gnawing desire that has been dogging me all night to be opposite someone is, if not quenched, then stilled. Perhaps, even—almost—satisfied.

The church bells ring out God's gladdest hymn, and in that quiet tête à tête of prayer, I find the stability I have been seeking in the restlessness.

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