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19 | When I have nothing else, I have history

Over and over and over and over

A few weeks ago I found myself searching through my old online journals. I can’t remember what for, and anyway I quickly got distracted. At first it was just noticing layouts. Back then, platforms like Blogger and Livejournal existed but many of us often just hand-coded individual entries and published them manually to our sites. This was something I really loved, and though I didn’t have to make a different design for each journal entry, I liked to do it, so I did.

But what I want to talk about today is the writing. One thing that always strikes me about writers and other creative types is how often you can go back to their old work and find something familiar in it, something unique to them. When I read things I wrote at age 20/21, so much still resonates with me as much as it did then. My actual execution is different now, maybe a little less rough-edged, but when I read these things with the space of 20+ years I’m like, “Huh, that didn’t change.”

Here are three notable entries I wanted to share. There are others I like, but I miiiiiight be using them for A Thing so I’ll keep them to myself for now.

(The photos are just representative of the kinds of things I would post on my website at the time, not necessarily the ones included with the entries. Those auld dial-up days made for a very text-only kind of internet.)

03.25.01 | 14.41 Things that catch you out.

i) How nice to be with someone who visits memory as much as we do. We speak mostly of high school and that's fine; the future is of no concern to us as we stand smoking on the porch, because we have history. We grew and changed and went through so many firsts with each other. Nothing can properly explain this for me, how because I have nothing else, I cling to history.

ii) In the winters I stagnate. When the snow melts I don't know which way is up. Last winter I changed a lot of things about myself and by this time last year, I felt almost taller with it. I'm going through one of those periods again. I don't know where my home is, I don't know what I want from most things. Easily frustrated and quick to feeling secondary. I need to figure out what it will take this time. I can't elucidate what goes on inside me and I want to either sleep all day listening to music or get on an airplane. Anything in between threatens me.

04.07.01 | 13.08 Nine times over

I squeeze past a strolling couple and the wall, laughing to myself as the brick bumps me against a stranger's shoulders. Tripping into the intersection, my ears trained on the conversation we're in. Picture the city at night. I'll teach you about the rain, unsure of what to do with itself as it bends down enough to make a mist of the air above the buildings. There are two voices, one immediate and close, the other quiet and smiling. This is the walk. Steam from the underground sifting past our pantlegs. Wet tires sliding on tarmac. A slow pace. A third voice, silent, a third pair of eyes gazing in shop windows, restaurants. A woman inside, at a table, her fingers brushing the smooth skin of her neck as she laughs. I shove my hands deeper into my pockets and skirt another doorway before we turn and I walk the curb, afraid to look up as our shuffling feet make the only noise we need.

5.09.01 | 22.12 | What I Could Stand For

Day: of chairs and food and drink, zigzagging the city for nothing really, sun beating down on walkweary legs. We go from nowhere to nowhere. I can't believe who I saw (so long since, my voice catching in my throat). Later, fuzzybrained and throwing acorns off a balcony, aiming for the planter four storeys below. A run for it, a yelled goodbye over my shoulder. Her reply trails behind me and the soles of my feet as I leap into the shuddering bus.

Evening: a collapse into subway seat, a scribbling in notebook, a leaning forward, catching a reflection of myself - eyebrows pulled together - in an attitude of disbelief. How strange it seems to be closing my book in the subway, in the Toronto subway, in the Toronto subway after spending the day with complementary people and forcing down the rising notion that it is so so temporary.

Night: life is so absurd. People pass through you and you can taste their intentions sometimes, their true meanings behind eyes shifted and you ignore it, you don't ignore it, you do whatever with it. Crazy this effect people have. At streetcar height you can see one just walking down the street on a plain old day in May and how those pictures of them represent the way they laughed and how they really haven't changed at all. Or how you let certain other things slip through because you know that something in the water there will make things different just like it made you different, you start to know that sometimes perfect matches don't mean doing the same things with your minds (such knowledge makes you shaky sometimes, but you breathe and smoke it off), and you know he will ask what you mean, and that you won't be able to tell him because you can't find the words, but you might try anyway, knowing you.

I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence - I’ve been especially taken up by nostalgia and memory over the past few days due to a couple of deaths in the family that really made me notice how much I turn to these things for comfort. I did have this post drafted long ago but it seems even more impactful now, when I can’t help but look through old photos and old memories, examining everything for meaning that may not be there and changes nothing.

This year has been a weird one for my writing, with much rolling in the deep of my impostor syndrome. One thing I’ve been feeling self-conscious about is this way I tend to return to the same thoughts and themes over and over. But reading these old entries has made me feel a bit better about it. It turns out that memory and nostalgia and quiet observation and the way people drift through each other’s lives are just some of my particular preoccupations, and maybe always will be. Maybe these will one day be the things I’m known for, and my work sought out for. Who knows.

There’s a Kazuo Ishiguro quote I like:

I tend to write the same book over and over, or at least, I take the same subject I took last time out and refine it, or do a slightly different take on it.

If it’s good enough for one of my biggest writing idols, then maybe I can just fucking chill about it, perhaps.

PS, What I’m listening to:

In perusing my old online journals I noticed that sometimes I would just randomly include a list of songs at the end of some entries, ostensibly songs I’d been listening to lately. I’m going against the spirit of 2001 Sammy by explaining it, but here we are.

The Passion of Lovers - Bauhaus
TV II - Ministry
Tag für Tag - Xmal Deutschland
Something Fast - the Sisters of Mercy
Born Slippy - Underworld
Pitch the Baby - Cocteau Twins
Not Great Men - Gang of Four

Thanks for reading,
- Sg.

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