I grew up in a small village somewhere in the countryside, in an area of rivers, hills, small forests, and castles. Scattered all over the region around the small village were even smaller villages, often made up of just one, two, three farms, some of them abandoned for many years already. Many hills around the smaller villages were covered in meadow orchards full of old, gnarly trees, bearing rare varieties of fruit: ancient apple varieties in different shades of red, yellow, and green; weathered plum trees; peach trees, strong enough to stand the harsh winters, bearing small, juicy, sweet peaches in late summer; giant walnut trees, and pear variants, like the very small, firm, brown ones that smell so good and taste so sweet at first, until they suddenly numb your mouth. Some of these trees had died a long time ago and their hollow trunks were now inhabited by the bats. The bats also lived in the wood paneling of the abandoned farm houses, in the attics, the churches, the sheds. There’s something equally scary and fun about walking into a dark shed in the back yard in the early evening, and suddenly hearing the sound of what might as well be a million flapping wings right above your head.
It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen the bats. The nights aren’t dark enough anymore, and I’ve been gone for too long. I recently thought of the bats when I thought about how navigation works when you can’t see what’s ahead of you, and that was when I thought of you.
At the point in life where finding someone or something to miss is not more than wishful thinking, it’s very easy to suppress how fucked up missing as a concept and emotion actually is.
We’re 349,854 characters into this, and each character I type could be another step towards turning the haze of ideas into a reality that’s made up of more concrete parts than imagination. Right now, all that’s tangible are the phone screens, the keyboards and the books; routinely executed touches on plastic, in an attempt to create something to hold onto; fingertips working to build another reality made of taps and swipes; fingerprints trying to weave meaning around it.
These are the times when the vibration of a phone still means something.
The meanings are our windows into each other’s lives. The windows are never big enough, and the sun never shines through them, and if it does anyway, it breaks things. The windows are small frames for a hope that’s hard to grasp, with diagonals measuring exactly 4’’ and 13’’ and 26’’. And what we see through the windows are the server status updates, the piles of giant pixels, the red icons with numbers on them. Every single pixel that’s visible might as well disappear any second, and we already know it will. Every connection that’s stable for a minute will not last more than seconds beyond that. Everything that’s present also serves as a gentle reminder of the fragility of things. Everything that we have comes with ten things that we don’t.
This is a heart beating at the rate of a blinking cursor.
This is a head that still hasn’t understood all realities. I look at the pile of all that was, that is, that may be. I take this pile of our realities, sort them, and put them into mason jars. Lined up on a shelf in my kitchen, they look like this: There is our first reality which appeared out of the blue; the second one that is mostly made up of two kinds of wishful thinking; the third reality that starts with a wooden door and ends with a glass door; the fourth one that looks like turning around and walking away, looking at the rain falling from the sky. The fifth reality is a monologue of questions. All of these realities are very different, and between each of them and every single time, something fundamental changed. I would like to understand what they have in common except the obvious element. There have to be constants.
But like everything (and you), they’re hard to see these days.
For months, I’ve been waking up every morning with the taste of the absurdity of things in my mouth. The taste of absurdity is the taste of plastic coloured in silver and black, of wavelengths that are just about 380 nanometers long; the taste of the ones, the zeros, and the nothing in between. Absurdity has the bitter taste of crying in front of a wall, the sour notes of all the times I should’ve been there and wasn’t; it has the butteriness of subjunctive, and the smokiness of longing to listen to another person breathe and only hearing the sound of a computer fan. Absurdity tastes as salty as calendars and endless hours to count, it tastes like holding on to the memory of coming home to you, and like an idea kept alive by fibre. Absurdity is the taste of the berries that are only in season where I am.
On average, things are very normal around here.
I walk along a path from a month ago and it’s not the same and there is something touchingly disturbing about having the familiarity of a decade changed so quickly by something so intense and fleeting. On a train back home, I suddenly find myself accidentally holding a stranger’s hand very tightly; find myself surprised by its warmth, softness. I let go as soon as I notice it, but I still feel the touch on my skin hours later; it makes me think about preservation techniques. Back home, I get water colours and paint more mason jars in bright colours, and line them up next to the ones that hold our realities. No matter what their content will look like, at least they will glow when we hold them up to the light.
None of us know how this is going to work. No matter how good things looked that were there for a moment that ended too soon: there’s nothing to see beyond.
Bats sometimes crash into windows, no matter if they navigate visually or acoustically. The good news is that bats crash into windows less often when they cannot see.