Friday, May 11, 2007Flicker
I went to dinner with a couple of friends tonight, including one of my oldest friends in Memphis. I hadn't seen him in a several months -- he's been back and forth a lot lately, and he can be difficult to pin down when he's in town. We caught up, talking about what he's doing, what I'm doing, and what we're both planning to do in the near future. And we made an attempt to gossip about common friends, only to discover that neither of us know many people in Memphis anymore.
So instead, we tried to fill in the gaps in each other's knowledge of absent friends: the drama girl who was sent north by the navy; the depressed guy who's still depressed, only now he's depressed in another town; the kid who seemed ripe to go off the rails in the big city, whom now has apparently been reined back in by parents and is living on a short leash in Whitehaven. But mostly, we talked about how strange it is to look up and realize that everything is different. The other dinner companion -- who herself has moved to a farm in rural Tennessee -- was mostly avoiding seeing people while she's in town. She didn't want to be reminded.
Admittedly, her life has changed a lot more -- a lot more -- in the last year or two than either of ours have.
And we talked about how sad Memphis is. I've become aware of late that one of the saddest things about my life in Memphis is how defeatist I've become. Progress is so slow and painful here that now I almost always assume disappointment. Everything requires so much more work than it seems like it should for so little result. Art and optimism always seem to wither on the vine -- most of the people I know who've done well have done so by going elsewhere. Memphis, we decided, is no longer a city that artists come to, it's a city that artists come from.
Which is not to say that there aren't amazing, beautiful people here. There are cool people everywhere, and I'm lucky enough to know a number of them in Memphis. But there just seems to be something broken in this city. I don't know exactly what. But it's as if there's a blanket over Memphis that smothers passion, and without that, even the cool, beautiful people have difficulty thriving.
Anyway, while we were talking, I had a very strong sense that my time here really is coming to a close. I'm reluctant to write that -- even though everything I need to fulfill my little escape plan has fallen into my lap, sometimes as if by magic. I'm not even having to work for it very hard. Every cosmic road sign is pointing clearly out of town. But I still worry, I still catch myself waiting for impassable obstacles to appear. There are months to go before I make this move, and anything could happen. But so far, nothing does.
And now there's also this tiny flicker of optimism, and I like it. I'm drawn to it. I'm afraid of seeing it snuffed out, but not, apparently, so afraid that I haven't begun to navigate by it. I have only the vaguest idea of where it's leading me, but I trust it. If there's one chink in my disbelief, it's in the way that my mind stubbornly assumes that everything in life happens exactly the way it's supposed to. Whatever is next for me, it's not here in Memphis. I have ties here, but mostly things seem to be falling apart, dissolving, receding. All I've got is a little flicker of optimism leading me on to the next place that feels right. What I find when I get there is still very much an unanswered question.
I keep thinking about people I haven't met yet. Somewhere there are people -- people who matter to me a great deal -- each on his or her own individual course that will, before long, intersect with mine. I don't know who they are or what they're like, or what they're going to be to me. But they're out there, right now, moving slowly and aimlessly towards me as surely as I'm moving towards them. And however this all turns out -- whether I get everything I want, or something I can't begin to imagine tonight -- it's going to be exactly what it should be. Though admittedly, that might just be the quiet little prayer I say to an indifferent universe. |