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The Ties That Bind

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Part Five: The Ties That Bind

 

What upsets people is not things themselves but their judgments about the things.

- Epictetus

 

Another morning ends with me on a mostly-empty bus, lying across seats the way people do at airports between connecting flights. Silver rails split the ceiling while handholds swing in tiny figure-eights above my head. I just tip my hat down, close my eyes, and turn up the music. Somewhere in my head, this thought of a nice conversation with a pleasant old man smiles and lets me know the week is over.

 

…and then you die, and whatever comes first. People are always dying, in one way or another.

 

These people are always saying that you should never let anyone change who and what you are. I tend to think that everyone should change who I am. If someone does not significantly affect your honest thoughts, they probably aren’t worth knowing in the first place. This is where I remember reading something about being the sum total of every person you have ever met. This is what I expect at this point in my life—the ties that bind us all together, how blood is thicker than water is nothing next to tears running down a face, how the closest loved one I may have ever known isn’t at all relative, and how as hard as I try I can’t understand what exactly that might mean to anyone else. Like ice-water, a series of frustrations clatter in my mind. I think about how hard it is to grow up, and how overexposure can ruin the most brilliant sunrise to the point where you’ll never even look at the ground again, or how it could never leave the ground at all—an early eclipse of sorts.

 

Rubber-band-wrapped wrists hold you by the hand. The night leaves me returning to psychological warfare, to eliminate any thought too painful to think. Another raised red marking on a wrist, then it’s just being pissed off about money or work, instead of what every day is going to be like once the people you care about—the ones you really just can’t hate—are gone.

 

After stolen French comments on the state of the moon, a dream about everything that seems so hard to believe just rips into my thoughts and fears. Twisted rubber-band relations take another stab at devolving my state of mind. Now I’m struggling to climb over old fences, and wondering whether this is some broken by-product of the previous day’s mental trauma.

 

I wake up, and this nice old man tells me a story of that one time he cried alone in the woods, that one time he stole from his best friend, that one moment when he knew he had killed his brother. I just think about that one time thirty years from now when I’ll be the nice guy trying to make a clever anecdote, getting lost in whatever violent past is yet to come.

 

Walking home, I follow a trail of empty plastic bottles lying on the sidewalk, and just turn to somewhere between angry and sad that everything has to be like that. I remember that one time I did something about it, just to find more in their place before I even made it across the parking lot.

 

Hours later, I’m meeting people I already met once or twice, but they don’t remember me anyway, so it’s okay. Everyone here is just a little misaligned, but that’s why some people affect me so much in the first place. Because blood is thicker than water is nothing next to coffee and wet grass, and though I’m not sure exactly what that means either, at least I’m trying to figure it out.

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Taken on January 1, 1980