Today a cloud sits over Lisbon. Rather, a sky that has blown in from the North African desert, a thick coat of greyish-white clinging to the edges of everything and stifling the atmosphere. It brings a coloration that tessellates between that of an uncomfortable and indecisive autumnal dusk, or a surreally lit Truman-show reality performance. It is off, and we practice normality beneath it and pretend it is not off.
In the park I eat ice cream with Vlad. The ducks and chickens are in heat due to it being Spring. I watched the other day as first a chicken and then a male duck pinned down a female duck hen. She appeared to be trying to get away as they took turns pinning her down aggressively with their beak and mounting her entire body. She collapsed and folded her legs beneath her and let her head get pushed to the ground by their sharp beaks holding clumps of her feathers in them as they grinded against her behind. I looked away because all I could see in them was a violence I knew in us. When they stopped taking turns mounting her I thought she would run. But she didn’t; she stood up and shook her feathers back into composition and slowly waddled away.
I told my therapist the other day that I feel like I can’t relax. Like something is coming and even though Lisboa, like so many other cities, prepares itself to emerge from Easter – resurrect as the big man himself did – I don’t trust it. There is too much goodness around to be trusted; too much happiness and hipsters in the park smoking joints and playing instruments; too many parents with children on the picnic blanket and friends with wines and snacks by the faux-pond. We are, all of us, too eager to reenter something we know of as fun and ordinary and normal. And it glares towards me as a warning to run; to run the other way and away from this madness of tempting back into being a world that we know has gone. Of an idea of our living that has been disproven, and that now seduces us to breathe life back into it and continue in our usual ways with the gusto of only the foolish.
Am I wrong? Do I want to be? These are not easy questions to answer and questions, I now know, can only be answered by the future. No amount of deliberation can bring them into a negotiation with the present. No. I only have unanswerable questions, and I can only attempt to reconcile them at every waking moment. My modus operandi has become a vague existential crises that, if anything at all, feels like the new and appropriate normal. I made a deal with myself today, of all days, to stay within a medial bandwidth. To integrate these considerations within myself, knowing that living on the precipice need not be characterised by peaks and troughs of expression. That rather, to truly live is to be weighted, in a way, by the imminent possibility of unknowable futures that have proven themselves capable of exponential impact. Revealed themselves as arbiters of chaos, governors of a perpetual transience, gurus of limbo-induced wisdom that must be entrained upon oneself like a quiet mantra that repeats constantly in the deep inner recesses: anything can happen, anything will happen, anything can happen, anything will happen.
Are we every truly ready? Or are we just ignorant enough to relax into not being ready? Is that ignorance or wisdom?
We meditate and I try and enter the fear that gripped me some months ago. Some months ago where I woke each day and ended each night with a restless anxiety induced from the knowing that something big was coming. An embodied shuddering akin only to the early tremors of an earthquake, the recognition in the vibrations around a beating heart that a stampede was upon us. What is it your afraid of? His question was easy enough. It’s going to be so ugly. I tell him. It’s going to be so. But I cannot tell him the way the future could. And I cannot tell myself because the present tells me that I can’t know the future, even if I can hear the vibrations.
What is a body if it is a thing that cannot be trusted? What am I housed in that doesn’t have an early warning system?
It’s an iron deficiency, not covid, I find out last week. I feel tricked by it in a way; that my iron should tank enough to make me breathe poorly, at a time in which poor breath is a key indicator of the pandemic disease. I have been chasing my own tail as though it were a snake. I think of dogs and their innocence. That we are all dogs, and maybe we are all ducks, and this shouldn’t so much be an insult as an addition to that heavy weight that tells us that anything can happen and anything will.
The sky is off and I am grateful for it. I am grateful for it like the news headlines. Grateful for things that remind us that things are not what they seem because we want to seem things into a particular way so bad that we might fail to see them for what they are. If I have learned one thing these last few months is that the future is not some far off conception on the horizon. It is here with us now, reaching back and revealing itself in the present. The future is not in the future, but it pretends to be so that we can have the perspective with which to see it accurately, and to try and behold ourselves to it. The future is in the present, we wake up and press our weary eyeballs to it and call it a weird dream and a digital headline. We call it a tomorrow or plans or what are you doing. We don’t simply call it now. We don’t call it fuck. We don’t call it what do we do. We call it border controls and vaccines and biodiversity collapse. Pressed up close to us like this, the future only meets us as a part of its totality. Like a face against the pillow that you wake to appears as just a cheek, an ear, an eyelash, a patch of skin. You don’t wake to see an entire human, but you know in your body, in the weight upon the bed, in the warmth and the air, that they are there.
Something is there. It has me twiddling my feet, paddling to tread water that I can’t see. It has me searching jobs and writing several notes in several notebooks. Cutting images and unable to commit them to paper. Sculpting clay into a stone. And that something is there is simply a now, now. That something is there, is the new normal. And we go to parks and eat ice cream under a desert cloud. We see the street in its off-white hue and pigeons fly beneath its gaze. We cook and watch films and in the darkness the wind howls against the roof as it always does. And in the night I say I need to write and I write into the wind, into the weighty repetition inside me, into the balance I am forming between notes and unfinished sculptures and unstuck images. A rhythm of treading unknowable futures; a dance with a stranger you know is coming. A swan song for the duck, the dog, the sky obscured. A clearing prayer to welcome future’s cheek anew.