Now I am on the road. It is strange driving across the continent. Knowing that you have at least 20 hours of driving to do, and yet still, you have to be there before a certain time. I need to figure out when I need to be at what place in order to make it to Boston on time. I have no places to stay, just a lot of people I know. At worst, I know I can make friends with someone at one of the places I am going and stay at their place.
It is pretty uneventful on the road. I want to get into New York before I fall asleep for five hours, but I only make it to within 70 miles of the Ohio-Pensylvania border before I can not continue safely. I curl up in my car in the parking lot of a gas station and sleep from 11:30 to 4:30. Waking up, it’s time to go! I make it to Pennsylvania and need to sleep for another hour. now I am really worried I won’t make it to Boston on time, so it is 80 miles an hour for the rest of the trip.
Back to MIT, at the NASA lab, now. I wanted to have a drink with my former boss and my former co-worker (once a grad student, now a doctor himself) but my co-worker is at Boston University for the day, and instead I see their secretary. We talk all about life and art, etc, etc, science and travel. Again, they seem to be really positive about the way I live my life. Does no one understand that I have no money and no security and worry every day if I am going to live the next couple of months?
They say that whether I go into science or political science, I should be able to turn the last five years away from school into an asset.
My former boss is like 70 now, and he has retired, officially, like my dad will in a day or two, but he keeps coming into the lab to research the mysteries of the universe. I guess when you look at it that way, you really don’t have a very difficult choice to make, do you? his daughter is studying somethinhg called “public art” at Boston University. I tell him she should contact me to see if there is something fun we can do together professionally.
They pay for my beer and it is time for them to go home. They have shown me around the campus, the things that have changed. It is nice to see. The world has changed, and students have changed, and it is the teachers who need to keep up with them, not the other way around, as I had always thought. Interesting to see it all from that perspective.
This walk down MIT’s infinite corridor last month was bittersweet in a way. I was touched by how it has really remained relatively unchanged from the vision in my memory. Even the students seem timeless, in a way. as much 1976 as 1996 as 2006. It is like that small core of a person that remains unaltered from infancy to adulthood – that charming part of a person.
I have to run to the dance studio for my former dance company’s gala event for investors and the like. I have been sneaking into this studio for quite some time to take showers right after arriving in town when I have no place to stay. When I show up, the dancers are all warming up, and I say my hellos to all the people I am supposed to before grabbing some wine to power up my shmoozing muscles. Then I just sort of target the richest and most gullible looking people around the room to go and talk about how great a dance company this is and how supporting them really reflects on how great a person they must be as well… ah to travel around the world, vicariously through a dance company. You must be a real saint!
I sit through my dance company’s presentation. They are working interactively with video. Later, when its just us around, I tell them later that I thought 40 percent of it is really good and that the rest has really good potential.
After the persentation I talk to the video artist about the people I met in Montreal who are doing the same kind of things… he is a real MIT guy, so I soon get back to flirting with rich gay guys and old rich women; the best way I can help this dance company get money. As the audience slowly files out, I keep on enjoying my wine and the cheese, and reminice with the people whom I actually danced with back in the day…
They ask if I can do a handstand now, drunk as I am. I tell them the same old story; I have never been so drunk as to be unable to do a handstand or a backflip. I prove it, and we turn the whole dance studio into the site of a drunken, impromptu acrobatics rehearsal.
Things are great, we talk and laugh and share the newest gossip. I encourage them, try to get them to like me, I tell them that I’d like to be back in September to work with them, and try to make them excited about it… if a person does make people like him, how does he know if they would have liked him without his help? Does it matter?
Getting money at these events is telling people what they want to hear in a way they never expected to hear it.
I show up late at my Bulgarian friend’s house with a stolen wine bottle and a bagful of lifted cheese. Americans don’t care about cheese, so they didn’t mind me taking it away. It is some nice stuff… French brie…. soft cheddars… smells nice.
We drink together, her a couple glasses, me just one or so because I am already almost on the floor. Her roommate is asleep on the couch I am supposed to sleep on, so she invites me into her room. She is Orthodox Christian, and is obviously uncomfortable doing this, but her instinct to be a good hostess takes over. I lie on the floor, and she lies on the floor far away from me. I am tired, jet lagged, as always, and she is telling me about her life and her boyfriend. How she is unhappy with both…
I feel concious and I am replying the way I want to, but at a certain moment, I lost conciousness… I am dreaming about what she is saying, but I sleep there, on the floor, under my jacket, for the whole night. the roommate who had taken the place on the couch stole into her room and dropped a blanket on me. It was nice of her.
In the morning, my friend wakes up to go to church, and I read for a while… when she gets up, we conclude the discussion from the night before. She doesn’t seem to mind that I fell asleep when she was talking to me. If anything it put to rest her persistant fears (hopes?) that I was an evil player trying to take advantage of her kindness…
It was a real pleasure seeing my former acrobatics partner again. Hearing her talk about her fatigue regarding romantic challenges against the backdrop of a lifestyle of constant travel was painful. On the romantic end of things, I am sure that she’ll be able to work things out, and quickly, too, because I do not believe she are the kind of woman who is able to live in an unhappy situation for long.
The infinite travel side of things is a much more delicate one.
Personally, I think that once she finishes your work at MIT, she’ll have a drastically different view of everything. For example, I can imagine that the quasi-stable situation of being a graduate student is what makes het travels so unpalateable to her now. It is hard to see the liberating side of a wandering lifestyle until you are finally able to pull up all anchors and truly float where you mind and fortunes can take you.
Of course, I feel how deeply she is affected by living her life so geographically distant from her parents, and this is something that might never change, at least not for the immediate future.
So she continues her handstands and her research. If a researcher’s life is destined to mirror her research, it was either a cosmic joke or a great blessing that she chose complexity itself as her personal field of expertise.
We go for coffee, and I invite her to the lunch that I called for all of my former college friends, citing the fact that I doubt anyone will actually show up…
She declines, saying she needs to work, and I show up at the restaurant; my favorite restaurant in Boston. Chinese food. It is very crowded, to my dismay, but I soon discover that it is crowded with old friends whom I have not seen in a million years! We take several tables and I try to talk with everyone, but it is impossible to do! After two hours or so, people need to go, and to my dismay there are still people I have barely even said hello to yet! Catching up on everyones lives, who is married, who has kids… I am Uncle Acrobat to them. strange, and wonderful all at the same time. I ate too little, spoke too much, and now my stomach hurts…
We leave such a wake of friends behind us in life, and it is so rare that we can manage a full loop and see them all again in an organic way; and unofficial way. There are a million other people I would like to see, a million other things I would like to do, but I get invited to my friend’s house to play an old strategy game with a bunch of other friends. We used to play all the time in the years after college, and it feels like old times.
What can I say? The dynamic was special, and transported me to my early twenties. I had a beer and sometimes just sat and smiled. It felt nice.
I had to run to get sushi with my Bulgarian friend and her brother. They are very smart, and the conversation was interesting. About Bulgaria and Japan and America. He had never had sushi before, but seemed to enjoy it ok. I am getting tired, and have had a lot of sake; I say my farewells and head back to my friend’s house to see him and some other good friends for my last night on mainland USA.
We talk until 1am, I need to leave for Hawaii at 5 the next morning. We talked about the gossip, about memories, funny pictures and events that I have missed. About my friend’s death and his service, about what we are doing and want to do. Everything just feels nice. we aknowledge the fact that there is not nearly enough time to say and do all we want to, but that it has been great to see each other. And it really has. Sharing a drink with the two of them for our lost friend was a very important experience for me. Being exactly one continent and one ocean away from the people who knew him best made it very difficult for me to share any immediacy in the mourning process and kept me from getting even the small amount of closure I needed after losing a friend I never really knew as well as I should have. One shot of whisky with my two best friends from college washed all that regret away. They get me a lot of blankets and I sleep on a couch, happy, again. I feel loved and missed; two things I never expected to feel.
At 8am the next morning, I am alone again, flying towards the tropical islands that are my familial home…
One week on the continent that felt like one strange day to me; a convention of ghosts from my pasts telling me all about who I was and have become. It was strangely liberating; like giving voices to memories who have become mute and static in my mind… to just open myself up completely to what all these people around me had to say and had never, for one reason or another, managed to tell me before. Perhaps I had not been listening.
Next on the agenda: Hawaii adventures!