You know how sometimes you’re in your twenties in America and you’ve learned every lesson you’re ever going to learn about ten times already, and you start to realize that’s what learning is, not answering questions, but finding ways to ask the same questions over and over again?
You’re twenty-one or twenty-nine and your heart’s been broken somewhere between four and twenty times-fetal-position-on-the-bathroom-floor broken, real-country-music broken-and you don’t know how you can ever be expected to go on like this for fifty more years and change.
You have scars. You’ve injured your body in ways that will never fully heal, and you realize you are slowly, incorrigibly sliding away from some physical perfection you imagine you must have possessed sometime in the distant past. Maybe when you were fourteen. Maybe the day you were born.
You’ve gone on and off your medication and the bottle. You’ve had your first marriage and maybe your first divorce, or maybe you’ve always broken things off or been broken off. You’ve fucked and you’ve made love. You’re pretty sure you know the difference now.
You’ve thought of suicide in a post-adolescent way at least once. Practically. Stoically. Without any late-night phone calls. Just sober in a dimly lit bedroom, weighing cons and pros.
Maybe you’ve changed your name or your gender and sometimes, if you’re not paying attention, you forget while filling out customs forms or grocery store reward card applications or your taxes and start to write those outdated letters and then, shaking your own head at itself, have to cross them out and start over. Maybe at that moment you recognize your fourteen-year-old self inside you somewhere, with black fingernail polish and matching rubber bands on her braces, and realize she’s been there all along, and she will always be there, and sometimes when you’re distracted she can sneak up to the surface of your skin just enough to slip her voice onto your paperwork.
You’ve lost god, or you’ve found Him. This hasn’t changed things as much as you’d hoped.
Maybe you’ve had a child and stared at its tubular body and limbs and twenty tiny perfect digits with awe and gratitude and terror, and you wonder what you did to trick the universe into believing you were smart or stable enough for this level of entrustment, and you realize that this is how your parents must have felt looking at you, quaking in their ridiculous retro fashions, and you can’t help but think of their parents quaking too with amazement in black and white or sepia, and their parents and theirs and all the way back to Adam and Eve or Lucy the Neanderthal and her mate, and how they all must have felt somehow the same staring down at their children, these pudgy defiances of entropy created without skill or logic or intention, by accident, flawlessly, and you think even the intelligent algorithm that sets bosons aspin must have its slip-ups and loopholes, and you think, in your most self-indulgent fantasias of personification, that the laws of motion themselves must feel uncertain at times, and maybe the gods, too, are making it all up as they go along, and maybe one day, when she’s in her twenties, you can posit this hypothesis to your child over beers, and she’ll listen and roll it over inside her perfect, separate skull, and respond with a perspective on all of it that you’ve never in your half-century of life even considered, and maybe this, her mouth which is not your mouth over the head of her beer, will finally, for a moment, make you feel unalone.