This is the first time the OC Fair will be cancelled since World War II. I still haven’t gone despite having lived here for 15 years.
(Why do we use roman numerals for the world wars?)
My girlfriend is married to a man who says “Google it.” after any conceivable question, and it suits her. She smiles and Googles it, and then is absolutely thrilled to have found an answer on her own, and utterly charmed by the search engine itself. Every time.
He’s a nice guy, but I think at some point I’d dunk his head in a vat of orange juice over that offense alone. Metaphorically, of course. I like to ponder questions aloud, riddle them out on my own or with the help of another mind.
It’s one thing I miss from prison. Without the internet at our fingertips, we sat on questions for days, nesting into them. We thought about words, and how they related to other words, and their origins. Eventually, we’d get access to a dictionary or encyclopedia, or a friend would write to me with the information needed, but first we had a true chance to hone our minds against each other’s fancies.
While inside, I told myself I’d go to the fair after coming home, and a list of other places, and I haven’t done any of the things I was looking forward to even though it’s been almost 5 years. I’ve done different things. I’m not sad about what I’ve missed or skipped, it’s just interesting how a drowning mind can call something a shore, and then just as easily turn away from it.
When things were bad before prison, Dave got a job at the OC Fair. A lot of our friends worked there, at least part-time, and they banded together to get him a security position he would like. A quiet corner to watch in the middle of the night. We were homeless then, but sometimes there were hotel rooms, and we made sure there was always internet somehow. It was a time of disappointment more than anything else, but I remember the easy energy of sharing a car with Dave and calling it home. I don’t know how many square feet a Dodge Caliber is, but it was a sufficient amount of space for two people who were rarely more than arm’s length apart anyway.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about that era of isolation for me, and the isolation of college, and the isolation of prison, and how all were so very different, but somehow had the same flavor palette.
There’s something unnatural about cut away from the whole. It spooks in that subtle way– like when a cloud blots the sun and a darkness falls over the sky. Like when you have definitely forgotten something but cannot remember what.
Isolation is constantly looking over your shoulder only to see no threat at all. Late stage isolation is when you stop looking– letting the sensation rest on your shoulders.
It’s heavier than an invisible thing should be.
I have stopped participating in Zoom calls and poetry readings, because of something I learned in prison. Drenching yourself in the nuances of your before-life was called hard time. The deprivation was never soothed by false presence. Absence is absence, and the body knows.
I understand the ones who cannot, or will not, make that choice. When the whole world is cocooning, surely someone needs to remember the caterpillar we were? Surely someone needs to reach through time, and hold everything that came before? Surely there is merit and majesty to standing your ground?
Google probably has answers to this, and suggestions as to the right way to get through, but instead I want to nest on these ideas. I want to remember the times I was forgotten by the world, tucked away, and what I miss about those moments. Opening an encyclopedia in search of answers. Blowdrying my hair in a car while my late husband sketched little nightmares into his notebooks.
There’s a different feeling to this study of isolation in retrospect. It’s less like something uneasily coming up from behind. It’s more like when you see something in the far distance, and even though it doesn’t look like anything yet, you know it is the shore, and you know that you are making your way to it.
And, of course, you can’t be going there, because that is the past, and there’s no way to return there, but it’s something similar. Something shore-like, something hope-shaped, something bigger than you and horizons both. You are not actually drowning, just something like it. You are not actually swimming, just something like it.
There’s a word for this. There has to be.
But maybe, today, let’s not try to find the answers.