I have photos of the bridge before it fell down, but not in this dimension, Vancouver returned a week soon of Minneapolis howling. I am sick for my city. I want to be as close to it as it is to me. The pictures were from underneath, riverbank exploring, and attempts to capture the graffiti in the hollows of the structure structurally unsound, impossible crevices crawled and cavepainted under the interstate rush, an out-of-body gorgeousness with the crush howdaydothat defy brave embrace the precarious tenacity of gravity will kill you until you die, or—miraculously—let you alive, so you can float off all your feet a ghost of disbelief the rest of your life. You survived.
Everyone I know that I know of is safe, and shaken, with scattered disgust—the bridge collapse became the summer sleeper knockout blockbuster, and everyone’s watching, front row, entranced by the trauma drama masterpieces theatre, rushing to the emergency carnival like Harry Potter himself was handing out free iPhones, streaming live disaster porn set to the Umbrella song. Rubbernecking slackjaws sucking up phone cells. Terrorist alarmists rooting for code red. There were heroes, too, without doubt. And carnivores panting for updated death tolls. Just how sad should we be. How distracted at the office.
I wasn’t there, so I don’t know these things firsthand. I don’t know where I would fit. I don’t know where I do, a country and a couple time zones away, heartached and harrowed. We deal or don’t deal with humanity in different ways, with oh, the humanity! in the strangest. Felt that we want to feel help fix know do, without basis on which to ground the present reality. America is an enormous, amnesiac country, cut to pieces and asleep. 9/11 could’ve been a century ago, and crazy Aunt Katrina’s already twice removed. If you’re not there, you’re not anywhere, you’re no one, donating blood bleeding a thousand miles away. Feeling bad, sad, human and stupid. When somewhere out of nowhere a bridge falls down, well, what the hell are we supposed to do? when it’s close to us—when it’s not close enough.
I’m not closer enough.
Despite the after shadow of collapsing concrete, my Midwest trip was bright. I burned up on soccer fields and biked at the night, treaded the scorched and learned to make pie, good pie, my mom’s pie, seizing the future from her weary-growing fingers. A kneadful thing, motherfooding pie, ensuring another generation of filial gathering torch carrying bringing of fire, in the form of pie, Christmas pie, Thanksgiving pie, family reunion summertime pie, peach apple cherry and rhubarb twist-your-tongue-out tart. I am a better baker and the best daughter. I wrenched out the thistles and taught my tallest brother how to throw away his room. Thrift store raids on one hundred degree days! Shocked awake alive by the loudest trains! Zucchini and cake for breakfast, and red pepper flakes for everything! lining up the stones of sixty-cent mangoes like field kills or panned gold. It was perfect. Everything was perfect.
However low to leave, I was excited getting back, as I was sad to leave Van in the first place but tremulous returned to Minneapolis and Fargo. Home is where I am. …But I’m also divided. A life here, a life there, a life that was and the one all around me. It’s all the same, or is it. What’s doing the dividing. Demanding dualism, triplism, severance and separation, how real, how well, do I exist when not present—I don’t mean in the moment, but miles away. Who is thinking of me. Is that self the same. “How am I not myself.” How am I truly myself. What am I doing with a self, anyway.
I return to a Vancouver on strike. No public libraries, no garbage and recycling pickup. Trash and illiteracy fill the streets, but what better way to fund the money-rut 2010 Olympics than ignoring city services for a spell? Conspiracy theory, yes; high tensions, definitely. Everyone wants to punish everybody. Meanwhile I discover mold in my room, with a mildewed mattress melting into the carpet. At some otherworldly morning hour “the cover of night,” I drag my bed to a swelling heap of industrial discards in the alley to sit there till the powers that be wag their tongues and move their feet. Sucking up the must mold dust, foam cleaner chlorine bleach, baking powder deodorizer disinfectant Febreeze, I cough so raw I can’t breathe.
Pushing through the fruit flies, past the corner trash piles, I keep seeing people with disease. Disfigurements. Junkies with holes in their faces. A woman’s bald head scarred like she’d been scalped, skin all callous and bruise. Missing parts of legs, too many bones shown through, then hemorrhaging obesity, rashed layers like extra limbs. Now you see it, now you won’t, wearing City Eyes, an acclimation evolution with built-in aversion averting and invisibility spell casting. I lost mine in the weeks gone by, and I want them back, do I want them back? Really?
I go to the Pride Parade and see men dance in their underwear. I watch sumo wrestling in Oppenheimer Park. I have the most amazing tofu I’ve ever tasted at the Richmond Night Market. Community and commerce, culture and progress. Reeling with the weight of our own importance. I go on a bender with two Torontonians and end up, a mess of live wires and quakes, at this place, where hip dipsticks play thirty seconds of iPod songs and the crowd goes nonsensically wild. I can’t dance. Not for thirty seconds of tease. Not for the life of me, split.
Awaking the next noon on my bedlessroom floor, I find bite marks on my arm. I’m pretty sure they’re mine. I know they’re mine. What the hell I try to say, but no words escape. I’ve lost my voice to spores, to yelling the night before, to speechlessness, unspeakables, to beauty-grafted sores on a city secretly flailing.