I woke up today feeling okay. I walked the dog, took care of some banking business then made myself of bowl of spaghetti with fresh garden herbs and Tunisian olive oil.
Suddenly I felt exhausted. And even a slight case of panic. It was still only 11am.
I had Comcast on the Soundscapes channel. My dog was on the couch next to me.
And as I read the news, I began to wonder: where all we all going? where is all this storm and fury headed? who is thinking about and planning for where we are going to be in 20 or 30 or 50 years from now?
In 50 years, will there even be a planet left?
I shall be 70 this summer — a number I never even thought about as remotely possible in my twenties and 30s, when the hard drinking was taking place, and I spent years lounging in NYC dive bars, getting fired from job after job, losing friends, making few new ones, and trying to understand how to deal with what I went though as a severely dissociated teen — after losing everything: my family, my language, my sense of who I was at 16, yoked without so much as being asked from a beautiful country I loved.
I encountered American racism towards Arabs and especially Muslims early on.
They made fun, for example, of how I spoke, or the clothes I then wore, or my ethnicity.
They kept me out of the good colleges I applied, even though I won creative writing awards in High School, scored in the 700s in my SATs, and was in a humanities honors class.
After all, I was to them nothing more than the equivalent of un sale arabe.
They, they, them — if it’s grievances you trade on, let me show you mine.
I guess it hit me, by the time I trudged up to Albany to attend a third rate university that nothing I did mattered.
That the fix was in.
And if the fix was in, then tout est permit, as the existentialists used to say. And when one day during my sophomore year I came across Douglas Day’s bio of Malcom Lowry, and read The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, I knew my path was set.
Even though alcohol and I were strangers, I would become a drunk. I would get laid for a while — for I was in fact handsome when young — but would gradually lose my looks. I would not mind dying before 30, I thought then, so long as the unfinished brilliant novel was left behind, to shame everyone — all those who never believed in me.
After all, nothing matters.
And so I drank, and drank, and drank some more in the lower Manhattan of the mid 70s.
And made sure that I threw away any opportunity that came my way, always managing to snatch defeat — as an Israeli politician once remarked in a different context — from the jaws of victory.
The years started to run, and opportunities became fewer and fewer. The girls became increasingly more damaged. I began to sleep on the couches of people I barely knew, one night here, the other night there, the other still maybe out in West Side park in a cardboard box in the middle of Winter.
I did not die at 30.
But with each passing day, I traveled further away from that boy who came to America in a boat at 16, ripped for no discernible reason from a place where everything was going his way.
The long nights unfolded, slowly at first, then quickly — as Papa might say. From time to time, I allowed a glimpse of what could have been to show, until the bold arrogance of youth finally gave way to the humiliating uncertainties of middle age.
Now I am 69.
I no longer look anything like that kid, but still feel connected to why he did what he did because will he will never forget or forgive what happened on a January morning in 1967. The guilty remain so even in death.
I cannot fathom what the future holds for me personally.
Eckhart preaches that all we have is now.
But my now is composed of so many interlaced versions of half true, half imagined stories that float with disconnected fury in my mind, then erupt like a volcano that is never dormant for long.
I don’t even know what now is.
Perhaps next year is when I will find this out.
Or next week.
There’s always a next time, something in the distance, until suddenly there isn’t.