Would it Were Night§

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: February 6, 2006; revised: August 15, 2017; readers in past month: 561

Shot of Mercury

Sometimes I wish the Earth wouldn’t rotate, I wish the Sun wouldn’t rise and set every day. I know that’s an impossible wish because of the requirements of gravity to life, but I still grow tired of it. Because each day starts and ends, we’re given a feeling of accomplishment or completion. However, in reality, nothing is completed; existence is continuous. There are times when life is a struggle of the day and we feel that if we can just hold on, just endure for a little longer, the day will end and we will be safe. Unfortunately, we are roused from our peace and security the next morning by the Sun, taunting us to try again to survive it. I know this is seems contrary to my earlier musings about conquering life, but it’s slightly different. Referencing my last entry about waiting to finish what I’ve started, waiting here in Milan, I think I might be able to wait longer if the Earth were like Mercury in that its rotation is absurdly slow. Then I wouldn’t get mixed feelings of completion. My mind and body would know that we are enduring. Instead, I am teased with a sense of finality each evening.

In the mornings, I often question if ignorance isn’t bliss. I question if I wouldn’t be happier with a woman and not alone and not enduring this mental cleansing. I think back on some of my relationships and remember the problems I’ve had, but am not always sure if the conflicts weren’t minor compared to the joys. Loneliness is not an easy burden, especially when I consider that there have been women in the past year since I was with my last compagna who were genuinely interested in me, but I declined to pursue them. The reasons were always complicated, but they can be summed up to two reasons: one that they didn’t excite me the way the last girl friend I had; second, I needed more time to myself. This latter reason wasn’t always voiced, not even to myself, but it was there.

I’m not sure how much of my emptiness is from me and my life and my location at this time, and how much is the result of the loss of New Orleans from the hurricane. I’ve been thinking lately about New Orleans and have come up with this question or possibility: What if New Orleans is gone permanently? What if the more than two dozen hurricanes last year are an indication of environmental changes that will continue for a few hundred years? And if that is so, New Orleans may be devastated at least once a year, every year. That kind of environmental abuse would prevent the city from being restored. They estimate that after six months, eighty-percent of the population of over a million people have not returned. They can’t return because there aren’t enough places for them to live in. By this summer, there still won’t be enough places. And if this summer another hurricane destroys the city and all of the rebuilt houses and the newly built ones, then what? After enough times, people will give up on the idea of ever coming back.

Having lived all of my life either in New Orleans, or away from New Orleans with the option of returning, I now find that my home is lost and I am a refugee. I’m not a refugee thrown into a state of poverty, poverty of finances, but I am a refugee all the same. It is a strange thing to feel the mourning of the loss of a city, of a community which I’ve lived most of my life in, looming. It’s similar to the death of a loved one, but very different. The loss of a community is different from any loss I have ever experienced. I always felt comfort in being in New Orleans, amongst my own kind. And when I would live elsewhere, I felt comfort in knowing that there exists a community where I am not all that strange and that I am understood and a community that I in turn understand. Without New Orleans, I feel like a Kafka character: lost and disjointed, living in mental anguish, arguing with reality and insisting that I’m not strange or crazy. And yet, the more I do, the more I think that reality might be right.

There are times when I sit with people here in Italy, and talk my feeble Italian, or maybe even English, and think, I’ve seen so much and know so much that you don’t know. Why don’t you ask me about it? Why don’t you let me tell you about life in New Orleans? Why don’t you let me express myself? These kinds of musings are usual to an old man, but I’m not an old man. I’m a refugee and no one here cares what I know. For Italians, there’s no other place worth considering than Italy. In Berlin, when I was there in May last year, the people I talked with wanted to know about the U.S. and my life there. It was very flattering. But here, they look upon me sadly when I say I’m from the U.S. They seem to say, “Well, the important thing is that you’re here now.” They feel about Italy the way I feel about New Orleans. When I realize this while sitting with them, I think, “Hold on tight, you may loose it one day.”