Inward Weekend

This has been an inward weekend. I spent a few hours with friends on Saturday, but beyond that I have been sitting at home. Or more clearly lying at home since I am feeling very tired. This is not the depressed lethargy I’m used to, it feels much more physical. I’ve gotten two solid nights sleep, but when I wake up it doesn’t feel like I’ve fully left the dream world. There is a delay between my mind and body, between a sound entered my ear and actually hearing it. At the coffee shop yesterday morning, I accidentally dispensed coffee on my cinnamon roll because I confused which hand was holding the cup. I thought the lady next to me had seen this, so I mumbled to her what I had done with a self-effacing chuckle. She looked at me like I hadn’t spoken English, almost like she hadn’t heard me at all. Now I’m not so certain I even said anything.

I’ve been making progress reading Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, breezing though hundreds of pages today. His metaphysical stories touch me deeper than anything else I’ve read, somehow both fortifying my sense of wonder and unraveling the logical connections I make in the real world. I am not sure if I fell asleep while reading today but there was moment while I was lying in bed that I felt like I had been there for hours. I felt the heaviness of sleep without feeling tired. I tried to take a nap but I don’t think it took. I was in a reading paralysis.

The characters he creates interact with the world on at least two levels: the “magical” and the tangible. I use “magical” to describe the twists of reality the characters are witness too: talking to spirits, having premonitions, multiple identities, etc. These qualities would be gimmicks if used the wrong way, but Murakami’s crafts a surreal world of possibilities. The places and people feel real, but their identities are as flexible as they would be in a dream. In his stories, the protagonist is often in an existential crisis. Not necessarily that something is going to kill him (although that is often a secondary issue), but rather that his own identity is unraveling or mysterious. What’s weird about reading his books it that it makes me worry that my own mind is on the verge of falling apart.

This happened to me in Thailand when I was reading The Windup Bird Chronicle. One night while nearing the end of the book, I tried to go to sleep only to lie in bed with a nonstop slurry of ideas running through my head. Pieces came from the book, others from Thailand, and the rest from what I assume was at the back of my brain. I was having a hard time falling asleep, in part because I feared that when I woke I would be a different person.

I awoke the same person, of course. But that night I truly felt like I was going to be someone else. But it makes sense, as a lot of mental changes were happing then. I was basically spending all day working on creative projects, reading, learning a new language, learning how to play guitar, and seeing entirely new sights. It is easy to look back and realize that you are a different person than you were a year ago. But I think that night my mind realized that it was changing at that very moment.

In Kafka on the Shore a character named Nakata is able to talk to cats. When I was a kid, I grew up and spent a lot of time with cats. Part of me always wanted to talk to them, and I tried telepathically as best as I could. Sometimes it felt like I was reading some profound emotion, like they were trying to tell me something but I just couldn’t understand the words. I was probably mapping my own emotions onto them, but there were definitely time I believed we were having a catmunion. Sometimes I still feel like I have more in common with the average cat than the average person.

Walking though Portland feels like walking through a dream. It’s like being here doesn’t matter much to me, nor to the town. I am happy here, though. I like my job enough, I like my girlfriend, I like the start of my friendships here. But a certain wanderlust was kindled while was in Thailand, and it doesn’t seem to be dying out. I need to go traveling soon. My need for adventure is too big for a town this small. Unlike Los Angeles, it is easy to see why people want settle here. But like Los Angeles, it doesn’t feel like a place I can call home. At least not yet.

Two revelations:
1) I don’t like talking on the phone.
2) The neighbor I share a wall exists only as clomping feet and a cough. It is strange that the only impression I have of someone living mere feet away from me is: “COUGH, COUGH, CLOMP, CLOMP, CLOMP, COUGH, COUGH, DOOR SLAM.” He coughs loudly every time he enters the hall, leading me to believe that he coughs all the time. Except I hear nothing from him once he is inside his apartment. It is almost like he ceases to exist once he closes his door. Not that coughing and clomping is much of an existence. If I was reduced to the same set of sound effects it would be door locking, walking, and scooter starting. What a vibrant life we lead in this building.

Archives for July, 2006
July 31st, 2006. Categories / Portland

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