2012 has passed away. Where do years go? Time remains a mystery, physicists talking around what it is.
Night falls on New Year’s Eve and time changes. Trains and clocks still work, but everything is different, not shadowed but enlightened. Halos we can’t see stick to everything, penetrating us. If we are lucky, we have somewhere to go, people to be with. There is spectacular noise and light to mark the tremendous passing we are insensate to.
2012 was a great year up until it wasn’t. The change was so abrupt I’m still not sure what happened. The memory card these pictures are on contains the first pictures I ever took with this camera, of my cat, the one that passed away. I have a new cat, and sometimes the name of the old cat comes out. I bought the camera for New York. The pictures from August are still there. Somehow, somewhere, I am still in a little sublet apartment, listening to happy people in the bar downstairs, walking along the Hudson.
Cleaning out the file cabinet, I found tax returns as far back as 1995. I handwrote them, working the figures on lined paper. An IRS friend says I only need to keep the last three years. They are out in the blue recycle bin, waiting for the truck.
At one time in my life I clung to everything, my closet in my parents’ house filled with every band flyer, math homework, and random magazine clipping back to middle school. It proved I existed, forming a history. My now ex-wife thought it was unhealthy and one summer day my oldest friend and I drove it all to the middle school parking lot, looking at each thing as we committed it to the recycling dumpster. I clearly remember standing with him, the papers going by. The only ones I remember were seventh grade math homework: how wrenched we were by grades. It was a warm but not hot day, the grass brittle, the sky high above itself, the pavement a smooth black ribbon of river rock and asphalt warm and soft to stand on. In college and after I spent afternoons looking through stuff, reminiscing, concluding that its reference of past events meant I in the present was a failure. My ex was right to insist I get rid of it. It’s neither healthy nor possible to hold on to absolutely everything.
I talk with that oldest friend regularly. It’s a blur! So fast! Except when it isn’t. The past few years have been slower, more textured. They’ve had more room. Sometimes that space is too much, smothering as it is immense. But things seem human-scaled now. Maybe the key is to make things our own size.
I miss very few things now.
New Year’s isn’t about staying up late, feeling empty with the winter holidays’ last milestone passing, being loud and going crazy. Not now, at least. This is the first year I can remember a feeling of promise: not quite excitement, maybe relief. Time is passing and us through it, and that is how it is, and that’s fine.