a birthday for wood

Posted by jdg | Saturday, October 15, 2005 | ,

I determined today while walking under tall buildings that I am a man who prefers ruins.

I looked up at the building where I work every day, where I spend all of the hours that I am away from you, and I imagined someday in the distant future when all the glass will be broken and the wind will blow through my office and only the unstoppable steel frame will hold what's left of the cement up against the sky. That is who I am, a man comfortable with that idea. A man who sometimes prefers the idea of ruins to the vibrancy of everyday life. I majored in classics at college because it was the study of what remained of the birth of the world as we know it. It was about not letting it die. I felt I owed such things my understanding. I spent a month without you in 1997 wandering through the ruins at Delphi, at Olympia, Mikenes and Athens, my hands touching rocks carved with words thousands of years ago. I do this still, in places of ruin, because I feel such places are owed our respect. They were built and used by men and women whose lives meant something but now have no story beyond what the stones tell, beyond their blood diluted in us all. Driving with you in Detroit brought out those old feelings in me again, seeing the city that San Francisco will one day be, the great city tattered through eight decades of decline, brought down by a shift in the global economies rather than a shift of the earth. Living here in all the bustle and activity is too much for me. There is too much noise. I am ready to move on to some place that is a little more dead. If anything, moving to such a place will allow me to remember the vibrancy of these years we had together here, the vibrancy of the years we brought an amazing little person into the world and lived with her in a tiny apartment and all we had was each other and everything seemed so perfect, nobody we knew died or got sick and we never struggled with anything. I will remember these years, as I do all of them in their own way, with a particularly intense fondness.

You will complain that I don't live enough in the present. That I romanticize the past or concern myself too much about futures that might never come to pass. I will tell you that I am scared of death, but only because its inevitable nature means that one day I will have to part from you. That our story will be over. But I am not afraid to grow old. The funny thing about romaticizing the past is that you keep getting more and more of it to work with. It is something I have learned from the old people who talk about the past; it is a sign that someone has had a good life, I think, that they are so filled with fine memories that can't match up to the present. Having grown up in love with you I see no sense in viewing the past with bitterness or regret. I cannot imagine what would have happened to me if it weren't for you.

It's funny, I know we're growing older, but I don't see anything in you that has changed from the way you looked when I was falling madly in love with you ten years ago. So radiant then and now. The only changes I see are for the better, the grooves we have in each other, the steady comfort of knowing that we have a reprieve from being denied each others's presence for the time being. I don't have to fly to Dublin in two weeks. We don't have to wait another six days before you can call me from Phnom Phen. We can sit right here in the living room with each other in the afternoon and not have that anguish. We can sleep together every night. Without all those other commitments constantly tearing us apart, we are only growing closer and closer together. And then there's our baby, who in her very existence seems to represent that closeness, that melding of the two of us into something perfect, growing now so quickly on her own.

This life we're living now may not be glamorous but it's all I could possibly want for the present. Yeah we're getting older and some of our friends are entering their third decade and spending thousands of dollars on snake oils to keep their faces looking young. I have some sense that people start to think these things are a big deal. You still don't even need makeup in the morning. You're 28 today and you look even better than you did at eighteen. If there are changes I just can't see them.

We're still young and I'm so goddamned lucky to have you. I don't see the years that pass as a bad thing, I see them as only giving me more history with you, more perspective on our past and future together. I'm looking forward to moving with you to a new place and starting a life there. I'm looking forward to growing old with you, to watching my hair fall out and yours turn gray and for our skin to grow cavernous and loose. I'll take half a century more with you. I'll take more than that if we're lucky. I'll take dementia. I'll take stubbornness. I'll take all the kooky old lady clothes I know you're going to wear. The thing about loving ruins is the perspective it gives, the shifting, sympathetic sense of beauty. And you married a man who loves ruins. We're not there yet, kid, but I'll be with you when we are, smiling at how beautiful you are just like I am today, ten years since I first saw you and still in love with you as I ever was.