Greetings from Big Eastern City (BEC)! I arrived here on Sunday for my summer sojourn chez Mr. Gordo, conveniently planned to coincide with his own arrival from Caracas. I landed in the morning from Cold City, had time for a nap and shower, and met him at the airport bus stop in town, sipping an iced coffee and feeling somewhat less than fresh, given the heat and humidity that one always forgets when one thinks, in January, “Oh yea, summertime in BEC would be great!” I’ve taken to carrying around a little toalla to mop up the sweat that accumulates doing most anything, like lifting a cigarette to one’s lips or waiting on public transport or walking very, very slowly down a hot sidewalk. While the towelette (in actuality, a white, bleached wash cloth which, when rolled, fits nicely in one’s back pocket) might prevent rivulets of sweat from pouring down my face, it plays havoc with a girl’s complexion, and I am currently suffering through the annual summer breakout, for which Clinique's sandblasting 2-step process (in actuality, 3 steps, but who needs moisturizer when their face competes with Saudi Arabia for oil production?) can’t seem to keep up.
Mr. Gordo is in a bit of a funk, thinking through, as many of us do at certain moments in life, the choices we have made and pathways we find ourselves on. Yesterday, en route to joining Maxi-Falda (for his habit of sporting kilts whenever he goes out on the town), an old Caraqueño friend of Mr. Gordo’s resident in BEC, for a July 4th fireworks viewing, we paused beforehand in a somewhat quiet little park to smoke and sweat and think a little about the immense changes in our lives over the past year, how violent and wrenching the changes have been for us, the Herculean struggle of Darwinianadaptation to our new lives apart and in different cities: platypusesstruggling to grow wings, and in a hurry!
Now, in my experience, Mr. Gordo always has a bit of sticker shock when returning to the United States from a Spanish-speaking country (not exclusively Venezuela), because of the disorientation of language, for one. In fact, July 4th is Mr. Gordo’s anniversary of arriving in the United States, just like Yankee Doodle Dandy, and although we never have had a formal celebration of the event, this year marks the fifth he has been resident in the United States, and the anniversary has coincided with a period of introspection which speaks to the rituals of dates and anniversaries and remembrance. The challenge of Mr. Gordo’s particular voyage is one that is easier for academics to imagine perhaps than others: leaving a well-established personal and professional life in pursuit of a fellowship towards a degree in a place (the USA/new job) which one is somewhat familiar with but does not, in point of fact, really speak the language (English/academese— local and micro inflections). Needless to say, Mr. Gordo has come a long way here, linguistically as well as professionally and socially, but returns to la langue maternelle (in time or space) underscore, firstly, the difficulties of transitions (adaptations), as well as the lure of comfort, mastery, and greater self-articulation (for Mr. Gordo, although he is now fluent, does not feel as if he “belongs” to English, or whatever we prefer to call our North American variants).
This is in some ways tangential to the current mood, but I think is important. How we craft identifications has been a sort of theme on this blog, of course, but it is when identifications shift and change, especially when such transformations and forced metamorphoses are non-consensual, that the real challenge presents itself. As a number of fellow bloggers move on to new jobs, positions, situations, and cities, some if not most of these choices are chosen, decided upon, in many ways joyous. What happened last year to our little dacha of a domestic life was not, in the end, our choice, and so almost accidentally has revealed other elements of quotidian coercion (employment, for instance) and the distance between where one (thinks one) is and where one (thinks one) wishes to be, or alternatively, where one sees oneself in relation to a number of factors, including friends, family, age, personal expectations, where society tells us we should be, et cetera (more on this later).
In any event, while we are happy to be together once again, Mr. Gordo and I must begin to think through a series of questions that confront us, now that the initial dust has settled and our shellshock has given way to a mind state much more difficult to describe. For me, the primary question would be the ideal completion of manuscript revisions this summer, my ostensible "project." For Mr. Gordo, something different to engage his energy and mind, a mission, a direction, a new goal of employment or otherwise, and this project involves thinking through the whys and hows of where he is today. But even being together again cannot recapture what we had before the meteor of Sadistic College wiped out our personal Mesozoic era. This period before the ever-present and in many ways disappointing “now” is something curiously that we appreciate, treasure, regard fondly and remember often with very private tears (we are men, after all), but is not reified, not romaticised, not necessarily a project to recapture, in the same way, as a simulacrum. Darwinian soldiers, we have moved on, wounds and all, desperately trying to figure out how to grow our new and clearly necessary wings.