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What's Up Bro
grab a solo cup and let's toast to the eternal
it’s not that serious —
This refrain echoes through my mind, a baritone voice rumbling with late night spliffs. Who knew accessing my inner bro could be so grounding? I imagine heavy paws, calloused by mornings at the bench press, landing on my shoulders. Their weight pushes my tense muscles away from my ears, I take a breath. Bro, it’s not that serious. And he’s right. He wears a heather grey sweatshirt, printed in black block letters: stress is 70% reaction, 30% circumstance.
Some people have guardian angels, I think I have guardian bros. My bros like to keep things chill, they secretly love a routine, but they won’t shy away from an all-nighter. They have my back, offering protection and guidance, with a few playful tussles on the green. A few days ago, I was stranded in Tokyo after my flight to Kochi—a small town in South Japan—was cancelled due to bad weather. It happened so fast, lightning struck, thunder clapped and planes were grounded. I couldn’t believe it, I texted Boyfriend and he told me to find the guy with green curly hair. It turns out a couple of local camera guys were booked on the same flight. They had to be in Kochi by 7am to work on the commercial Boyfriend was shooting. I found them right away, one wore a tan fisherman’s hat, wrap around Persol sunglasses perched on the brim. The other sported a messy mullet, dyed green as promised, which complimented his purple basketball sneakers. Immediately the boys took me in. We became a pack, plunging into the depths of the airport, towards the train station. As we snaked further below the earth, the air grew hot and scarce, crowds of bodies swelled in every direction. If I fell one step behind the green mullet, someone else would fill in the gap. I lost the distinction between me and every other person, we were massive: a tide conquering the steamy underground. We reached the cavernous train station, only to find it overwhelmed by commuters trying to navigate cancelled flights. Endless lines formed for the train tickets, we hustled up and down stairs to avoid the clogged escalators. I was completely out of it, my feet still finding up from down after a 14 hour flight. There was nothing I could do but keep my eyes on the green mullet and avoid collision with an oncoming pedestrian.
After a couple hours of standing, sweating, staring at the middle distance, we scored train tickets and settled in for a long ride. It was late, I had stopped checking the time. There’s no direct train to the island where Kochi is located, so we travelled to the edge of Japan’s main island and stayed in a hotel for a night. If you’re imagining Scarlett Johansson curled up on a windowsill overlooking a fog drenched city, think again. It was long after midnight when we checked into the orange and grey business hotel in Okayama. My window faced another window, curtains closed. All alone and feeling it, I showered off the train before stocking up on 7/11 onigiri and green tea for the morning. Surprisingly, I was not homesick. I had my bros—the ones I could see and the ones I could not—plus, home has been very liminal lately.
I’ve been out of my routine for a month now, willingly trying out some new creative modalities and environments. I can’t say any of this newness happened with a plan. For me, the best opportunities are never pre-meditated. They appear like a freight elevator in mid air, doors sliding open and I have to make the choice to leap—
sometimes I can’t do it
but this time I jumped in with my whole heart. Putting all my embrace-the-unknown talk into practice. All of it is good, or dare I say great. As I get older, I feel so lucky to carve out a life beyond the constant compression I know so well. I’m so fucking grateful, it feels like a fever dream. Still, there’s another side of me, one that is so deeply stressed. It’s not something I want to say out loud, so I’ll type it, cause it’s just you and me. Some nights I can do nothing more than grasp at sleep. Some days my body creates ominous symptoms, signaling a looming threat. Other days (like today) everything is a manageable puzzle. I can line up my words in a fairly neat sentence, I can step back and nod to my bro
I know, I know
it’s not that serious.
Even the things that are serious, aren’t that serious. This month, my dad resumed cancer treatments. They caught the new growth early this time around. He’s doing okay. When he was first diagnosed in 2017, things were very serious, like life or death vibes. He ignored the symptoms for years, kept the tell-tale signs secret, until the cancer almost killed him. Now he’s back in treatment but it’s not that bad? My mind tumbles a half-baked somersault.
I tell my bros, I want to be okay when things are okay. Okay? My mind gets it, but my body is not so quick. Mundane stressors will always be there, the auto-pay bills, the shifting social seasons, that closet I never organized but our lease is up soon and will they raise the rent and I should have used more lemons from the tree…
Last night I dreamt I was holding on to a granite tip of a giant peak. The sun was nearby in my periphery, gravity was less powerful. I took a selfie with my right hand, my left arm wrapped about the smoothed stone. I had no recollection of how I got up there, but I was told the way down was singular: I needed to jump. An older guy told me to angle toward a continent, instead of those giant patches of ocean. With that advice, he tilted forward, saying something about timing the parachute. Then he launched into the atmosphere and I was alone. Did I have a parachute?
Did it matter? If I were to succumb to a massive free fall, it wouldn’t be the worst way to go. Cascading through space, becoming atmosphere, another blip of the solar system. The eternal game continues.
I woke up.
The only way to check my serious tendencies is to zoom way out. Put things on the infinite scale. Take the chalk and chart everything onto an endless timeline, beyond the scope of this life or the next.
We’re here, we’re nowhere. Pulsing through the crowds, my atoms of existence belong to you—knitted together by unseen threads. Pull one loop and each stitch stretches, we blend together, can you feel it? I am trusting, hand over heart, trusting what’s beyond routine, sketched across the blue.