“What follows is probably bullshit,” she scoffed as she stamped her smoke out on Sixth Avenue in the sarcophagus of winter’s grip.

She paused. She held her breath. She always does before she settles into some grand thesis of note.

“But I’ve got a theory. We could leave this place. You and I. Find a loft in some trendy neighborhood. Start fresh. Build bridges to replace the ones we’ve burned. But what will that do? Create more bridges likely reduced to smolder at some inexact future date. The point is: You spend your whole life building up a personal ecosystem only watch it wither, and when you can’t bare to watch anymore, you hole yourself up somewhere distant so you won’t be tempted to look back. Rebirths are hokey. They’re fallacy. There’s no such thing. Even the greatest cities – New York, Paris, Tokyo – are built upon the remains of the past.”

She lights another Parliament and huddles close.

“What you’re asking for, here, is you’re clinging to the idea that by hitting reset you’re somehow undoing what’s been done. But you’re not, man. You. Me. We hit reset but it doesn’t make the computer brand new again. It doesn’t even delete anything. Even if you format a hard drive, if your forensic mind is well trained – and it will be because you’re peering into your own self – you’ll be able to piece the data back together. And everything that’s been done before, said before, felt before, it will all return. And the distance won’t mean shit. It’ll just make it more of a cipher that you’ll want to tinker with. And you’ll think ‘Where did it go wrong? I can’t remember now.’ That’s what you get for running. Yeah, I could follow you, too, but I’d just be an anchor – a harbinger engineered in reverse.”

She runs low on steam now. Gracefully settling into a monostatic groove against the crackle-and-fuzz of the frosty moonlight.

“By running away, by starting fresh, you’re only encouraging more introspection. Don’t give me bullshit about clearing your head. You don’t get that from some fresh perspective. You don’t get that from distance, or eras passing, or even self-affirmation. You clear your head by doing shit, man. By waking up in the morning and just pressing ‘go’ instead of ‘reset.’ That ain’t the same thing, either. You build. You create. You design. These buildings around us, these old, Gothic pillars of human strength meant to build a basement for God to come and hang out once in a while, they weren’t build perfectly. Somewhere, somebody forgot a fucking nail. Somebody missed a level. Shit, man, it was the ’20s. They were eyeballing most of that. Point is, they didn’t stop. They just kept building. And look.”

She leans against the brick facade and gently caressed the cold stone with her free hand.

“Still here.”

She positively glowed in smug satisfaction at sounding truly, imperviously correct.

“Now, you can go wherever the hell you want. Do as you please. But don’t ask me to come with you on some adventure, man. By the time it’s over and you’ve returned from sailing around your brain in whatever voyage of self-discovery you claim to so desperately crave, the x-axis of time will still sprawl ever-rightward, and your place in this world will be somewhere totally different, and it won’t matter if we’re standing right here in front of this very same patio having this same conversation in these same clothes.”

This time, she casually tossed the blackened filter deep into ether.

“You can’t outdo yourself if you’re constantly trying to undo yourself. Now, stop being an asshole and let’s draw up a warm Remy Martin like we usually do when it’s too cold for you to come up with anything useful in that lost, scrambled head of yours.”

I touched the brick of the old, grey building one more time on my way in, the way Notre Dame players smack “Play like a champion today” sign pregame. It was cold. But it felt real. Still there.


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