This Is Melancholy


“All the joy and anger and fear I felt as a kid has now become a series of facts that may or may not be correct and is irrelevant, anyway.”

Reckoning age is not easy, especially in this culture of youth. I, for one, like to imagine myself as 27, jewfro grad student, newly married but still stewing in the full potency of my past — I was in love, no doubt, and this love was fueled by all my previous loves. I could still feel Joy, my high school love, vibrating in my loins and heart and belly and schnoz. I could still feel the magnetic pull of Sabina, my college obsession, the resonance of her still palpating my heart.

With time, all this has come to fade.  Not the facts, mind you, not the memory per se. But the affective resonance of that memory is no longer there.  I don’t feel that pining for Sabina that I did for so many years. I remember the pining. Indeed, I can regale you with tale upon tale of my longing, my humiliations, my joys.

But the scent of the event has dissipated, its feeling gone. It is now a movie I saw ages ago — I know the story but I don’t feel the power of it anymore. In many ways, it might as well have happened to someone else. I don’t know it happened to me, not from the inside out.

And I find this loss unbearably sad. I am coming to understand, perhaps, that it is this loss that defines aging — not the loss of motion or hard ons or memory but the loss of our own past’s resonance.

Sometimes, I try to beckon these lost affects, try to charm them back into being, performing a perverse kind of seance for dead memories, for the dead me. It is a curious, difficult thing to do.  I  reach with all parts of my memory, not just for the images, but for the literal and metaphoric feel of it, for that sensation that permeated my belly, my blood.  I try to remember with my whole body, hurling not just my mind but my frame and flesh into the memory, into the vortex of the facts.  Sometimes, very rarely, I can conjure it for a fleeting moment, usually by finding virtual traces of their scent.

I wish I had a better way to manage this loss, a way better than my seance which is all too pathetic.

This loss is what’s become of my whole childhood.  All the joy and anger and fear I felt as a kid has now become a series of facts that may or may not be correct and is irrelevant, anyway. Their power, their resonance, is nearly gone all together.

This is not all bad. I have reconciled a lot of shit with my family, not because I forgive but because, frankly, I don’t feel all the anger and disappointment anymore. What seems like my noble gesture is, in fact, just a reality of aging.

There are times, I can still see myself in high school, high as a kite, so vital, rocking out with Willy Jacobs to Jethro Tull. Damn, Tull rocked me inside out. I was so enthused, so infused, by that maniac flautist.

So, from time to time, I will mine the Tull catalog — not on vinyl, even if I still own them all, but via Rdio on my iPhone — in search of that memory’s potency. I can find fragments of it on an album here and there, in a refrain, a lick, a musical apogee. But, as with my seance for lost loves, this conjuring is short lived and, in the end, feels pathetic.

Alas, this is aging. We become alienated from our own past, from our previous selves, from our youth. It can be liberating, sure, but I find the loss devastating. But I suppose such is what we might call maturity: bearing precisely this loss — not the loss of memory but the loss of memory’s resonance.

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