The Extended Self

I’m in a mood.

That doesn’t seem like the proper word for my condition, but I’m at a loss to find another better suited.

I’m in the (literal) bowels of Port Authority in New York City sitting on a bus waiting to depart from, well, you already know from where, but I’m also departing from Bill & Edgar, my Jennie, Mr. Superman (who accompanied me to the gate). To? Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, but also to my family.

There’s a special alchemy that comes to the familiar. Or from the familiar. Or both. A “visit” back to the folks is not the same thing as sticking around for nearly a month. The strong bonds of family—or even of friendship—are always there, but the nuances and the idiosyncratic come out when you stick around long enough to be familiar with those people again.

We’ve just gotten out of Manhattan and through the tollbooths out of the Lincoln tunnel and already feel like I’ve lost the familiarity with Bill & Edgar, Jennie, and even Michael, to whom I said good-bye not even 30 minutes ago. They’re “over there” now and it’s a thought that’s going to fester for a while—until I’m past the half-way point and this trip away-from becomes a trip towards.

Prepositions are underrated in the English language and that colors our collective and individual views of our own lives. We stick to nouns and verbs, tenses and voices, singulars and plurals. We run from our where’s and that casts a long shadow over our why’s.

We remember our histories as events, causes-and-effects, simultaneities, and never the paths and wildernesses, ebbs and flows. We fall out of habit of motion in the geographical, mental, teleological axes. We cast away colors to avoid orthogonalities in favor of orthographies.

Text messaging, email, cellphones—the ubiquity of electronic commnunication—lead us down the garden path of believing the world is getting smaller and we, upon the floes, seem closer because of it.

But stand all that up against a hug, a kiss, a pat on the back. A smile, a smirk, gaze-meeting-gaze and the IMs and SMSs suddenly revert to mere pixels and glyphs, packets and datagrams, streams of ones and zeroes. The Smaller-World illusion fails and we curse the lie of it, the cruel insufficiency, the kind to be cruel and the more than kind and less than kin quality to the shortcuts that have worked their technological trickery on us.

Missing someone arrives more quickly than it departs and there is no easy answer to living with a there and a there and a there and a there always tugging at some part of ourselves.

It is as if Home is a concept created to shield us from the horrors of itinerancy just as Progress is a concept which shields us from the terrors of the unknown future. Given a dialog over iChat or AIM and a chat over a cup of coffee, there is a terrible in-between, the world becoming the smaller and then the larger, a tug o’ war that none of us are elastic enough to endure without some kind of damage.

Perhaps this is why some of us choose a stubborn plasticity, choosing Home, clinging to Home like a piece of drift wood in an angry sea while others of us stand apart and embrace the potential horrors of our own unknowns because it’s easier than mourning our inevitable losses and left-behinds: the flotsam and jetsam in the torrent cannot choose.

As I literally, immediately inhabit a kind of terrible in-between on this busride, I begin to think that the reason I so love trains is because the future is fixed mark at the end of the rails, removed from choice and the confusing Outside yet still moving us from one place to another, making us feel fluid rather than plastic-elastic, solid rather than a damnable ephemera of the brain.

I wish. I wish. I wish. I wish that There and There and There were always Here. I also wish I could stop wishing.

And maybe that’s a better picture of my state of mind than just “mood”.