"An Unbearable Lightness"

My friend Leslie remarked via email that she was “somewhat jealous” of my impromptu adventure, to which I replied “don’t be.” There’s no envy to be found in fright, in flight, in a series of decisions made on the fly and without consideration of the future. I got into my black Mustang and drove west: the image itself evokes the idyllic car ride down an empty highway or lonely stretch of road, a cloud of dust kicked up by rear-wheel power–liberation unbundled like a black ponytail undone: hair unfurled and freed.

What the image hides is the reason why. Unless insane, nothing is done without reason though, at various points in my travels, I wondered if I had become unhinged, if the continued erasure of my life, dubbed “the year of subtraction,” had finally wiped away all traces of reality. Why was I on the road? I didn’t dare answer the question while behind the wheel, so I focused on an easier query: would I ever come back?

Therein lied true terror. I liquidated my life of its material possessions, sans clothing and a handful of books and journals and a car. I gave it all away. I remember the heat of that last week in July, in New Jersey, and how delirious I felt in our apartment, as if heat stroke ignored the full blast of the central air conditioning system. I thought about visiting my doctor. As I packed all of my books and most of my clothes–wedding suit included–and every object that might be coveted by another party, I became prone to dizzy spells.

Or merely “spells,” since the room didn’t spin nor did I feel nauseous. Rather, the “spells” made me feel lightheaded and discharged, for a moment, from reality, from time and space. I felt like falling. Every few minutes, whether I ran old junk mail and love letters through a paper shredder, or lamented over the beautiful books I meticulously collected over the years & easily dispatched to a “giveaway” pile, my eyes throbbed and dimensions around me pulsated–the walls rippled and the floor shifted. I thought I was dying. Death surrounded me. Continue reading