America I've Given You All and Now I'm Slightly Different
a status update
I just swore that I would be leaving America forever, like three weeks ago.
I thought my car being stolen was a signal from the universe that it was my time to leave.
That or my visa being rejected for the second time, based on the government telling me that I hadn’t signed a form which, in fact, I did sign, just like I had the first time.
All I wanted was to pay too much in taxes, and only commit invisible and minor crimes, and yet still the country didn’t want me.
Then my car was returned two weeks later, and the thieves left my tungsten cube in the glovebox.
They probably used the car to commit horrible crimes but there was no evidence of that in the vehicle, only my cube and their Burger King wrapper.
So the solidity of the cube, the calmness it exuded, started to fuck with me, the cube began to whisper.
Cool in my palm, it said, listen, America is annoying, but you know there’s no real alternative, other countries are not, in fact, actual places.
Our culture has partitioned your brain forever, determining the shapes of experience you will deem acceptable.
Everything will hereafter seem like a simulation.
Now, your homeland of Canada will seem perpetually uncool, and in Europe, you will wonder why things are so small and incorrect, beautiful but impotent.
Then last night, a publishing magnate forced a fussy and delicious burger upon me at a private club, and told me that I had to move to New York, with all the simplicity of someone reminding me that I had to breathe.
Which I guess is kind of leaving America, in that it’s a different country from California, in many ways.
You step off into Manhattan after bussing over from Newark and suddenly 10% of your happiness is replaced by 5 more IQ points and your speech goes up one semitone and doubles in pace.
I am pretending not to assent to America’s demands but I am like a toddler begging for a cookie, my whimpering will only serve to teach me a lesson.
Here I will never find calm but my stress will have a charmingly complicated texture.
Also another bullish American signal came when I went to pick up the stolen car from the towing yard.
It was at the secondary parking location, and I was advised that I should walk there, so I did, and then, moments later, I realized that I was walking, with all of my expensive possessions, on a narrow footbridge over the highway towards two largish menacing-looking men with a shopping cart with some Amazon boxes in it, both staring me down.
From a distance I think I’d unconsciously assumed they were running a juice stand or something.
Nobody else was around, and it was too late to turn back and run without increasing the temperature of the interaction, so I just said to myself oh well I can buy another computer.
Next to them there was a pair of boxer briefs smeared with human feces and it was surrounded by flies.
They were blocking my path, and stood there, looking me up and down, one was clenching his fists.
And then they silently parted, allowing me to continue, with unchanging, still-menacing expressions.
If they had coordinated this with some mutual signal I did not detect it.
Were they completely harmless, even perhaps thinking that I was the threatening party, not them?
Were they hired by the board of tourism to give me this experience?
There have been many dangerous-seeming moments here, and many safe-seeming moments that have turned out to be subtly dangerous.
But in the end in America so far I have only sustained the kinds of damage that one expects in a rich and full life—booboos of the heart, lungs tarnished by air pollution, minor financial calamities, some significant dents to the naïveté.
At this moment I feel that accruing more types of damage is my responsibility, and, what’s more, my pleasure.
So perhaps we will see what happens the next time I submit an immigration form to America.