We are our history.
Too complex for words, we are every casual and causal link that has built to this moment, from Adam’s dust to the steel and rubber that transports us into one another’s lives and pulls us apart.
All of human history at our fingertips and we’re stuck on the last page, reading over and over again as madmen and mad women tear it all down, to start over again or to rebuild, but not to make a better world for our children; for we are childless, and we are children.
I could cant plaintive aspirations for the future and the utopian landscapes of post-crisis self-realization, cry that you are an end in and of itself, the omega. But you don’t listen, and I’m not speaking; somehow, the silence gets filled up all the same.
We are our shared perspective, from where we see the world and agree, that yes, from up here, it does look to be burning. Or perhaps it’s just the stifling, unifying cigarette plumes of eight billion cave dwellers who have agreed that the world has little time left, so why not just light one up and wait it out. If the world doesn’t end, well, we will anyway.
We will always have our history.
Preserved in museums and memories that come back to us when the night’s libations have let us down, our history is the story of a species gradually, painfully, resiliently gaining consciousness and then, upon achieving this feat of evolution, imbibing every painkiller until we are no longer conscious.
We are our ancestors.
They cower, afraid to look up.
I tried to be a stone wall in the nuclear holocaust predicted by you, but every shadow that burned into me was just another reminder of all the ways that I am, too, human, too human, and made of skin that ripples and stains like a leaf of paper. On it, written the words you have already acknowledged as the pleas of a coward. I am shaken.
I’m stuck between wanting to tell you that you are a towering example of strength and a sharpened shard of beauty, but I know the words only get lost from my mouth to your ears; impossible to cross the divide that separates us now that you have heard it all.
I talk about history.
You talk about dying.
We both get it.
I don’t get what I’m doing here, each passing moment stretching out to eternity and then it’s tomorrow and nothing has changed; I’m still failing at everything I try to do. I could see the whole world from down here; I don’t, though.
I was sitting in your living room when I received the note; a sky so full of clouds that I thought it must be night. It was the end of a day.
Another history brought short.
Another shadow on my wall.
History is what we label that which we cannot change; this is another part of our history, even if it isn’t ours.
I go on. You go on. She go on. We go on.
And then you’re gone and I go alone.
It used to be that if “love” were spoke with enough hope, with all the power of Hannibal’s elephants and all the radiance of Chernobyl and all the precision of Oswald’s bullet, any broken heart could be mended, no matter how many times it had been shattered.
That is now a part of history, too.
So what if there’s nothing to be done? So what if our history is a collection of stolen artifacts and carefully curated facts to placate our brittle consciences? If our time is short, why shouldn’t our memories be, also?
I want this to be all okay; you, me, her/him, all with the collective sigh of our history.
It isn’t, though.
It is rotten, I know.
It isn’t true.
It only trickles through.
We are guilty
of faux civility
weak and shallow
nothing more than a show.
This is our legacy.
This is our destiny.
This is our history.
I don’t control what I’m saying. I think in couplets when I’m away from you and you are acting as though nothing has changed. Everything’s changed. You dismissed my lips, unkissed.
We have history.
You have history. It’s not easy to forget, it’s not easy to forgive, and when the cruel gray crows scatter your smile across a desolate field, it’s not easy to let go.
I am not a historian, I cannot be that detached.
Nor am I merely a supplicating audience member, waiting to applaud, steady with my tears, happy to concede defeat to the playwright. I write, too, and I don’t care if they are Shakespeare’s Histories, I make up my own endings.
You will loathe this, every word.
You will loathe me, too, and find my incessant presence to be a bother. This is already of history.
Yet, here I am, in attendance.
I bought the ticket, I took my seat, I put the world on silence for you.
So sing your song, recite your monologue, hit your mark, and kill the critics in the crowd who will insist that you’re not right for the part. The part is right for you.
I should’ve said that.
I didn’t say anything. You wept like Ophelia’s willow, threatening to drown all of Europe, but it only rains in London these days; the skies are gray, sure, but also close enough to touch. We didn’t touch. We stayed dry, we stayed indoors.
And then, that was it.
I’ve returned to this place I’m calling home now.
See the world, learn its histories, trace the rivers diverted by time and escape to the cities built on bones. Every street, every window, all of the tastes and smells, they lambast us with the history we think is behind us. Paint the walls, if you must, climb the scaffolding; it will all be history soon enough. History always wins.
We are history.