If there are categories of people in the world, there might only need to be two kinds: those who accept the happiness that comes to them and those who accept some or half or most of it but remain wary of the rest. They’re not convinced it’s genuine; they’re not convinced it’s something that will stay around and be good. They’ll take what they can get, sure, but there’s a part of their brain that won’t let them forget: this might not be permanent. This might not be forever. This might all blow up in your face.
Sometimes it’s just a distant hum in the background. It’s ignorable. You can be in the moment and you can laugh and you can sit at a table across from someone and not have to imagine them leaving. Sometimes it’s on the periphery of your brain and it’s really nothing to bother yourself about. You can almost almost pretend it’s not there. This tiny voice. This tiny buzzing.
Sometimes it’s louder. More persistent. Sometimes you spend twenty hours traveling from California to Edinburgh and you fall asleep at ten o’clock and wake up at two in the morning and all you can do is make lists. Mental lists of all the things in your life that are good. Things you’ve worked for, things you’ve done, things you’re really, really proud of. You make this list and then beside each thing you list the ways you could lose it. You list people and how they could leave you. You list possessions and how they could burn up. You list moments and how they could be ruined by other moments. Inevitable moments. You imagine every good thing that’s ever happened to you piled up on one side of a seesaw and you imagine every bad thing that might act as a counterweight. You think this seesaw, it has to balance. It has to be straight. You buy a level from a hardware store and spend two hours in the middle of the night trying to convince the universe what good things you should be allowed to keep, what things you could probably part with if you had to.
It’s like an elaborate bartering system. It’s like an intricate web of tradeoffs and give and take and if you just let me have this you can have whatever else you want. Just let me have this.
Some days it’s fine. Happiness is happiness. Sunshine is sunshine. A good concert is a good concert. A bottle of wine is a bottle of wine. A night spent with someone is a night spent with someone.
Other times: that voice. A warning. A threat. You can have this now. You can have this for the time being. Just remember, though—nothing lasts forever. This will all be gone someday.
photographs taken in Vermont at my best friend’s wedding
with a Minolta X-700 and Yashica-D TLR.