Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

On the distance of friends and the terror of archaeology.  §

So much clutter.

There is so much clutter everywhere. Material clutter. Circumstantial clutter. Digital clutter. Mental clutter. Schedule clutter. Memory clutter.

— § —

I am ripping apart my last decade.

It’s part of a remodel, to turn what was my office into a bedroom for one of my children. It has been ongoing for weeks—in the process of being ripped apart for weeks.

Because when you stick an academic in a small office for years, things accumulate. And when you stick a senior manager in a small office for years, things accumulate. And when you stick an adult person in a small room for years, things accumulate.

All three of those people, being me, were in that small room for ten years.

It’s not all clutter, and it’s not all furniture. It’s clutter intermixed with furniture, in highly dense, rational, and inbuilt ways. It’s taking a long time to tear it back down again. The amount of shelving and desk surface littering my driveway right now is insane as I pull it all out.

— § —

One reason that people who live alone die sooner is that there is nobody around to find them after the heart attack, after the stroke, after the fall down the stairs, after the bookshelf falls on them.

They lay there until someone stumbles across them, often too late.

Someday, that will be me. It has been several years since I had a guest of my own in the house. Nobody stops by. Once the kids grow up, we plod on until the event happens, and then at some point the neighbors inquire about the smell.

It’s easy to say “you should have some friends over” but all of my friends live in other states.

It’s easy to say “you should make some friends” but I have a distinct aversion to having friends in my own state, especially friends that come “over.”

— § —

When you’re feeling in a dark place, it’s an important thing to make a little bit of progress in something. Any progress. Any amount. In anything you’ve been working on or could be working on.

I wish I could say that making that bit of progress feels good, but really it doesn’t.

What it does do, however, is feel less dark than just sitting there, and that’s often enough.

— § —

Tearing apart what I and the kids have long referred to as “the office” has been a kind of archaeology of the recent past, of the past decade.

Thing is, the last decade has seen the absolute worst times of my life in it, by a very large margin, along with some of the best. But it’s the former that hits you with the force each time you stumble across a significant artifact.

There have been a lot of significant artifacts.

— § —

Not everyone can say that they have a stack of letters in which a previously trusted person threatens to entirely destroy the lives of them and their family over and over again in a variety of ways—much less from someone that is actually positioned to carry this threat out—and less still when that person is, by virtue of outward apparent affinity, the last person anyone in the world would suspect of such a thing.

I have such a stack of letters. I haven’t looked at it, or wanted to look at it in a long time. I still haven’t looked at it. But I’ve laid eyes on it again, and that was enough. Risks of archaeology.

Experiences like that—like receiving a stream of such letters over time—change a person and the way that they relate to the world, and to other people.

They cause you to become that strange person, the one who’s always a bit standoffish, who can’t quite be nailed down, who won’t let anybody in, who seems just a bit dangerous.

They leave you unwilling to cope with having friends in your own state that might actually come “over.”

— § —

I was never much one for self-defense, or for playing things close to the vest when I was younger. It’s interesting to see how much self-defense clutter I’ve accumulated in recent years—material, circumstantial, digital, mental, schedule, memory, etc.

There is a strand of conventional wisdom—which is nearly always wrong—that says that it’s bad to be on the defensive against other people.

“Open yourself up,” it says, “what have you got to lose? Only love and friendship!”

Like all strands of conventional wisdom, it throws its hands up when the worst happens and says “well… it’s not like there can be any promises…”

Thing is, I have children. My life, now, belongs to their protection until they are launched.

Hopefully launched.

In a way that I and so many in my generation and other recent generations never were.

Until then, it’s silence and archaeology for me in the in-between times.

— § —

I’m not a weak or timid man, but there are nonetheless many things in my life that I can’t bear to look at, am unable to stomach, can absolutely not stand to see.

In the whole wide world, all of them lie within 25 feet of me and where I dwell, day after day, and they have done for years now.

Someone once told me I should burn them.

I couldn’t make them understand that being haunted by the ghosts of archaeological terror is no better than being surrounded by its corpses.

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