When the forty-year-old puts on pants. Or a shirt when there’s company. Or any covering up of the casual Friday uniform, if casual Friday was casual existential crisis every what day is this anyway. The navel-gazing sleeveless V-neck somehow magnetically un-attracted to the navel. The nothing to hide tighty-once-whities, petrified since the undergraduate age. Or—if he’s (still) married: boxers and an eggshell silk robe.

When he moves from his writing/work desk. Which is a mattress on the floor. Or a sleeping bag on the floor. Or a bathroom mat next to a toilet. Or—if he’s (still) married: a mattress not on the floor.

When the penny jar gets past the two-fifty mark.

When he loses ten pounds. Does eleven pushups, attempts a yoga position other than the corpse pose, sprints to the next crack in the sidewalk. Takes his shirt off to swim. Hums the theme to Magnum, P.I. and promises to get his mind right.

When he defers his student loans for the day.

When he quits the booze, medicinal marijuana without medicinal need, or the all anxieties all of the time prescriptions. Or when he switches from five-day benders to two day benders. Or—if he’s (still) married: only two (and a half at most) breakfast beers. (Continued )

Weatherwise

You always hear people talking about how they drink to forget. I drink to remember. Not dates and times and details of course, but something more important. The essence of things. For when you are a shade past tipsy but not quite drunk you are vibrant. And the world becomes saturated. Like a filter over a camera lens, the irrelevant blends away and that which is vital is heightened.

Like the time when we slip into the ruins in near silence. He was never our focus, never more than a pleasant periphery. And yet his absence stabs us. We are bleeding and hope that by coming together we can urge the platelets to clot. So we sit cross-legged and stare up at the stars and out over Lexington and pass the flask and contemplate our mortality and wonder out loud what the hell we’re going to do with ourselves. Someone proclaims a toast; someone whispers a prayer. We are stitched together. This is what it is to be 21 and on the cusp of everything.

And when you come home they are already in the kitchen wearing your aprons and opening the first bottle of red. We compromise and combine our playlists; half Motown and half Bobby Darrin. This is music you can cook to. And there is food. So much food! And the German TA laughs and says she can’t understand why Americans always have to make excuses to drink. We laugh back and string lights and curl our hair and make everyone dress to match the theme just because we can. We throw pillows on the floor and pop the corks and keep eating and drinking and laughing and overflow with joy as the doorbell keeps ringing. This is what it is to be 21 and brazen. (Continued )

Departure

I am incredibly daft. Inexplicably and inexcusably blind to my own faults, the reality of my condition and even to what is outside my own window. So when I flip through the archive of my Nook, I can only laugh and shake my head at the stupidity of my former self. I thought I wanted one thing, but it is so glaringly obvious that the opposite was true.

To dwell. To be rooted. To exist in fundamental relation to a place. These are the things in which I have invested my time and my mind and my willpower. I thought I longed to feel a sense of permanence, to say Here I shall cast off my traveler’s sandals and lay my weary head. I sought to transform arbitrary spaces into objectively meaningful places that reflected back at me a sense of reality, whispered this is who you are and it is good.

And I thought I’d done it once. I’d filled a room with weathered furniture and plastered the walls with antique maps, letters that had made me cry, pictures of those I loved, and quotes that had opened my eyes.

The pictures on the wall are redundant, because the people I love are all here, tangled upon my bed eating my dark chocolate and reading poetry upon my rug and spilling red wine across my vanity. And as our light filters out into the graveyard, I am overcome with a crippling stab of preemptive nostalgia for this night which embeds itself inside me like a wound before it is even finished. For I know all too well that this cannot be contained, they are going to spill out across the country and nothing save a wedding or a funeral will gather us together again. So I flounder and grasp at it with all my might and demand everyone look directly into the camera propped precariously upon a stack of my books and smile goddamnit. (Continued )

Imagine our surprise, if you will, when I checked the mail today, only to discover that the first batch of VIII Nothing business cards had arrived! A seemingly mundane day became the best day in recent memory.

Yes, I received fifty beautiful black and white cards this morning. They come in three occupational flavors: “Jerk,” “Insane Loser” and “Philosopher-Slacker”. I will soon be handing them out to reluctant waitresses throughout the city of Austin.

I designed these dumb things in Los Angeles, because everyone there seemed vaguely interested in knowing what I do in my spare time. The answer, of course, was always “VIII Nothing”—and people didn’t really know what that meant. So many dozens of times I had to write the address down on a bar napkin, or whatever, and God knows if any of those people even remembered to keep them. A business card, I felt, would be more likely to be kept and remembered.

John should be receiving his soon. And then the world is really in trouble.

A number of weeks ago we read an essay on McSweeney’s called “Failure Map”. It was written in second-person present. It was weird and funny. It was definitely sad.

We told people about “Failure Map”—told people it was the best thing McSweeney’s had ever published. A few people read it and said, “Yes, you’re right”—or, at the very least, “I enjoyed it”.

So we got in touch with the author, who is called Fielden Nelson. We explained that we loved his writing, and that we wanted him to work with us on VIII Nothing. Mr. Nelson generously submitted two works, one of which we have already published (“A Love Letter to a Horse”). He has told us we have his full support. Good on him.

Your wistfulness is appreciated, Fielden. It makes for some damn good writing. Welcome aboard.

For three days we rode the BART between San Francisco and Oakland, exploring neighborhoods we might one day call our own. We have been inspired by friends and threatened by the homeless. We have wandered these sidewalks before, but not with such purpose.

Today the train brought us farther up the coast to Davis. We took to the roads that circle the glacial waters of Lake Tahoe, and stood at the top of mountains to look across the way.

With the potential realization of a dream dangling in front of our faces, we settle down to stew in our own mental broth for a time. We’ll let it all sink in over the next two days, before we find ourselves “home” once again.