HEAD DOWN EYES CLOSED


I stared at a portrait of an artist whose concert tickets I purchased. It was well-structured, moody but not self-indulgent. I forgot about the hours that I’ve spent staring at a certain lens that I want to buy for my own photography. Who cares about the technology? (Oh, right, those paying photo gigs that require something that’s not purely mood. Let’s not think about those.) Make art. Is it so simple?
            I, for a while, read a lot. And I still do read a lot, but not as much. And I would go to coffee shops, and talk to people about how they know a house is still the same house when you remove a plank and put another one in its place…and they would say “Blake, really, be careful, because you’re getting kinda dark right now.” And a few days later I would come back from the Channel Islands, soaring, and sitting and writing about it, showing them pictures of whales and dolphins and they’d say “cool” and move on. Or, I’d show another person a problem in religious studies; or share a random researcher that studies how people enter into trances; or share a problem of what even is photography? to my photographer friends; opening a book of hermeneutics, which my friend borrowed and never got to; What counts as art? Is it actually so simple?
            And, I swear, it’s not abstract. It’s not wholly abstract. Or, if this type of stuff is abstract, there’s nothing wrong with that. I get self-conscious. Because somewhere, I think, a bunch of people have bought into this conception of “real life” where you just get on with things, head-down-eyes-closed type of deal, or something, I’m not sure.
            All I know is that I type things in ALL CAPS more often now. I get nervous talking to people. But I also try to figure out because
            I went on a date for one night. Midnight hopping Long Beach gay bars, a guy dumping trauma, me getting drunk enough swirling on a stool with him in my arms, faces pressed, he further back into my arms…
            Pulling out his phone to arm the digital jukebox, standing speaking to the man, the group, the crowd in line for the jukebox, while I swirl on the seat, fiddling with ice, and he talks and talks and talks about horror movies. I chew the ice.
            And we’re with group at another table—suddenly, I hug a stranger who dresses hair next to a coffee shop I go to, before starting off towards the bathroom and my date follows. But I wash hands and leave. We sit in the back alley, talking to strangers, before walking through the bar, empty now, towards the door, waiting for an Uber to drop me off. I leave, home.
            And I get texts throughout the day (apologies for the spam!, he says). Am I the bad guy for responding slowly? And no, I can’t go to a standup show, no I can’t hang out this weekend, no I am not ghosting you I’m busy, but no, by now, no, I'm thinking we might not be the best fit for each other; oh, no, really, I do not want to go on another date, no I do not want you to ask me out again—I will say no; no, I am sure, no please don’t call me, no no no. Sorry. "You dodged a bullet," my friend said.
            But now I’m cut off. I'm fine to be a bit more abstract. A stranger's no traded for a certain yes. And I will, soon, take a photo like that artist’s portrait, if only to point to a head-up-eyes-open “real life.”