sunday post: picking back up.

by Michael King

I moved to New York City in summer 2018, and I arrived with a laundry list of things to track down. Knife block, reading chair, barber shop, gym, general sense of direction. Life was a fresh page in the open air. I got to write in whatever direction I wanted.

Those early, hopeful days were exhausting and invigorating. One evening, I walked home from The Container Store with two fifty-pound shelves, my arms shaking as I weaved in and out of everybody going everywhere. I arrived home and sprawled myself across the rug, groaning and laughing. What was I doing?

They were lonely days, too. Packing up and starting a new life in your late twenties means sorting out community all over again. I read books in gay bars, wandered the park, met boys for dates, banking on the hopes of stumbling into somebody who felt like home. It was, for some time, a wash.

I began a ritual: On Sunday afternoons, I slung my messenger bag over my shoulder, bid my apartment adieu, and wandered to the closest coffee shop. There, every week, I would write –– write whatever came out, words jumbling out of my fingertips, heart spilling meaning out onto the coffee-stained table.

I called these Sunday posts, and I shared them every week. If it matters to you, I’ve told presentation audiences several dozen times, give it time, energy, and space. Each week, I gave writing the room, and my spirit flourished at the opportunity to commune with itself.

As my first New York winter melted and gave way to spring, I joined a kickball league. We played on Sundays, mimosas and vodka sodas as vital bookends, and my Sunday posts became Saturdays and Wednesdays.

In 2020, the world rocked off its axis, screeching the world around us to an eerie halt. With all the time in the world, I placed my fingers to the keyboard, and nothing would come out. The tap felt dry. The meaning was missing.

So here it is, a Sunday in the back half of 2021, and my laptop is cracked open on the bus ride home.

Time. Energy. Space. Meaning.

It is in writing as it is in love and athletics: Picking back up, after a fall, takes courage and clumsy momentum.

Time and time again, I’ve written about learning to run on wobbly ankles, new skin stinging against the open air. I blame this recurrence on two things: my tendency to stumble while running and my need to find meaning from life’s scrapes.

And love. Well, love has too often been a scrape against rough pavement. The abruptness of its endings, the intoxication of the world soaring underfoot while it thrives. Never are we more conscious of the fabric of our lives than when we are healing; everything (every meal, every laugh, every rise from bed) becomes a deliberate act.

Picking this back up is an act of trusting the world to fall into rhythm again. It is a stone cast in the direction of hope, listening intently in the dark for its landing, hoping for some sound ­–– any sound –– that will resonate.

There is so much I hope you will know. There are so many phrases I hope you will etch into that notebook you carry within you. I hope you will trust the magic we saw together, in those days, that it will light something in you on the dark, hard nights. That you will look in the mirror and believe in your beauty, fully and without caveat. I hope I have not erased every good by stepping out into the night and making my way home alone.

I hope and hope and hope. It spills out of my mouth every time I’m not mindful. I hope, and I hope I can keep my hopes from drowning out what’s here and now.

I’m sorry. I wish my words could do more and I wish I had the wherewithal not to dump them out on the floor like they can.

I hope you will keep love letters until they yellow, and then I hope you will keep on keeping them. I hope you will go on believing that nothing dies, that those melodies go on circling several mountains ago, mountains you can visit. Close your eyes, tap your feet. Remember.

I’m sorry. I hope, and I hope, and I’m sorry.

It seems to come as surprise that I do not cry very easily. Perhaps I seem like a crier, a gentle spirit, a man unafraid of his emotions. But, when I feel the floods of anguish rising and crashing against my sternum, something in me holds those tears back.

I cry the most when I write and run. I write and I run on my own. These are facts, and I don’t think they exist by coincidence.

I am terrified of being alone, but I think I am more afraid of being rejected. I wonder, sometimes, if I have made a terrible habit of packing my things and slipping out because I cannot bear the thought of being ushered out. This worry weighs heavily, solid, in the indigo nighttime. In the gold-soaked morning, I find, it is often nowhere to be found.

I’ve written since I was young, told stories since the moment words found me. Writing is simultaneously an act of letting go and keeping hold. I rearrange words until I think I’ve really said it, the closest thing to what I’m carrying around with me, and then I can be sure I haven’t missed anything.

And yet I go on missing everything and everybody. Building ahead and wondering at the people who didn’t come forward with me. Spilling words across the floorboards and racing to tidy them up. I cry when I write, and I hope, and I’m sorry, and I go on hoping you will know.