My name is Dexter. I am 27 years old, and I am drinking tea in the early afternoon on a wednesday in my living room. In this precise and unremarkable moment, I am holding a photograph in my mind of a young girl sleeping on a couch with a radio on the table next to her, I am typing this sentence, and I am listening to a record. Time is passing but I do not feel like time is passing and sometimes I could almost believe that it does not exist. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe I am still young, riding idly in the passenger seat of Eddie Hamels old Buick, smoking stale cigarettes when I was 15. Maybe all the love I’ve felt in my life exists as more than just a plume of smoke, slowly vanishing, leaving only its scent on my clothes. Maybe it’s a small stone, perfect and smooth and clutched in my tightened fist. Maybe it’s both of these things simultaneously and we all get to choose which reality we live inside.
Real time and perceived time couldn’t be less agreeable. Hold your breath for sixty seconds. Call someone you love and talk for sixty seconds. There is a difference, and we have language to describe this phenomenon - “Today flew by”, “Work dragged on forever today.” and for good reason. Time is malleable - a force like gravity, and though we have calibrated it to a standard, even that isn’t consistent outside of our planet. Time distorts, slows down, and eventually stops as you get closer to black holes, speeds up as you get further from gravitational pull, and inside of our minds can cease to exist entirely in moments of pure awareness.
Inside a room, a man sits with a piece of paper and a pencil. He takes one second and divides it in half. He splits it in half again, and again, and again, and this goes on forever in infinite divisibility. In this scenario one second could potentially hold an infinite amount of time inside of it.
Across the street, two teenagers sit in the back seat of a car at dusk, their fingers intertwined, their foreheads pressed together, tiny eternities passing with their every breath. The dawn will come, the sun will rise, the clock will continue to advance in its cold and resolute way, but until observed means very little.
So I am sitting in a chair, in my living room and I’ve finished my tea and started the record over again. I am still 27 years old, albeit several minutes older than I was when I began writing this and the sun is cutting through my drapes and the cats are asleep and I have since lost the photograph in my mind that I held before, and I am thinking of a time when I was younger and I fell asleep in the middle of the day in the bedroom where I grew up in Chicago. It was springtime and I was in high school and I had put on a Brian Eno album that I’d never heard before, and when I woke up there was a breeze and the light and I’d never woken up clean like that before. I walked downstairs and my father had made mussels and I ate them cold at the table with lemon and drank ice water. The memory is the same as the photograph, an instant that moves inside of itself, experienced fully in the blink of an eye just as vividly as if it were happening again right now. I can’t say that it isn’t, though I have observed it and am writing about it, and now it falls victim to interpretation over time and the whole scene changes. Maybe this is what we experience when we live. Maybe we are living in the memory of some perfect flash of light where we lived and died in an instant, set into motion, spinning like tops through a beautiful photograph, trying to keep our balance as long as we can. When we topple over, and surely we all will, maybe we return to a quiet place devoid of time, waiting for another perfect flash of light. A place we never really left.
A Roman philosopher named Lucretius once wrote, “Nature resolves everything into its component atoms, and never reduces anything to nothing.” If this is the case, then death is not the ending of any segment of time. It is only the changing of matter. A physical rearrangement of organic material in three dimensional space. Floating in a mist of atoms that divorce and remarry in constant flux.
When I’m out at night, walking around under the neon white lights feeling like a speck of dust, and it’s just me and the police out moving in big slow circles around the city, and I take the long ways through the alleys and maybe pretend I’m trying not to be found, but maybe it’s not pretend, and I wind up in an underground lot kicking around cigarette butts and I end up at the top of a parking garage blowing around in the wind like a paper bag feeling new and clean, and it’s a couple hours later and I go back home and I sit at my desk and write a few pages about nothing and go to bed, these are the songs I play.
I stole from you. I stole your bobby pins and an old stamp while you were sleeping. I stole a red button from your box. They sit in a pile in my room and they are slowly burying me. Last year I stole an old red piece of string from a bracelet you made and it hangs here limply around my lamp next to my dinner reservations. Things I will save to bury in the garden we plant. Things that will mature in the warm soil. Things that will lay waste to our distance. Things that will lay love to your rough parts and smooth my grating voice. I promise you I won’t steal any more. I promise you I won’t lose your things. You are singing with choirs of tired angels and broken cars humming in my head.
For now, I will live like a brave man. I will live like a long lost love. I will pull my ships from the sea and put them in bottles full of dirt and earth. I will sleep lightly and with purpose. I will touch my arm gently sometimes and pretend it’s you. I will sleep on my side and listen for your breath at my back. I will meet you out there where the cars gently crest the tops of hills and the stars are sparks falling from the sky. Where our bodies will hum steadily next to one another and become dust, I will miss you.
My new record is out today and days like today are always a whirlwind of emotion. I’ve spent years with these songs when they were only mine, and I emptied myself into them. They are all little pieces of my past and present and you know someday you’re going to have to give them up, send them out into the world, but a little part of you wants to put them in a drawer under your copy of Garden of Eden and forget about them for five years and find them when you’re moving across the country and listen to them on the drive and remember the people and the places and the things like they were all just a dream you had on some idle afternoon, sleeping on your parents couch.
On the other hand, you can send them out into the world for other people to put on while they’re out driving at night around the strange quiet of their cities and to put in their headphones after a bad phone call, and hope that they understand you. All we can hope for in life is to be understood completely by another person, even if it’s just for a moment. To be seen like a painting, a slow and complete work of imperfect movements.
So if you’re going to listen, please know that this is all of me. A flawed and destructive mess of good intentions. A still life.
Here’s the full stream for my new record Still Life, which was recorded over the past 3 years and which I have poured my tiny little heart into. I hope you will listen to it on your headphones and keep someone that maybe you miss a lot in your mind while you do. Maybe you will see them soon and I hope that you do. Until then, here’s something to keep you company. I love you. l miss you.