"At present our only true names are nicknames"
—Henry David Thoreau, Walking


It’s funny, when you’re in a moment, you can hardly feel there. And it’s funny how years later it can feel so real. Sure, we are always at present, but

tell that to the scent from the store you’re passing. Next thing you know you’re two blocks past your car because what does that smell remind you of? Oh, shit, yeah! It’s summer vacation in New Hampshire and White Mountain Bagels in the morning and hiking along humming rivers and swimming in biting cold water and family rummy tournaments and dad’s drunk and mom’s laughing at him and there’s no bedtime and every meal’s on the grill but who were you then?

tell it to the classroom door that slams down the hall in just that way your mom used to do when you were still too young to know why. All of a sudden your legs are numb from sitting on the toilet too long but you don’t want to leave the stall because some deep, deep part of your lizard brain feels like hiding under the blankets. You’re not even on a phone or reading Sports Illustrated, you just hear muffled yelling and back and forth stomping and a garage door opening and a car driving down the hill. And whichever parent didn’t storm out this time comes upstairs to comfort you like it’s gonna help at all, but really it’s just the school nurse poking her head in the bathroom to see if you’re ok, like it’s gonna help at all. But who were you, then?

tell it to the diet Pepsi someone spilled on the ground in this cinema that you squished your sneaker through. The sticky residue followed you fifteen feet to your seat and even though it feels like you just sat down you missed the previews cause you‘re back in a frat house basement with too many people listening to music too loud way too late at night to do any good for anyone and your visions fuzzy and your friends are missing and some upperclassman is making a face at you like he wants to fight or fuck or both and you just want to fit in but who were you then?

maybe, just maybe, tell it to the soft smell of incense and the feeling of tea warmth under your chin that brings you right into this place and this room and this moment and ask yourself, who am I now?

—Andy Bernstein