Exposition : 24.10–22.11.2020
All of the leaves on every gingko tree in New York City fall on the same night. Every year, I take cold late-night walks to try to catch the shedding. Every year, I miss it. This morning, I woke to find the streets already carpeted by the golden fans. I’m turning ninety-nine this year. It seems increasingly unlikely that I will ever witness the ginkgo leaf drop. Back in 2035, after the decades of escalating climate distress, the two-hundred-million year-old ginkgo biloba species went extinct in the wild, but somehow, miraculously, continued to survive in our city. Although some complain about the putrid, rotting odor of the fruit dropped by female trees in the autumn, I don’t mind. They are my favorite trees. We have both lived through so much. I am not very nostalgic about the past but I also don’t avoid talking about it like some of the other elders. I am grateful to be old today. It was much harder and lonelier for elders when I was a child. I used to visit my grandmother in her apartment on the thirtieth floor of a skyscraper that only the elderly lived in. It was the sole tall building for miles, right next to the highway. I still think about her: alone in her chair, crouched over, terrible posture like mine, a fragile old woman perched amidst the clouds. Each time I visited, I would go down to the brightly lit, overpriced convenience store in the basement of her building to pick up the inedible packaged caramels that she liked. Everything there cost double what it would at another store. We turned that tall building into a vertical greenhouse. We felt like we were living through the end times. And we blamed the generations that came before us for the perpetual crisis in which we found ourselves. My neighbors bickered yesterday when one of them refused to take home any of the romanescos grown in this year’s harvest. Conflicts still arise. Our fragile egos have endured so much change: we have long repressed the miserliness that we practiced in order to survive in our former society and we still don’t always know how to handle the surplus in our current one. So my neighbors accuse one another of being overly selfless by not taking more than their share of the bountiful harvest. No one wants to waste. I’m falling into my old ways of thinking. I spent my youth participating in weekly therapy sessions and still draw on psychoanalytic tools even though that is now so dated. I look for underlying motives, repressed wounds, attachment styles, all of the concepts explained to me week after week by a middle-aged brunette woman whose profession was to opine on my inner life or, oftentimes, to just sit in silence while I talked about it. I never found out anything about her own life but I always looked for clues. We endowed our therapists with endless authority; the power to help us understand ourselves and shape our decisions. A friend of mine moved in with his therapist. Another friend of ours, also a psychoanalyst, was appalled. Personally I just envied the presumably perfect psyche of my friend whose therapist had chosen him as a roommate. In any case, our rents were too expensive to justify outrage about the ethics of this type of cohabitation configuration. I briefly considered becoming a therapist myself but couldn’t afford the schooling. In order to be certified, you had to be able to pay for the expensive degree. A select few received financial awards to cover the costs, as though the small symbolic gesture of a handful of scholarships could alleviate the deeper inequalities of our society. In my twenties, I got into a driving accident with my then-girlfriend. She was a terrible driver; anxious and always out of sync with the speed of surrounding cars. We both had bruises, visible cuts, bone fractures. And yet I begged the ambulance drivers to not take us to the hospital. My medical costs were covered by the insurance plan paid for by my employer but we spent over a year soliciting small contributions from friends and family to cover my girlfriend’s hospital bills. We often relied on collective networks to meet our needs. I am surprised by the things that I do miss. I remember the warm, stale breeze just before the metro-plane arrived—our overcrow- ded, inefficient, and polluting system of mass aviation transit. One evening, my vehicle broke down above the Manhattan Bridge, suspended over the river for five hours, panic mounting amongst the passengers while the sky rewarded our patience with a radi- ant sunset. Although we relied on our mass transit systems, each ride was expensive, so those of us with unlimited monthly met- rocards often swiped in fellow riders on the way out. For years I kept one of my plastic metrocards. A yellow and blue artifact of my younger life. The production of plastic is, of course, long discontinued and most of those alive today do not know what the material looks like beyond the tiny, compact ping-pong ball into which much of the world’s existing plastic has been compressed. The ball is held, with all other objects of historic significance, in our collective possession, accessible for all to study and understand the society from which we came. Each year, any recently contributed plastics are added to it. I sent in my own little metrocard over a decade ago.
Another Time, Clémence White, 2020