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At the college level, at least, an instructor/professor should teach in a manner that interests him/her, thereby revealing a genuine excitement that may entice that fabled one or two student(s) whom we are told to inspire.
Teaching literature/composition in Mississippi: there are few more fruitless endeavors in the history of mankind, save trying to keep neocons honest about war and prompting minorities to be open about their desire for power and encouraging body-positive feminists to lose weight. (Hot damn–I have been apolitical on my blog for far too long! For my new readers, you may thing that I am a romantic wreck. Nah–I am merely a moody asshole who likes words, a more verbose Heathcliff.)
Whenever I discuss Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado,” I pair that lesson with a reading from madman D. H. Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature:
The lust of hate is the inordinate desire to consume and unspeakably possess the soul of the hated one, just as the lust of love is the desire to possess, or to be possessed by, the beloved, utterly. But in either case the result is the dissolution of both souls, each losing itself in transgressing its own bounds.
Montresor became possessed, through hatred, by Fortunato and his unspecified insults. The end result (apart from an act of murder by entombment) strongly resembles that of love: the objectified person is continuously on one’s mind, and one finds himself/herself making choices–for life or for death–based upon another. Thus, I warn my students to not only be careful of whom they love but to take care of whom they hate.
The opposite of love is not hatred. No, the opposite of love is indifference. I would much rather be hated, for example, by an ex-lover than forgotten and ignored.
One of my favorite bands in college was an alt-country band before the moniker became too heavily trafficked. The lead singer evokes Patty Cline, a singer to whom my late Maw-maw (RIP–2017) introduced me. I wrote about them years ago, but I am feeling this one song today; this is from the album Gentle Creatures. If only this band had gotten the chance it deserved….
Let us make a pact to keep their music alive.
Tell me it’s not so, tell me a lie,
Say you won’t go, say you won’t say goodbye.
Tell me forever and that times they don’t change.
Say you’re not leaving and that you’ll always feel the same.
One smile for the last time, one smile for today,
One smile that the darkness has taken away,
But your smile’s just a memory that won’t go away,
And I’ll always remember your smile today,
And I’ll always remember your smile for today.
Here is another grad school writing exercise that I have come across recently. I wrote this for a creative writing class. If it is not obvious, I was reading a lot of Walker Percy at the time. My style has changed somewhat (not quite as wordy, for example), but, for the most part, the way that I write now is the way that I wrote ten years ago.
Interesting back story: this is somewhat based on a true story. Right before I left for my second go-round at grad school, as I was finishing my last week working at the local library and walking downtown for lunch, I happened to view this young woman working in an office with a curbside window. I was smitten by her beauty. The next day, without any intention to meet her, I tapped on her window, pointed at her, and leaned a bouquet of flowers against the window. I still remember the huge, vivacious smile that she flashed.
After I left for grad school, she would contact me via MySpace (yep, those were the days). One of her coworkers had seen me and knew, loosely, who I was and gave her my name. This flower girl, who was from Portland and staying with her parents only for the summer, and I would go on, alas, not to date, but to build a friendship that I wish had not ended the silly way it did–if for no other reason than the charming way it began.
I followed my heart, and it led me to Portland, Oregon, on a Wednesday afternoon.
If I were writing a love story, that is how I would begin it. That is how it began with me, or, rather, that is how it led to this: selling vegan hot dogs from a cart in the morning and working at a bicycle repair shop in the afternoons. How has this happened? Let us review: the heart.
The heart. Granted the heart is hardly a reliable guide, but a guy could choose a far more arbitrary way of settling his affairs and making decisions that will irrevocably alter the ontological-heartsick status of a young man in a buzzing, flat-earth, global sort of community—a community where one can no longer find a dictionary that contains entries for words such as ontological (no real belief in metaphysics) or heartsick (no impressive belief in love)—than by choosing to act based upon the days of the week. I had to muster the foresight that would guarantee that, notwithstanding whatever day I left Meridian, Mississippi, I would conclude my travels in Portland on Wednesday, preferably in the afternoon not to appear too eager and without a modicum of tact. I could not arrive on a Sunday because Sunday is now a hollow shell of a day. Occasionally one can catch a glimpse, usually in one’s peripheral vision—the particular vision that is mainly employed to detect devious sneak attacks on one’s person as well as to pursue the fleeting evocation produced by things and people that one cannot see through direct viewing—of the sway that Sunday used to have over the religious imagination. As it now stands, Sunday is the most efficient day to go to Walmart. Monday would not work for me either. I usually spend the bulk of Monday anxiously running my fingers through my hair as I contemplate the horrors and frustrations that the following week will thrust toward me. Tuesday. Well, I oppose Tuesday on aesthetic grounds; it sounds far too close to “toot-toot,” an expression that I hate. Wednesday is the first feasible day. Plus, by the time I finally get around to thinking about it, the week is already halfway complete. It had to be Wednesday.
I first noticed Lindsey Sharp when I went to Fran’s Flower Shop on 23rd Avenue to buy a Gerber daisy. I do not really remember why I wanted to buy a Gerber, and, besides, it really is not anyone’s business. Lindsey was working behind the counter; as I recall, she was stringing together a bunch of freshly cut roses. I walked up to her and told her that, with all due respect, I have never really liked roses. She did not miss a beat or even look up at me, but with a pithy rapidity that tempted me initially to speculate that she might be one of Meridian’s few Jewish daughters, she responded, “Most women don’t either, yet chocolate usually accompanies roses, so we don’t voice our objections.” Now I remember why I wanted a Gerber! I told her that I needed a Gerber daisy because I was hoping to come across a pretty girl; that is, the kind of girl that still appreciates random flowers from random guys. She told me that she is one of those girls, so I brought one and then gave it to her.
“Well, now that I’ve gone through all the formalities, how about having coffee with me? You can bring the flower if you want.” I focused on the flower hoping that it would speak for her: Gerber daisies strike me as yes flowers.
“Sure. How about Midtown at 7:30?” She focused on me.
We had coffee later that night.
Lindsey, who caused me to realize the great unpleasantness that airlines and interstates have produced by alerting me to the frustrating fact a that an attractive woman could live more than two thousand miles away from me in Portland, was only visiting Meridian for the summer. Her aunt owned Fran’s, and she let Lindsey stay with her and work in the flower shop every summer. It was already the second week in August when I first met Lindsey, and she would be leaving in a few days. For Lindsey, so different is Mississippi from Oregon, her annual stay in Meridian was comparable to a work-abroad program that requires a passport and a sense of daring. She viewed passing her summers in Meridian as a sociological experiment. People like her usually nauseate me, but her odd sense of humor, her pretty feet with long toes, and the way she would grab handfuls of her dark hair and breathe on it whenever I talked to her all proved to be rather effective in the fight against Mason-Dixon nausea.
After coffee that first evening, I convinced Lindsey to come back to my apartment with the promise of homemade red curry. Culinary temptations may, after all is said and done, prove to be the surest road to damnation. After all, it is much easier to lose interest in sex than it is in a good bowl of red curry. The desire to engage in sexual antics is usually predicated upon a satisfied palate and a satiated stomach. The curry did not turn out as I had exaggerated that it would, and we ate mostly mint juleps, as it is rather difficult to screw up bourbon, sugar, and mint. After consuming a fifth of bourbon, we lay in my bed. She was the ideal sleeping partner: she did not snore and the she rested her head on my chest the entire night. At one point our breathing fell into the same rhythm—that is, the rise and fall of our chests correlated in a way that could be compared to the movements of synchronized swimmers—and I wondered if this were the closest two people could physically come to sharing in the essence of life, the very breath of existence that broods over the waters.
My God! Am I that damn lonely that I will cling to anyone with whom I am able to form even the faintest connection? Are we all that lonely that the promise of conversation and a bowl of curry is sufficient to persuade us to alter our sleeping arrangements for the evening or for the rest of our lives? What would have been considered a pathetic display of indiscretion when my parents were dating is now viewed as an acceptable but perhaps lamentable grasp for that which now evades everyone. The ghosts of intimacy still haunt our collective yearnings, yet we lack any substantial idea as to the shape of the bodies from which the spirits have been evicted. Yet, that was exactly what I was doing with Lindsey—chasing a ghost. That night, as I traced her sculpted eyebrows and the contours of her cheeks and chin with my finger, I was mocked by the fragile nature of love and the fleeting moments of beauty and the realization that nothing in this life is sustainable. As soon as two people fall asleep together and begin to partake in a somnambulistic form of communion, one of them will awake and break the spell by reentering into a reality where things and people and relationships fall apart. I knew all too well that, more than likely, we would wake up, share an obligatory cup of coffee and an even more obligatory exchange of promises to call each another.
Lindsey called the next day, and, after that, we spent part of every day that she had left in Meridian together. She often spent the night at my apartment, but I never pushed her to have sex with me. Consequently, we never had sex. My friends could not comprehend how we could sleep together in the same bed in various stages of dress and undress and not have sex. Perhaps it was the twelve years of Catholic schooling and the looming fear of mortal sin and the Final Judgment or the fact that I could not bring myself to buy a box of condoms, but, for whatever reasons spiritual or material, we did not have sex. No, in reality, it was all of the aforementioned reasons but also something far beyond them. Had we slept together, it would have only contributed to the derision that I found to be inherent in every moment that I spent with her. Every moment with her reminded me that molecules were taking their leave from our bodies and were exiting themselves into the ether between being and non-being, her lips and mine. Try as I might to contain and preserve every instant we were together, I could not conserve any amount of energy; thus, I could not stop the relentless deterioration of our bodies, and while our bodies continued their march toward degeneration and the separation of all things, our souls—the animating essence of who we claimed to be—had yet to find a point of connection. Believe me, it is not that I did not want to lay her down or did not spend most of my waking hours thinking about it and her and it with her, but I just could not do it. Having sex with her would have only heightened the awareness that any and all sensual experiences—a chili dog, a Chopin prelude, a Saints’ football game, an orgasm, a hot toddy, or a French New Wave film— are limited and cannot encompass everything and, thus, have a clear beginning and end and will eventually leave the participant lonely and alone.
“I could come back with you to Portland.” We had snuck into Okatibbee Reservoir after hours and were seated at one the picnic tables. I tightly gripped my Mag-Lite, fearing what Lindsey might say or that I might have to use it to repel any would-be rapists lurking in the area or both.
“What are you talking about? Where would you live? You couldn’t live me, you know. What about a job?” Lindsey’s eyes darting from me to summer night moist. Probably also watching for would-be rapists.
“I didn’t mean to presume that I would live with you….I could find a place. And as far as a job goes, I can wait tables just as easily in Portland as I can in Meridian, right?” I quickly looked behind me, believing that I just heard either a raccoon or a rapist.
“Casey, listen to yourself. Your family is here; you were raised here. Every time I talk about Portland, you roll your eyes. I really don’t think that you would like it there. Anyway, I thought that you were adamant about going to Southern Mississippi to pursue a master’s in philosophy? I mean, come on, you seem to have a real knack for that stuff.” Lindsey plopped her hand on top of mine. Her hand felt surprising fleshy for such a skinny hand.
“I roll my eyes only because you talk about Portland all the time. If I lived in Portland with you, I would be there in Portland, so there wouldn’t be a need to talk about Portland, Portland, Portland. Besides, Portland has philosophy. Portland philosophy.” My litany of Portland’s justified sandwiching her hand between both of my hands.
“Casey, do you think that anything we’ve done justifies this kind of thinking? I mean, you’re a great guy and I like you and everything, but….” She removed her hand—leaving me with a sandwich with only the bread.
“Everything? If ‘everything’ were involved then there wouldn’t be a need for this discussion because everything would be settled, right? I guess that I’ve jumped the gun, Lindsey….” I jammed my hands into my pockets.
“Yes?” She responded to a question that I had not yet asked, so I asked one to keep her from embarrassment.
“Are we still strangers?” I started to drag my pointer finger across the table.
“No! What do you mean? Maybe. What do you mean?” She started to drill into the table with her finger.
“The first night that we spent together, we didn’t really know each other, but it was that night that I became convinced that I wanted to be with you.” Our fingers met.
Despite Lindsey’s protests, I decided to follow her to Portland. I projected that I would need six days to travel from Meridian to Portland, and because I wanted to arrive on a Wednesday, I left Friday morning. I traveled on I-20 until it turned into I-10 that turned into I-8 and finally I-5. I-5 would take me right into Portland. Because I was an entire day ahead of my allotted schedule, I passed nearly an entire day in Eugene, Oregon. I passed most of the time talking with a communitarian-neoluddite-anarchist in a coffee shop, because, quite frankly, I thought it would give me a story to tell Lindsey. The only thing that I would not tell Lindsey would be how attractive I found the anarchist.
“Theodore was absolutely right: we will not know freedom until the industrial system along with its concomitant technocratic domination is reformed. He was correct in that the system is hopelessly beyond reformation.” I admit: she had a great rack.
“Theodore! Like you know him? Please…So, do you think, then, that we should just go around bombing people who stand in the way of this freedom? Freedom to do what?” I think that I directed my questions to her breasts. She was not wearing a bra, like a true anarchist.
“Freedom to be fully human! And why not call him ‘Theodore’? That’s his name. Besides, ‘Unabomber’ is such a pejorative name. And, hey, fuckface, why not look at my face for once?” Damn anarchist.
She went on and on about the bravery and fortitude of the Unabomber and about how she had become a pen pal to the Unabomber, but when she discovered that I had voted for Bob Dole—rightly or wrongly, I must admit—in my first presidential race, she left in a huff. That was fine; she smelt funny anyway. Nice rack, though. In summary, I drove from Mississippi to Oregon and traversed the five states in between, but I will not elaborate regarding any of my experiences because they all remind me of Lindsey, and I really do not want to talk about her more than I must for the sake of this story.
I do not think that Lindsey thought that I would follow through with my plan to follow her to Portland. Because we exchanged addresses to send Christmas postcards to each other, I was able to find her apartment with the assistance of Mapquest.com. It was Wednesday, and Lindsey had been in Portland for nearly a month. During that month we talked a few times over the phone and sent each other the sporadic email or text message, but I could not help but get the impression that every time that I called her there was somebody else listening to our conversation. At first, I thought that I was being silly and, even now, I still think that I was being silly, but I just could not shake the feeling that there was an intruding presence that had worked its way into our formerly dyadic relationship. Silly or not, I would arrive at her doorstep and tell her that she was only one with whom I had ever shared a true intimacy, and that there was no way possible for us to still be strangers. Every moment that we shared we baptized with the promise of new life—a life that would be understood only by us. We would create a world that would exclude everybody else, thereby making us the only two people remaining. We would have no choice but to know and love each other; there would be no room for awkwardness, or there would be all the room in the world. Either way, the world would be ours, and we would recreate everything and rename all the animals and plants and rewrite all the words in the dictionaries, so, wherever one looked, one would see the proof that we knew and loved each other.
A flower shop happened to be located near Lindsey’s apartment, so I purchased a Gerber daisy and headed toward her apartment. Her apartment was ground level and her window blinds were drawn, so I decided that I would crawl until I reached her window, and then I would charmingly rise with a Gerber daisy in my hand as I thrusted it to her and to the constellations that we would rearrange better to suit our tastes. I placed the daisy in my mouth and went down on all fours and started to crawl toward the window. Before I could get to her window, Lindsey walked out with a man more beautiful than I could ever be, even if I were recreated in Heaven.
“What the hell are you doing here, Casey? And why the fuck are you on the ground creeping around like a peeping tom?” Lindsey clamped on even more tightly to Mr. Beautiful.
“Lindsey, this is for you,” I said as I stood up and handed her the daisy that she refused to take from me. “I want to be with you. You are the only person that I have ever felt close to. I have come to live in Portland so that I can be close to you.” I briefly examined the ferocity of the musculature of Mr. Beautiful’s forearms as he started to clench his fists.
“I don’t believe you, Casey! I told you not to move here. Whatever happened in Meridian was only for Meridian. It doesn’t apply here. Listen, Casey, I’m really creeped out right now.” Mr. Beautiful directed Lindsey behind him for protection. Yeah, protection from a guy holding a Gerber daisy.
“Lindsey, I thought that you…,” I tried to project beyond Mr. Beautiful to Lindsey.
“No, that’s your problem! You didn’t think about this, or you thought too much about it and projected your own silly fantasies on everything!” Lindsey grabbed Mr. Beautiful’s shoulders as if she were going to faint.
“Lindsey, who’s the guy standing next to you? Has he been listening to our telephone conversations?” Mr. Beautiful flashed a perfect white smile as if he were glad that I finally had acknowledged his presence.
“What the hell are you talking about? Not that you deserve to know, but this is Randy. We’re dating, okay?” Correction: Mr. Beautiful was not perfect. He had the stupidest, most smug “Aren’t I Lucky?” shit-eating grin that I had seen this side of 50s television.
“But, Lindsey, I thought that we….I mean, we used to sleep….Umm….I….For God’s sake, I’m selling vegan hot dogs and working in bike shop just to afford a shitty little foxhole in this city.” For some reason, my hand made a hot dog holding grip.
“Casey, I hardly even know you, got it? It was a fun summer fling–that’s all.” Lindsey and Randy started to walk away from me. I was still holding onto the air-vegan hot dog.
“But we’re not strangers, we’re not strangers….” I threw it to the ground.
I am now writing this love story. I am still in Portland, like I mentioned earlier, selling vegan hot dogs from a cart and working in a bicycle repair shop. Occasionally, I see Lindsey.
As strange as it may sound, I now feel closer to—more connected to—Lindsey than I ever did while I was with her in Meridian. I have not talked to her since that Wednesday she found me crawling on my hands and knees. I really want to talk to her, but I figure that Randy’s presence encourages Lindsey to forget that she and I once knew each other. Then again, maybe we never really knew each other. Perhaps we were both grasping at something that we could not quite define or explain, something that lay just beyond our reach, but, in the process and for the meantime, we discovered that we—two lonely but warm people—were within reach of each other. Even though I work two jobs, I often lack the money to eat. Soup kitchens are everywhere, however, so I am usually able to eat at least one meal a day. Every now and then, though, when I make enough money to both pay rent and eat, I will take the remaining money and buy Gerber daisies. I must confess, Portland does not have as many pretty women as Mississippi, but the ones whom I discover, I offer to them Gerber daisies. Granted, the random women to whom I give my hard-earned daisies are strangers, but I have accepted this non-relationship state of being. Maybe we are all strangers passing by other strangers. Occasionally, in my peripheral vision, I think that I see somebody whom I know and who knows me in this stranger city, but, as soon as I turn around to look, that person has vanished. Perhaps the truest things—the things that last—can only be seen out of the corner of one’s eye.
Ten years ago around this steamy time of year, I was engaged.
Unless I really dig deeply in the fecund soil of pettiness, I cannot say anything bad about her. (In fact, all I can say is that I regret how I treated you and how I ended our relationship. Any present relational sufferings are a well-deserved penance for my past thoughtlessness.) Our relationship was simply–if simply can ever be applied to a relationship–one that should never have happened in the first place, but once it did, neither one of us wanted to let go.
We, eventually, let go.
I found this poem that I wrote about a fight that we once had in her kitchen when, for whatever reason, I started to throw perfectly good eggs into the sink. I unleashed my anger in a manner that could then be easily cleaned.
Though my primary focus is now prose, my earliest writing aspirations were poetry.
What I Think as I Watch You Apply Makeup
Throwing six eggs into the sink—at that time—
Seemed like an acceptable form of anger management.
You wondered that if I would chuck chicken plasma at steel,
What might be other targets: you, the cat, any peaceful morning?
Platonic paradigms reveal themselves as unwieldy,
Clanging against each rung on the ladder of love.
Another time you asked what I was thinking—
Dare I explain: a disordered love, the passions, and the appetites?
Metaphysics, the theological virtues, and the nape of your neck;
Reject any divinity that refuses to incarnate itself.
A lingering hope prevents me from confessing that I will never be
A founding myth, an oft-told romantic tale, or a breathing sonnet.
Yet, Odysseus rejected Calypso and her offer of immortality
For his wife, Penelope, and their bed built from a still-living tree.
Likewise, frustrating you as I cultivate the habit of failing,
I reject Euclidean symmetry in order to tangle myself up with you.
One frustration in dating a writer may be that while that person may often be unable/unwilling to vocalize his/her thoughts in conversation, he/she will have little difficulty/compunction publishing them for the world to read. Even more frustrating, perhaps to someone who puts oneself through the drama of dating a writer, is coming across a piece that was never meant for one to read.
When I wrote this entry over a year ago, I never thought that my object of inspiration would read it. I never thought that I would ever find the daring mettle to let her know how I felt about her, making it likely that she ever would have a reason to read it. Though a few days prior to composing it, on Fourth of July, I spent a good deal of the night ignoring my friends at our rooftop party and drunkenly texting her. I had very much wanted her to come to our party, but I knew that her parents would never allow this. Instead, she had to accompany them to a firework show at the city lake. From the rooftop I could see those same fireworks, and this made me feel that I was still enjoying them with her. I told her that I wanted to kiss her, and she told me that she wanted me to get off the roof, fearing that I would drunkenly stumble to my death–my city’s own two-bit version of Palinurus. She told me that I needed to forget everything that I had texted her that night the next morning, for my romantic intentions were only alcohol-induced.
When the next morning came hazily, I told her that I had meant what I texted. That exchange is what led to her telling me that I knew her well and that such scared her and that she wanted distance–distance in a relationship that had yet to materialize.
About a month later, when I wrote this entry, I was still reeling from having seen her unexpectedly at a wedding. I wrote this as a way to console myself over the likelihood of never being able to love her from any place closer than an idealized distance. I tried to convince myself that I was better off not ever dating her, for it would end, ultimately, in disappointment for us both.
Not quite a year after composing those romantic ruminations, we happened to see each other at a Mexican restaurant, though both of us pretended not to see the other. I accepted this as a gift–a surprise near-encounter with her in what had become increasingly rare near-encounters. This being said, I was very surprised when she texted me a few days later to ask how I was doing. She would later tell me that the reason why she had reached out to me was that the night before we saw each other, she had dreamt that I was in her bed with her and the she had to hide me from her mom. This text renewed our communication.
A year later to the day that she told me she needed space, I would get uproariously drunk at a bar, get slapped in the face by a woman with her cell phone, and take part in a series of unfortunate events that would result in three people getting banned (not me, unfairly). The next day, hungover and disgusted with myself at a coffee shop, I started texting her with no inhibitions. I told her that sometimes I wish that I had never met her because ever since having met her, she has haunted me. Not really thinking this would lead anywhere, she responded that she liked me too, but was not looking for a relationship and did not want anything to proceed too quickly. I completely taken aback by this revelation. (I also complimented her breasts–a compliment that both offended and pleased her.)
This emboldened me to start asking her out again. I did. We had coffee at the same place that we had, up until this point, our only coffee date two years prior. We went out the next day to the local Thai place where I used to work. I quickly grabbed her hand to gauge her reaction. She did not flinch or pull away. I saw her soft, luminescent eyes water as I told her that I was the mystery faculty member who had offered to pay for a ticket back to her home country two years ago when she had feared for her grandmother’s health. Her eyes watered again as she recounted the way her mother has emotionally manipulated her. I revealed that I had a blog and that I had written about her. She demanded to know. She read “The Entrance of Suffering” and responded by telling me that I was one of the greatest people she had ever met and one of the best writers, too. That weekend I texted her, telling her that the next time I saw her, I wanted to scratch her head. She replied that she loved having her head scratched. I took that as an invitation, and the next time we met, we initiated a relationship–despite the seventeen year age difference–in which we would not stop touching and caressing and holding each other until the bitter end.
The seven weeks that followed were a dreamy blur of encounters during which we met secretly to avoid raising the suspicions of her mother, she had tea while I had drank sterner stuff, we made love–both softly and vigorously, we laughed while lying in each other’s arms, we ran in the rain, I would often pick up her lithe figure and throw her over my shoulder, and we talked late into the night. Given that I had fantasized for so long about this, the actual experience of dating her was never too far removed its more fantastical feel–and that may have been what led to its downfall.
As with anything too good to believe, if there is a possibility that it may happen, one struggles to enjoy it day by day because one fears losing what one never thought would happen in the first place.
Perhaps I acted in a needy manner, wanting from her signs and comments, affirming what we had to reassure me that we would not lose it. I, not able to keep my doubts to myself, would write idiotic and regrettable posts like this and then tell her to read it. Who can blame a woman for not wanting to be with a man who is not able to believe in himself or others? A man needs to be the rock in a relationship, but I was only a shattered one at best.
The very fears that I expressed to her–that she was with me only for the experience of dating an older man and that she still needed to grow and explore–were reasons that she would recycle and tell me when she decided that she needed to end the relationship. I confided in her that my fear was that because she still did not know who she was because of her mother’s strangling control, that she would not be content in a relationship until she had lived more of her life independently. As served me right, the last time we talked (after the break-up) this is what she said. For her, more important than anything we shared and still could, is finding out who she is–something that she assured me she must do without me. Though I think that she genuinely has these concerns, I cannot but wonder to what degree I helped feed and foster these fears.
The day before it ended is the day that I will strive to hold at a distance, only because I do not want the dulling effects of reality to reduce it to merely another day, robbing me of what little remains as a testament to our relationship.
I got home a little later than usual from work because of a “strategic planning committee” meeting, only to find her in my bed–I had given her a key to my apartment. Amusingly, I noticed her shoes on the floor before I noticed her. I retrieved my copy of The Little Prince that had been lying on the kitchen window sill and asked her if she remembered the interaction between the Little Prince and the fox. She responded, “Of course–that is only best part of the book.” I read to her what the fox said about having once been tamed by the Prince, the wheat fields which currently meant nothing to him, would forever remind him of the golden hair of the Prince. We then made love. Sensing that this may have been destined to be our last time, I put every bit of my body and soul into this act, leaving us both sore and exhausted after our forty minute romp. Lying my head across her beautiful breasts, I admitted that I saw her in my future. Tellingly, there was no response from her, but her eyes started to water–I thought that was the answer, and a good one. As we left my apartment, I threw her against the hall wall and told her that I loved her, and she responded that she loved me, too. As we got into my car, the Nick Cave song to which I had been listening the last time I had driven started to play–the perfect song…at the perfect moment:
And I wish that I was made of stone
So that I would not have to see
A beauty impossible to define
A beauty impossible to believe
A beauty impossible to endure….
After dropping her off at her car, we happened to stop at the same light. I motioned for her to roll down her window, hopped out of my care while waving at the traffic behind us, and and leaned into her car and kissed her in the street. She laughingly screamed, “You’re crazy!” She was fond of telling me that.
If only that had been our last day together. If one of us had disappeared, as emotionally selfish as it may be for me to say this, at least the other could treasure that day without necessarily having to pair it to its bipolar twin. However, neither one of us did disappear. The next morning she texted me that she had had another dream about me–this time we were in a cave together back in her home country, and she was once again trying to hide me from her mom. I told her that she had to make a choice: either me or her mom. I flippantly told her that I liked that dream; she did not. She told me that it was difficult enough having to consider this dilemma in real life; she now had to dream about it. When she came over that afternoon, I knew that there was something on her mind. She said that she wanted to discuss her dream. As I held her, I asked her to tell me what she was having difficulty saying. She said that she felt that she was complicating my life and that she felt that she needed to remove herself from it. She then restated the fears that I had delivered to her earlier in the week. Stunned into a motionless silence, I struggled to push her away from me and to tell her that she needed to leave. She tried to get me to punish her verbally to assuage her guilt; I told her that I would not play into that dynamic. She said that I knew her too well. She implored me to say something cruel to her; to that I responded that I would have married her in moment’s notice and would have gone anywhere in the world with her. Her eyes watered once again. She ran out of my apartment, repeating, “Don’t hate me.”
Hurt, that ensuing weekend I lashed out by sending her a few texts in which I called her heartless, expressed that I felt our relationship had been fake, and indicated that I only wasted her time. This angered her–and that was exactly what I wanted to do. Two weeks later, I would convince her to allow us to FaceTime (yes, just used that as a verb) each other. I explained to her that I did not mean what I had said in those texts–but that I meant everything I had said in our relationship, namely that I did love her and that I would have married her. I asked if we could try again, but she was insistent that she needed still to grow and make mistakes–and that she could not do that with me. She said that if we remained together she would grow only to resent me like she does her mother. If that is what she truly thinks, then there is nothing that I can do but to let her go; no healthy relationship can be sustained through rational argumentation. The heart uses logic only after it has decided for itself. She also added that, for as well I do know her, in many ways I do not know who she is–and she is right. Perhaps this entire time I have made her into an ideal as opposed to looking at her for who she truly is; she became an ideal whom I was able to hold briefly.
Just given the number of “chance” encounters that we have had and times that, out of the communicative blue, we have contacted each other, I do think that we will eventually talk to each other again. One charming event in our relationship: On August 5th, 2017, I saw her at the wedding where it was too awkward for either one of us to speak to each other; exactly a year later; August 5th, 2018, we met at the coffee shop where it began (or was renewed). Being the Taurus that she is, she is enamored of the moon. I gave her a picture of the moon. What a difference a year made. Who is to say what another year will bring.
This being said, I have already begun to dread any immediate encounters. Though we do not run in the same social circles, our city is too small not hear about each other, not to see each other. I have already begun to feel the sting of seeing her with another guy. Granted, I truly do believe that she wants to stay single for a while to live more freely than she has been allowed to live, but curious how meeting a new person–or re-meeting a familiar one–can cause us to forget quickly our self-appointed goals.
I do not know if she still plans to read my blog. Yes, I want her to continue reading, revealing that she is not able completely to abandon me. However, I also want to think that this break-up has been as painful for her as it has been for me so that she needs to cuts ties completely in order to heal.
As much as I presently identify with the Nick Cave song quoted earlier, I am thankful that I am not made of stone. Having to wake from this dream has been more painful than I imagined it ever could be. I nourished this specific dream for years, only allowing it to build in intensity, encouraging it to become a guide–one that could inspire me, even though I never believed I would ever see it in the flesh. To have it, then, assume bodily form only to be taken from me has made it a cruel tease of circumstance. As my friends have told me, I need to be grateful for the time spent together, especially as not many thirty-nine year old men can claim a similar experience with a beautiful, charming twenty-two year old Eastern European. However, I do not want to reduce our time together to one experience among others, as transcendent as it is among its sublunary peers. The last time that we talked, I told her that I do not regret the time that we shared together even though, in retrospect, it allowed me to hope beyond what was reasonable. Yes, I am thankful that I am not made of stone, for I will always then be able to treasure what we shared–even if it is a beauty impossible to define. Such a mission will allow to me no end of opportunities to attempt the impossible–like holding an ideal, and perhaps seeing her eyes water one more time.
As a dreamy teen, I probably had four or five Harley shirts. I would watch my the-official-history-of-the-Harley-Davidson-Motorcycle VHS cassette religiously. I even had a leather jacket and would put Vaseline in my foppish hair to style it into a pompadour. I was never not listening to early Sun Studios Elvis or other rockabilly troopers. Old habits of the heart die hard.
As I approach a milestone birthday next month, I have decided to do what I have wanted to do most of my life: learn to ride a motorcycle. I have signed up for a three-day seminar, and come my birthday, I think that I may treat myself to a Hog. Though Mississippi drivers are in love with death and may be among the worst in the nation (according to my non-scientific, emotionally-based study), I look forward to riding the highways (the more desolate, the better), eating bugs, stopping to take photos of places that remind me of the futility of effort or of love lost (sigh–redundant), and finding abandoned places outside city lights that allow me to chart the stars with a flask of bourbon.
Of course, you, my dear readers, will be invited to join me. I plan to post what I discover–and, as an amateur semiotician, I will claim that there are signs everywhere, just waiting to be recognized, named, and processed.
Here is to fifteen year old me: