|Jan 13, 2017|
In late July, when it felt like the days would be feverish forever and my hair was still so short it took less than a minute to dry, I rode the train up to Beacon, New York. I made a production of it, calling it my own kidnapping, insisting that I go solo, that I was skipping town. I get that way every so often: suddenly solitary, suddenly gamine and wary and mobile, trying to shed my surroundings as a snake sheds its skin. The less of anyone else the better, and any less of me is best, too. On the ride up along the Hudson I watched the river shimmer and tried to capture that coruscating light and, I don’t know, it all blurs. I don’t remember what I was reading that day. Mostly I remember being alone with the overwhelming noise of my own head.
What did I go to see: the Serras, mostly. Unencumbered by someone else’s need that’s one good thing; that you can walk through the spirals at your own pace, watch the progression from light to dark to light, and the world opening to you in the center, always opening at the center, it’s so breathless I wonder if that’s how in spring the rosebud feels. The patina of each so ferrously sweet, bloody even, and what light. I know how this sounds, but remember it with me. Coming in slantways, yellow and gold.
When I was young my family used to say I was a daydreamer, and it’s true that I have trouble making eye contact, that I drop off in the middle of sentences and return to the world dazed, as if emerging from a lake. It’s too easy for me to recede toward some other, brighter land where it never rains. I don’t know the meaning of life, only that I’m alive and we have to be in it. For a while, when I was trying to write a novel, it frustrated me that the arc of a story must be narrative, that you must read left to right and top to bottom and that was why, I understood, so many short stories have such violent ends. But then I understood that time passes. It’s the only thing we can be certain of. It’s like a song you overhear, not a painting, where you can look anywhere—except, I guess, when all is done, and then your eye can rove across the landscape of your memory in whatever way makes sense.
Still, I’m here. I have to be. You’re here, too.
I went to the Guggenheim the other day, trying to be alone again, trying to capture—some feeling—that I could wear to comfort myself in my solitude, like a perfume. If I could do it, and do it well, and do it again, maybe it’d be an antidote to all this unfixed feeling I have, and then I’d be happy, the way I used to sit for hours alone in my studio, painting with latex gloves on my hands. I’d look up when my eyes started to tire, and the sun would have set, and then I’d turn the lights on. You know me well enough by now; I’m just here to look for the story in all this, to find the clear, sparkling line that makes my whole life snap into bright relief and shakes the dreariness out of winter.
After all, if you could be anywhere, why are you here, right now? And why don’t you go? It’s astonishing to me that anyone ever stays put, that we ever manage to fall in love when there are so many other moving things to follow in the world. Have you ever noticed that from the air—from the window of a plane—that the wake of a distant boat looks exactly like a plane in the sky and its contrail? And have you ever noticed that you’ll never know what someone else is thinking, and have you ever noticed that despite your best efforts love is probably just mutual projection, and have you ever noticed that when, finally, desire is removed all you have is yourself to lay bare?
It’s New Year's Eve and I’m meeting you at your apartment. You’ve locked yourself out, we call a car, we go to mine, you’re rolling and we’ve only met three or four times but you call me beautiful, you say Baby, you’re gonna be so famous one day and I’m gonna say I fucked you when. And I’m rolling too. And I say Shhh and you say Baby. I love the way you smell. And I say Shhh and I let you put your head in my lap and you twist and try to get me undressed and I say No baby. And you say Please I want to and I say No Not yet and in my apartment I throw up quick and noisy and it worries you but I’m okay and you get in bed. And I get in bed.
And we’re there, together, and we’re quiet, finally, and after a while into the quiet you say, I love this song.
What song? I ask you.
You seem surprised.
The song that’s playing in my head, you say.
Here’s the thing: I’ve always wanted everything. I’ve always wanted to feel as much as possible; I’m sensitive by nature, but I’m always trying to sink ever deeper and deeper into feeling. Eve Babitz calls it wanting to be a song, but I wonder if it’s more like wanting to disappear.
I’ve told you this before and I'll tell you it again. I don’t know how to be alone; I’ve never had to know. I don’t know how anyone manages it, though I’m alone all the time, though now more than ever I’m loose upon the world, moving through the city like a cursor blinking across the page. There’s a metaphor, writing, writing: a stabilization. I’ve always had someone to project on; now, in this absence, I’m acutely aware of my projection.
Because no matter who you are I’ll never be able to understand you, in the way that I can barely understand myself. That’s the way of language. I can’t help that we’ll never be the same. You'll never be mine and I'll never be yours. No matter what you do or how we touch or what we say you’ll be opaque to me, and I’ll always be writing a part for you. I'll always be thinking in sentences of you. The way I write my own life into sense, the way I need it to moor me to this place; the way a boat will drift if not at home in the harbor of the world.