Williamsburg, 2009

Williamsburg, 2009


The dim antique lamps upon old trunks on a second-hand Turkish rug covering the old oak hardwood floors does nothing except remind me that this world is not mine. I go through phases of rewatching my old favorite films. I once wondered if it were for a want of certainty, that knowing what happens in one realm were transferable to another. Lately, the variety has narrowed. Every day, I alternate between Blade Runner and Le Cercle Rouge. Not quite sure what that bit says, nor do I particularly care to. Normally, the choice cinematic experience strikes me with stark immediacy. I approach the couch and I am inspired. Today, I made it to a seated position without as much as a single thought penetrating my mind. With loins suitably rested, I create problems that I claim to observe. This moment’s lack of distractions turns me a need to observe my surroundings, grounding uncertain binds of the mind apparently lurking. Our apartment feels like a museum, not for lack of life lived –as marks on the wall from shoes tossed off after nights out where we carry each other would indicate– but because it has been curated in her image. It’s funny how immediately my thoughts turn to her in any sort of absence. Her presence is certain even when lacking, as it is now. I wonder where in the city she might be. Somewhere between the MTV office in Chelsea and classes in Washington Square Park, I would assume, but all I can see of the outside world is a snowy Williamsburg Bridge with the night’s sky casting a navy backdrop against the liminal route she transits each day without me. 

In an attempt to prompt any sort of change in thought, I alter my physical station, wrapping myself in her grandmother’s quilt. I make my way over to sit on the floor adjacent to the radiator. Watching for a sign of her outside the window while landlines are down, the walls are my friend, we observe the few passerby who braved a commute home in the blizzard. They all look the same in the distance, shrouded by a near gray flurry as the hours draw themselves more deeply inward. I contemplate doing a lap on the bridge, to assert myself as a part of the shrouded collective and to work on my posture. But after this morning’s walk, even a removed sense of communion would only leave me wanting her. Thursdays are one of the rare occasions when my feet touch Manhattan, and only her hand in mind makes this possible. Today, our epic commenced with me being ridiculed for licking snow off the rails and returning to face her with a frosty nose. She brushed off the flakes with the softest knit baby blue mittens that slightly obscured her face which bared her scrunched-nose smile, normally burrowed beneath her scarf this time of year. I cherished the increasingly rare sighting in a time of increasing separation and we walked on. The growing storm meant we could hardly see six feet in front of us, only the graffiti beneath us and the red framing of a cage reassured us as to our location. Even the screeching J/M/Z trains that run alongside us could not pass through the opaque skies. However, nothing stops Washington Square Diner. Proof of their dedication to preparation can be found in late October when they put up their Christmas decorations with months to spare. I order a black coffee and our usual plate of sweet potato fries while she requests a cup of hot water and green tea. Another habit she claims offsets her smoking –still stuck in the hand rolled cig ways of home– the latest addition being ballet classes run out of someone’s apartment in LES. Though I think that latter is more akin to her French pursuits; given my recent pair of films, I cannot take the piss on that account and focus on the former. We began this little end of the week morning routine after we first moved to America. I could hardly afford to help support us (getting by on her grant money) and found a study that would pay to develop a habit, it was just enough to offset the incurred cost of the habit being made. This was it, a classic diner to remind her to keep going when the work drowned her and a chance for me to show her how grateful I was for this, she made life beyond a pint with my mates possible. We know where we’re from, but she’s made it possible to be more than that knowing. The occasionally oppressive and all consuming feeling of relating. 

The band and I have gotten gigs across the city and just secured our first record deal in the states. I can wholeheartedly say this moderate success is almost entirely due to the movies. They help keep me in a land of make believe, for stories are easier for me to fathom than reality. In conversation, I play the tight-lipped joker, not as an attempt to keep the upper hand, but because I hardly understand half of what people are ever getting at. With characters in film, their dynamics are handed to you, any lyrical analysis is pithy nearing covert. With dinner party comrades, so much gets lost in translation that if you obscure any response in irony, they will seldom understand what you actually want to get at and –for fear of not fitting in– will not question you. In fact, they will likely deify you to some status of unreachable intelligence. They mistake my quiet for thought, when –in reality– I am seldom thinking of much at all. Hardly speaking a word to maintain some semblance of control as faces blend and movement blurs. It’s absurd, nearing uncanny, how much I feel that I lack humanity when talking to people. They speak so strangely, leaving room at the end of sentences for applause between paragraphs and sending air out of their lungs expecting to fill the hearts of those in the room, and all about things I could never understand caring for. Who gives a shit about what pubs you do pres at. Yet, she somehow gets it, adept at accessing alternate routes to the presented information. She can key into other realms of possibility as her conversation seems more a means of playing with the speaker, generating worlds as she probes them until connection is made. She has a childlike joy in interacting with others, treating words as malleable play things, a game ensues. There are no questions, only tactile adventures, gaining experience through action rather than presupposing reactions. While I never appear strange –people’s desire to force coherency within their realities works wonders– she quells the void of understanding that appears in conversation about anything more involved than casual recounts of the last Sheffield FC match. Something so simple that it does not pretend to have meaning beyond what occurs at face value, there is no cluster of implications born out of shared memories that needs to be parsed in order to carry on, just an understanding of last night’s match. My internal world feels expansive when just the two of us chat, as though my pockets have been turned inside out. I could hardly recall what we discuss, for her banter moves at such speeds that you haven’t even the time to be in awe of the creature before you.

Our flat is harboring a deity. I know my secret obsessions with her day-to-day life are entirely misconstrued, that’s why they become stories: Gospel. The thoughts intrude and I must remove myself from the narrative in order to let them pass as nothing more than unwritten tales, as inspiration, that move and confuse the audiences that know us for our long term partnership. I’ve read forum discussions about what my songs on cheating are in reference to; they take on such outlandish narratives that it’s clearly a guise, but I can see why it’s a strange one to constantly loop back to. The best way to explain is by example. At the moment, my most recurring fear is that she is sleeping with one of her professors. I have read all of his work, listened to his talks, found his blog and how much his condo in Crown Heights costs. I’ve stood in front of his office door for hours and walked past him at the bar he frequents to grade papers (the Knickerbocker). Nothing will ever be done with this information, I just need to know it all, the full history of the characters involved. The more I know, the more I can detach into my role of the writer. A narrative is all I need to stumble upon, the person does not matter, as they will melt into their given trope for the sake of understanding them by means of reduction. For if I can understand them, then I can swallow their personhood until I am far enough from my feelings that exploring them is safe. These obsessions last until I feel that I have completely embodied the person of note. He just happens to be the object of my fixations at present. This enables me to analyze her from a new perspective, to characterize every possible aspect of her path, to know every way her life may go. I want to be there for every part, but I cannot go along with this one. She has chosen a career in Manhattan and it kills me; my intrusive thoughts allow me a deluded way in. When she leaves for the city, I feel our worlds split. Every day, she creates a life that I will never be a part of and I wait for her to come home to the world we built in her honor. When I see her, I understand that God is in everybody. Her nebulous way of speaking has proven the absolute value in anything a stranger finds worth saying, she takes genuine intrigue at the smallest movement of couples that dine nearby, and navigates these built worlds in a way that has shown me you can visit anybody else’s if you try. Any person could be subject to this heightened attention, for your love is what makes them special and how you interpret everything a person is makes it possible for anybody to be anything (a kind of alchemical identity), but it was always going to be her. Reverence overtakes my love for her, to deify her is to provide comfort at the prospect of failure. The pain will never be real if she was always too good for me, with her disgusting humanity removed in light of my adoration, the altar built for the gifted alter ego becomes a means of creating distance. High and above, the pedestal shakes, encased in reflective glass that leaves me staring at myself. I could take a hammer to this, I could destroy the walls that I have built in a move of radical acceptance, but it feels almost cowardly in the face of such virtuous pain. To suffer for my God is the greatest act of selflessness, to live without for her solo aspiration to greatness proves dedication, martyrdom awaits me with each projection of fears that causes my own pain. Each time I find a person to picture her cheating on me with, I feel enlightened. Each wound means a path of recovering from the unimaginable and I become untouchable, sainthood is given to the man who weaves worlds. The highest moral stance is to be entirely removed from this plane of existence, to detach from the body is ascension and I project onto hers for a chance to live in the world again. 

If not already evident, these fantasies manifest as cheating because I am deeply afraid of her leaving. I am afraid of rejection in front of the person who I have shown the most of myself to. I love her so much that I cannot understand why it would ever be reciprocated. I think lowly of myself and want the worst of her so that we can be deserving of each other. This is a reversal I am entirely aware of, I have to consider every possibility to return to neutrality. To see every possible plot point while my writing suit is still on, that way it becomes all the more easy to ridicule once in a placid state. I need to reinforce the tale I tell myself of my own ineptitude and inadequacy by receiving horrid treatment. It’s unfair to her to be afraid and authenticity is fraudulent, so being brave for her –projecting that want– is the best I can do for now. But she’s the best, she touches my elbow in crowds that I lose myself within, she plans the theatrics of our photobooth sets, and leaves messages for me on my matchsticks from boxes we’ve stolen from restaurants we don’t belong in (we know they’re complementary, but prefer the thrill of a heist). With each act of kindness, I am only able to maintain my narrative by making her a God (as it is only in utter fiction that her essence could be thrown in the aforementioned opposite direction), for only somebody of that status could find room in their heart to love me. Removal from the homeland –where cultural implications were innately understood– has generated a hyperfixation upon the only thing that I claim to know, so I must reduce her until into the nothingness of omnipotence, so much of everything that it doesn’t mean a thing. Becoming the people that pretend to understand me in conversation, I trap her in a panopticon as she participates in a role that she is unaware is prescribed to her, one of untold greatness which allows me access to the wonders of a life unimagined. This new world of belief is based upon the knowledge that she exists in the one we formerly inhabited. Even if that existence weren’t with me, the knowing we once were would be enough. But I want more than a past, I want a present. It just happens that I’d like it forever. I’d like to stop the world and get off with you. My truth is cowardice, my analyses are false, complexes are built. Luckily, I understand all of this to be true. Leaning into the story, it becomes just that, and I have returned to homeostasis: a boy on a couch in need of a film. 

A sudden hiss from the radiator reminds me of the time, my family back home should be wrapping up our annual Yuletide breakfast. Popping a cracker and putting on the red crown, I dial back into presence before dialing the phone and hoping it’s able to connect despite the storms. Having spent the allotted time for a film telling myself other fables, I am me again and she is just her.

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