People ruin us for other people. Songs ruin us for other people. At the moment, I can think of very few things that aren’t capable of ruining us for something or someone. Yesterday I saw The Descendants with a friend. I began today by yelling at my dad, and just generally being hostile towards everyone in my family for reasons I can no longer explain (anyone who’s seen The Descendants would know how badly the juxtaposition of these two events pans out). I just am. I’m just going through a generally hateful phase, which will hopefully be done by tomorrow, over consultations with a thesis advisee. So that doesn’t make it a phase, just a bad day.
I have a song that ruined me for other people, and I deal with this ruination the only way I know how, which is not by altogether detaching myself from its existence, but by downloading every version of it on YouTube, and playing them one after the other. I first heard “Piazza, New York, Catcher” a couple of years into a starry-eyed, and very optimistic long-term relationship. The honeymoon in that one lasted for a good three years before rolling towards the long drawn-out conclusion. All throughout, this song kept me company, and has gained a certain sharpness with the eventuality of age, the way all things do. Then, there are those things that tend to mellow, this song isn’t one of them.
The last time someone said “I like you,” I responded with whatever face it is that accompanies that sinking feeling, the kind that’s part relief, part insurmountable panic. I think I said “I wish you didn’t.” But a large part of me just wished he didn’t wait until we were drunk–or maybe held out for me to be too drunk to care or even notice that he’d said something that took balls to say (balls in this case being about 3 dozen Jack and cokes, balls and inebriation).
“If you need a place to stay next time you’re here…” and then he kind of trailed off and stared into whatever distance the tiny bar would afford us, and I remember wanting to flee, wanting to jump off the stool and thinking that the ending is always the same when someone starts a conversation with “I like you,” and you feel obligated to take it to that inevitable conclusion, the endless debate on whether or not this is real. And the answer is usually no, when you’re travelling it’s never real, and I loved coasting along that level of unreality, and I did not want anyone to ruin it for me. At least not yet. Because once you touch me, that’s it. Or I don’t know, and I hate not knowing. And I realize I am so bad at this, and I end up either drinking more, or leaving. Either way, I suck, and women are supposed to want this predictability. We’re trained to think in linear terms involving flowers and babies and shit–which can only end in slut-shaming for these kinds of moments, and ill-conceived, slut-shamey advice, like “if it’s not love, then you’re using each other!” Well, yeah. When did it stop being allowed to be mutual? Or was it never allowed to be mutual?
So…Are women supposed to want this predictability? Remember the baby argument from Up in the Air? Remember what I said earlier about things ruining us for other people?
But to think your life operates on parallel trajectories of reality and illusion is to shit yourself about the relevance of how you’ve chosen to live. There is no real life or fake life, travelers vs settlers, all we have is what’s happening now, and until we accept that, we’ll never get to deal with the things that happen to us, for us, and because of us, the way they’re meant to be dealt with. I’m babbling right now. I can’t name names because that would mean acknowledging people from whom I can still feel the little cuts and bruises. I should name names, but I don’t want to.
Elope with me in private and we’ll set something ablaze, a trail for the devil to erase
I love you, I’ve a drowning grip on your adoring face.
I love you, my responsibility has found a place.
I get asked from time to time about plans to settle down, and why am I not dating anyway, “But you’re attractive?” stated tentatively, without the affirmation of “proper” relationship status for “someone my age” (that’s a lot of quotation marks!), especially over Valentine’s. As if all attractiveness were a quotient directly proportional to marriageability, or at least dateability. It’s taken time to accept that the two aren’t mutually exclusive – dating and traveling, I mean. But here’s the clincher, they best go hand in hand, and the fact is I haven’t really traveled with anyone, and the first and only time I did, it just turned into a giant shitstorm. We still aren’t talking.
That “It would be great,” so far, is my current consolation. That guy in the bar, the panic, the notion that all this travel and unreality will end is bullshit. He brought me back to my place that night, and I fell asleep with my jacket on, only to wake up the next morning with his arms around me, telling me he had to go and we’ll see each other again. That might not happen, and I’m not holding out for the remote possibility. But I guess what I’m trying to come to terms with is that it’s not a dichotomy of real vs fake or settling vs wandering. But you can’t have it all, not if there’s someone else to look out for, and fact is, I’m not there yet. I can’t expect the privilege of being someone’s responsibility if I can’t give back the same. In the meantime, here’s about a dozen versions of “Piazza, New York Catcher”.